I know, I know; we’re all sick of talking about the coronavirus. My heart especially goes to those who now have young children at home, whose paychecks are uncertain, and those who are at higher risk. Yet the one thing we all have in common at this point is that like it or not, you’re thinking about COVID-19.
I’m sure everyone who reads this is trying to get away from the news as we post funny pictures on Facebook and simply want to think about anything other than the sheer uncertainty of tomorrow. As I try to do the same, however, a conversation I recently had with my father continues to come to mind. It was several weeks ago, and we were discussing how to practically apply the Bible to our lives. He then said something I’ve never seriously considered. He remarked, “We get so caught up in this world that we never have to consider the sovereignty of God”. My goodness, did that hit close to home.
After reading this, let your mind wander on the Lord’s Prayer and ask yourself if each and every day you pray some form of those petitions. If you do, ask yourself how seriously you mean them. (i.e. Do you expect food to show up in Safeway whether you pray for it or not?).
In that way, I can’t shake the idea that God is causing us all to realize how fragile this world is and instead to begin seriously considering the absolute reign and rule of a good God. Most of us have never had to worry about a toilet paper or food shortage, and while the shelves will be restocked during this crisis, suddenly we’re having to confront the thoughts of life without ease. What happens if the virus doesn’t go away? What if this is the new normal? What if the US hits not simply a recession but a depression? We’ve been accustomed to not simply eating, but to eating what we desire for breakfast, lunch, and dinner – not to mention a delicious dessert – that suddenly we can start to picture what it would be like to ration food, stand in bread-lines, and go hungry.
Again, we’re not in dire straights here, but the horrors we’ve never had to consider have now etched themselves into the back of our minds. With it comes the realization that the government is out of options. Can Trump save us? Joe Biden? Justin Trudeau? Xi Jinping? They’re as susceptible to coronavirus as the rest of us, and they have no hidden tricks up their sleeves to end this all. If anything, they’ve contributed to the panic. It reminds us that the world spins not as mortal men will it, but as God determines. Psalm 24 tells us, “The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein”. Tomorrow is His to determine and not ours. Why? – Because, “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls” (1 Peter 1:24). By contrast, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
It is impossible to not despair of the futility of humanity in this time, and so in the midst of the hysteria, hoarding, and panic, it seems that God is calling us to seriously consider His sovereignty. We tend toward saying, “God is good!” when He blesses us, but is God good if we go hungry? Is God good because we’re fortunate, or is He good because He’s good? In less fortunate countries, faith is not a matter of Sundays but of life and death. I remember awhile back watching a World Renew video about Christians in Pakistan, and believers there were treated as the lowest class of citizens. It was they who cleaned the streets, the sewers, and the like. Yet at the end of the video, they showed the gathered Church. Everyone was dancing, singing, and rejoicing, and a man’s voice rang out and hit me like a boxer’s punch. He said something along the lines of, “Don’t forget that we are so happy because we have Jesus, and don’t forget that we are praying for you”. It was difficult to stand up and give the blessing as tears rolled down my face, realizing that a man cleaning human waste from a sewer is praying for me, who is angry when McDonald’s ice-cream machine is broken. In that moment I remember thinking, “We talk of being blessed, but blessing is not found in wealth; it’s found in realizing how precious Christ is to our everyday lives, and because everything is constantly available to us, we have far less need of God”.
The coronavirus has caused a global panic and will deeply impact many in terribly negative ways. Yet through the storm and hysteria, we need to hear God’s voice calling out to us saying, “I am still God, and I am still yours”. In Matthew 6:25-27 Jesus reminds us, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”. The next time you’re worried about what tomorrow will bring, go outside and look to the air. Do you see birds? – They’re a reminder that God has not abandoned this world but is redeeming it and bringing it back to Himself through whatever means He sees fit. If the birds eat, so will you. Do not get caught up wondering what tomorrow will bring, but instead remember that “the earth is the Lord and the fullness thereof”. You are more valuable than the grass, than the birds, the flowers, the cows, and all other creatures. The Lord may bring us into lean times, but if we draw close to Him, it will strengthen our faith.
Our God has spent all of history proving His goodness; do not doubt it now when hand-sanitizer is in short supply. So be prudent; wash your hands, protect others. But use this time not to stockpile and store up for the future. Use it instead to remember that God is good not when the economy is roaring, but He’s good when birds are flying through the sky, reminding us that as they are watched lovingly by their sovereign God, we are lovingly watched over all the more.
Do not doubt His love. Instead, reflect daily on His sovereignty, and on the fact that He has brought this virus on us in order to further His purposes. In that way, this panic may pass, and this might be the most we have to worry about what tomorrow will bring. So when it comes to realizing how in control our God is and how deeply we need Christ on a moment-by-moment basis, do not let this moment go to waste.
My name is Bryan Lanting. I am a graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary, and I am presently serving Mt View CRC as their pastor. I am married to a wonderful wife named Sydney, and both of us are loving life, loving Lynden, and loving the Lord!