Although it does not test widely for Covid-19, as of this morning my state reports 40,596 confirmed cases of the illness and 1,721 deaths from it. In the county where I live, confirmed cases of Covid-19 have increased 9.8% from last week and deaths have increased 42.8%. The illness and deaths have resulted in loss to patients’ family and friends, and they have decimated our local economy. Unemployment is at an all time high and homelessness is rising. People are suffering — and people, though they may deny it or else express it many ways, are afraid.
In my island community, much of the burden is being borne with as much compassion, generosity, love, caring, and patience as is humanly possible. Many people are helping each other as best they can in their fight against physical illness and death. Although burdened and suffering, many people are sharing what they have with their extended families, friends and neighbors; many people are contributing to, and volunteering at, local food banks and food distribution centers; many people are contributing to local charities; many people continue to pay their furloughed workers from personal funds, even as their businesses fail; and, many churches, while remaining closed for services in excess of 10 people, reach out and provide spiritual and financial help not only to their members, but to the community at large. Crime is down. Hate crimes have all but disappeared. The air seems cleaner, the inlets less polluted, and the sound of bird song and ocean waves have replaced the sound of sirens and traffic.
The way that people are coming together to help one another through the Covid-19 crisis in my community is a silver lining beneath the dark cloud that has settled over our land. So is the time it has given for spiritual reflection.
I don’t know whether God specifically caused Covid-19 to threaten the world’s populations and its economies, or whether God merely allowed it to happen. Nor do I know the reasons why or believe He receives any pleasure from our pain.
But I believe that God uses moments such as these to provide us time for spiritual reflection, to educate us, and perhaps discipline us, so that we have an opportunity to adjust our priorities and our behaviors to better align with His will. And I believe that God is motivated by love for us when He does so, in the same way that a loving parent may slap the hand of a child who reaches for the fire in order that the child will learn that fire is dangerous and the child will not be burned.
The Bible warns that us many times that it is difficult to be Christian and how vulnerable we are to our sinful nature, which in many ways is like a virus that can sicken us or kill us spiritually: “For people will love only themselves and their money; they will be proud and boastful, sneering at God, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful to them, and thoroughly bad. They will be hardheaded and never give in to others; they will be constant liars and troublemakers and will think nothing of immorality. They will be rough and cruel, and sneer at those trying to be good. They will betray their friends; they will be hotheaded, puffed up with pride, and prefer good times to worshipping God. They will go to church, yes, but they won’t really believe anything they hear. Do not be taken in by people like that.” (2 Timothy 3:2-5) The Bible warns us many times that even well-meaning people can be deceived, making obedience to God even more difficult: “Yes, and those who decide to please Christ Jesus by living godly lives will suffer at the hands of those who hate him. In fact, evil men and false teachers will become worse and worse, deceiving many, they themselves having been deceived by Satan.” (2 Timothy 3:12-13)
But God offers hope to those who seek God and who will listen and learn, whether during a world pandemic such as Covid-19 or during a spiritual pandemic such as exists in the world today. God gave us the Bible as preventive medicine to keep us spiritually healthy: “The whole Bible (*every Scripture) was given to us by inspiration from God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives; it straightens us out and helps us do what is right. It is God’s way of making us well prepared at every point, fully equipped to do good to everyone.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) God gave us His Son, Christ Jesus, as a spiritual vaccine for our sinful nature and to prevent our spiritual death: “For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that anyone who believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it.” (John 3:16-17)
While the world urgently seeks access to a vaccine for the Covid-19 virus, the Bible reminds us that the world also urgently needs access to the vaccine for the virus of sin: Jesus Christ. Even if we are not in a position to help with the Covid-19 crisis as individuals, all Christians are in a position to help with the world’s spiritual crisis – and the world is in desperate need of our help. “And so I solemnly urge you before God and before Christ Jesus – who will someday judge the living and the dead when he appears to set up his Kingdom – to preach the Word of God urgently at all times, whenever you get the chance, in season and out, when it is convenient and when it is not. Correct and rebuke your people when they need it, encourage them to do right, and all the time be feeding them patiently with God’s Word. For there is going to come a time when people won’t listen to the truth but will go around looking for teachers who tell them what they want to hear. They won’t listen to what the Bible says but will blithely follow their own misguided ideas. Stand steady, and don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Bring others to Christ. Leave nothing undone that you ought to do.” (2 Timothy 4:1-5)
The fact that Christians continue to promote spiritual healing during the Covid-19 crisis, even when their church sanctuaries are closed, is another silver lining in these desperate times. If the Covid-19 crisis reminds all Christians that they are individually empowered, and called upon by God, to promote the spiritual healing of themselves and others long after this Covid-19 crisis has ended, then perhaps that is the best silver lining of all.
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