How do we live in light of . . . (you fill in the disaster)? In my lifetime, that sentence could have been finished with a variety of answers. How do we live in light of the Soviet threat and the cold war, the danger of nuclear weapons, Al-qaeda, Isis? Also, how many medical scares have we all faced? People used to worry about the Spanish flu and polio. In recent years I’ve heard concerns about Swine Flu, Avian Flu, Ebola, Zika Virus, MERS, SARS. I’m sure there are others I haven’t mentioned. In fact, this history made me a little unconcerned when Corona Virus hit the news a few weeks ago. My initial thoughts were that that this won’t be as bad as regular flu season. It appears I was wrong. Wisely we’re all taking appropriate caution to slow the spread of this dangerous virus. I realized it was serious when the NBA suspended its season, Major League Baseball delayed opening day, and Broadway went dark. Yet, there also seems to be some panic related to this pandemic, a response that seems inappropriate for us if we’re followers of Yeshua (Jesus). So, here are five biblical perspectives on living in light of the Corona Virus (with a thanks to my friend Larry Feldman).
First, we should remember that God is in control. His sovereignty is evident in the words of Isaiah 45:7, where the Lord describes Himself as the One who “makes success and creates disaster.” God is even sovereign over pandemics. And when these disasters occur, the psalmist reminds us of what should be our proper perspective. Psalm 46:1-3: “God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble. Therefore we will not be afraid, though the earth trembles and the mountains topple into the depths of the seas, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with its turmoil.” The reason for our confidence in troubling times is in this psalm’s refrain, “The Lord of Hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our stronghold” (46:7, 11). Even this Corona Virus is under God’s sovereign control and He’s with us throughout this time.
Second, we need to remember that God has a plan. Even when we don’t have the big picture, God does. He knows everything and has a plan for both good times and bad. In Isaiah 46:10, the Lord announces, “I declare the end from the beginning, and from long ago, what is not yet done; saying, ‘My plan will take place and I will do my will.” When Israel faced captivity, a terrible national disaster, God reminded them that it was all part of His plan, saying, “I know the plans I have for you . . . plans for your welfare and not disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer 29:11). God has a plan in this circumstance as well and it’s for our good. We may not know what His purpose is but we can trust that He has one.
This leads to a third perspective—We must trust in God’s faithfulness. In light of the Babylonian conquest over Israel, which destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in 586 BC, Jeremiah the prophet reminded the people of Judah, “Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness! I say: The Lord is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him.” (Lamentations 3:22-24). Not only does God have a sovereign plan that is good, I need to trust Him and put my hope in a God who cares for all of us.
Fourth, we need to remain faithful to the Lord even in trying times. The ancient Jewish believers in Yeshua in the first century were facing dangerous persecution and the author of the book of Hebrews wanted to encourage them to stay faithful despite their troubles. He made the case that the Messiah Yeshua was better than any alternative. Then, in chapter 11, he gave the roll call of faith, identifying biblical heroes who remained faithful despite difficulties. But I especially appreciate the challenge he gave immediately afterwards, one that we need to adopt as well: “Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and run, with endurance, the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith” (Heb 12:1-2). We need to stay steady in our walk with the Lord, not quitting the race, but keeping on in obedience to Him. We need to keep talking with Him in prayer, listening to Him through His Word, and obeying Him with our lives, no matter what difficulty we face.
Finally, we need to be lights shining in a dark and frightened world. Eva and I were once on a jet that had an engine blow out while taking off and it almost crashed. After landing the plane surrounded by emergency equipment, the airline provided another plane to take us all back to Chicago. But there were a bunch of passengers who were too terrified to get back on a plane. The situation seemed to bleak for them. Eva and I did our best to communicate our confidence in the Lord and to present the good news of Messiah Yeshua, that He died for us and rose again. We reminded our fellow passengers that the Lord Yeshua can give all of us hope for living and confidence in dying. That’s what the Lord Yeshua was referring to when He told His followers, “You are the light of the world” and reminded us to give “light for all” (Matt 5:14-16). The Corona virus has made people fearful of the future. It’s at times like this that people are most open to the message of the Messiah. Let’s give our friends and neighbors hope in the Messiah Yeshua who promised this: “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Your heart must not be troubled or fearful” (John 14:27). That message will surely resonate in a dark world.
To wrap all this up, here’s some good advice, C. S. Lewis gave when asked about the atomic threat. Just so you know, I’m substituting the words “Corona Virus” for “atomic bomb”:
“The first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are going to be destroyed by Corona Virus, let that virus, when it comes, find us doing sensible and human things — praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends . . . — not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about pandemics.” In my opinion, that’s how people who are trusting the Lord in this pandemic will respond.