Calm in the face of Coronavirus.
How has your week been? In some ways, that’s a tricky question to answer isn’t it? For younger Australians, this is the first time we’ve really lived through an upheaval on this scale. For older Australians, perhaps, memories of wars and other times of unrest will be something that you’ve experienced in the past. And yet for all of us as Christians, we know that “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). The world has seen disruptions of this nature before. Indeed, lesser developed parts of the world live daily with serious health threats, threats that we in the west know nothing of in our experience. Through it all, however, we know and confess that our God remains sovereign. The Lord will have His way in the whirlwind and the storm (Nah 1:3), and He remains “good, a stronghold in the day of trouble” (Nahum 1:7).
A point of sadness for me has been in observing the response of every day Australians. Many, many of our fellow countrymen have been hoarding supplies from supermarkets, with many shelves being emptied. Why? One broad and general answer is: fear. Many folk are afraid of what may come, and so they have hoarded. There have been fights breaking out in supermarkets, and people buying many supplies in large amounts. As a result, there have been poor and vulnerable folk left lacking some of the basic things that they need. Our Prime Minister’s advice was good: “Stop it!” And yet in all this, I cannot help but think that the thin veneer of self-confidence in our country has been at last been shown up for what it really is. For decades we have been walking steadily in the direction of apostasy as a nation, and the spiritual shallowness and bankruptcy of the national soul has come to the surface. The general atmosphere of confidence and ease has been stripped away by a microbe, and without faith to sustain our nation at large, much fear has emerged. This is the place where godlessness leads, and it seems that the Lord has indeed “Let the nations know that they are but men!” (Psalm 9:20).
Our response as Christians, of course, ought to be quite different. I found a refreshing counter to this widespread national faithlessness in the words of Martyn Iles (Director of the Australian Christian Lobby):
“Verse of the day for coronavirus concerns: “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?” (Matthew 6:26). The certainty of God’s daily providential care for your life, and indeed of all things great and small, can replace anxiety with peace, and change your outlook in turbulent times. It’s not a superficial or emotive peace, but a settled quietness of spirit and confidence of mind that no matter what happens, all is well because I am in the best of hands. Jesus would not have said, “therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life…” (v25) if He did not know that it was possible due to the absolute reality of God’s care for His children. Grateful for this peace as I travel today, and wondering how the world gets by when they think it's all up to them. No wonder some are going half mad. "Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?" (v27).”
They’re powerful and encouraging words aren’t they? Martyn is quite right, we are in the best of hands. Even if the situation got significantly worse, still we would have no need to be concerned, for our God is with us in Christ. Think about it. What is the worst that can happen? Death is the worst, and yet the Apostle Paul looked forward even to the day of his death! “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Philippians 1:23). The very mortal fear that lies dormant in the hearts of godless people should be absent in our hearts. Indeed, where fear once reigned, a fountain of everlasting joy should be bubbling up within us! For when we are called home, it is to Christ we will go! “In God we trust; we shall not be afraid. What can mortal man do to us?” (Psalm 56:4). At the recent loss of my Grandmother, there was sadness, but far more profound was the deep joy I felt at the thought of where she now was (and I do thank you all for your kindness and support of my family and I in the loss of my Grandmother).
Where does all this leave us in the face of the global pandemic? Take heart, brothers and sisters, because of what Christ has done for us we remain under the loving care of our Heavenly Father. In closing, let me offer you some sound words of faith from C.S. Lewis, another believer who lived through trying times. The challenge of his time was the atomic bomb, and yet the spirit in which he responded is all too relevant for us:
“In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents. In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation…
This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb 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 over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.”
— “On Living in an Atomic Age” (1948) in Present Concerns: Journalistic Essays
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9).
Soli Deo Gloria!