How are you coping during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Our generation has not seen a time such as this. Some would argue the last time we faced such a tumultuous time was during World War II. In the West we take pride in our comforts and do not appreciate anyone infringing upon our autonomy. Our culture promotes the “it’s all about me” mindset and my sinful nature does not help. Throw in an attitude of ingratitude and now we’re really talking! I would rather not think about others and the greater good. I prefer to do what I want, when I want, how I want, where I want, and with whomever I choose. I don’t like to think about hardship, and I am particularly vexed when I’m the one who has to endure it. Sound familiar? Or am I the only one who struggles with self-centredness?
It’s interesting however that for many people in the world everyday struggle is a part of daily life. They’re not worrying about next week’s bills but are concerned about today’s daily bread. I can’t help but think of the countless individuals in India walking hundreds of kilometres back to their villages after the curfew was implemented. Their fear was that hunger would kill them long before the corona-virus ever would. That was their reality, that was their struggle. In other parts of the world people are weary of pain, whereas in the West many of us are weary of pleasure. What will keep me entertained if I’m forced to stay home for 2 weeks or more?
I recognize that we too face struggles in the West but am just attempting to provide some global context. I recognize we may be fearful or anxious for other reasons but am going to focus on ourselves and areas that may be blind spots for us in this post.
We live in a fallen world, and are broken individuals because of sin; none of us are exempt. The Bible does not shy away from or make excuses for hardship and suffering; we’re told we will face them. Why then are we so surprised when trials come our way? How do we handle them?
I think many of us have replaced the One who should be at the centre of our lives with idols and that has led to dire consequences. Even professing Christians have put their faith and trust in things other than Jesus. This pandemic has shown us we don’t have as much control as we may perceive. Many of us have ran ourselves into such a mode of overdrive that we don’t take time to reflect, think about the bigger questions and issues in life, or give credit to the very author of life. We’ve become addicted to different vices: sports, gambling, social-media, drugs, alcohol, pornography, materialism, career, etc. Different vices have different consequences, but the point remains the same, we’ve lost our way and are in bondage. Maybe it’s not bondage to some form of idolatry but perhaps it is to unforgiveness, bitterness, discord, jealousy, etc. Not only do we pay a price in this immediate lifetime for these actions, but more importantly there are eternal consequences. No sinner shall enter the kingdom of Heaven, and that’s what we all are. It only takes one sin to make me a sinner. I know this is bad news, but the “good news” is much better when we understand and get the diagnosis right. Diagnosis: Sinful Heart Syndrome.
So where are you at today? Where are you placing your trust? Is it in your stocks and bonds? Is it in your job? Is it in your health? I’m not saying you shouldn’t be concerned about these areas, but if it’s where you’re putting all your time and energy it may be time to rethink…or perhaps repent. None of us are free from the lure of idolatry or exempt from the consequences of living in a fallen world. Sometimes idols creep slowly into our lives and climb up the ladder to a position that was never meant for them; sometimes things just happen because we live in a fallen world. God is the one who is meant to hold the number one spot in our lives. The same could be said about unforgiveness, bitterness, discord, jealousy, etc. If these or any other sinful attitudes have taken root in our lives, then that is a problem we need to deal with.
Responding with Repentance
Repentance (change in attitude and direction towards God, ourselves, and others) is not a word we like to hear, but we also don’t like to hear we need medication for our physical ailments either. It is still needed whether we like it or not. Just as we may be cleaning out our physical homes during this pandemic, maybe now is a good time for introspection and to toss out or demote any idols and sinful attitudes from their current position in our lives (whether you toss or demote depends on the type of idol or sinful attitude). Idols cannot satisfy our deepest desires nor are they 100% foolproof, yet we still chase after them. Only Jesus can satisfy our deepest longings, rescue us from the impending judgment, and be trusted 100%.
We all suffer from sin and its consequences. The “good news” I referred to earlier is that God made a way for us to be put in right standing with him. It’s not based on my birthplace, culture, family, economic status, race, or anything I can do. As a matter of fact, I could never be made right with Him in my own strength or merit. God sent Jesus as the one to make payment on our behalf so that we could be reconciled to Him. A just judge punishes wrongdoing so why would we expect any less from a just and holy God? In His mercy towards us however, God lets Jesus take the wrath so that we don’t have to. In the words of Max Lucado, “The sinless One took on the face of a sinner so that we sinners could take on the face of a saint.” It is history’s great exchange!
Repentance, belief in Jesus & trusting in what He did at the cross (exchanging our sin for His righteousness) and submitting our lives to Him – that’s how we become acceptable in God’s sight. Jesus’ death and resurrection sets us free from the bondage of sin and hell and gives us eternal life! He conquered the grave and He lives, that is what our ultimate hope and faith rests upon. If Jesus never rose from the dead our faith is futile; but because He lives, death no longer has the final verdict. If you step back from this pandemic and look at the big picture, this is what I’m hoping you will see.
Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. If we’re really honest, deep down inside we know that we deserve God’s punishment and not His mercy. We don’t even live up to our own moral codes yet alone meet His standards. It’s painful to face, but, in reality, we are a sinful people. If God had made 1000 ways, we would have asked for a 1001. We should be so thankful that He made one way through Jesus Christ so that we can be spared from hell and eternal separation from God. God sent Jesus as the rescuer, and now it is the love of Christ that compels us to press on forward in the calling He has given us.
To serve, and not be served
Jesus came not to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many; He gave up his rights and took on responsibility. If we’re honest with ourselves, we prefer the opposite: most rights and least responsibility. I want the privileges without the responsibilities. I would issue a challenge not to be self-focused but “others-centred” at this time. It’s not all about me. Although we are restricted there are things we can still do such as praying for people. Call, text, encourage someone. If you’re able to, offer to pick up groceries for high-risk individuals. We can give our time, energy, and financial resources to those who are in need. Let’s not make it all about ourselves as that’s a sure recipe to drive us deeper into despair. As Jesus said, “It’s more blessed to give than to receive.” Reflect on Jesus and what He’s done for us. Maybe now is a good time to strengthen our walk with Him.
Take the necessary precautions as advised by the health experts and government. Pray for our government as they’re facing huge decisions. For every credit there is a debit somewhere-there’s no free lunch. We are all going to pay, it’s just a matter of paying now or paying later. That decision is up to us. If we’re diligent with following the health guidelines now, it’s a much smaller price to pay in the long run.
In the West we should be very thankful we have governments that are stepping up and supporting people who are losing their jobs; this is not the case globally. During times of prosperity many of us are willing to justify our actions by saying “it’s the cost of business” or “it’s collateral damage” when others are negatively impacted by our decisions. When my financial situation is instantly threatened however, my attitude shifts to “we’re the human race and should look out for each other.” All of a sudden, I think it is somebody else’s responsibility to take care of me even though I was willing to negatively impact others when I was in an affluent position. Why is it when I have the upper hand it’s okay to exploit others but when the tables are flipped, I don’t deserve the same treatment? It’s an interesting observation and if that’s been our disposition we need to repent. If you’re going to receive compensation, be thankful.
This is still God’s world and COVID-19 is not a surprise to Him. It is a tough time, but we need to remember “it’s not all about me” and we still have much to be thankful for: food, shelter, clothing, and financial assistance programs just to name a few. We also have each other, but most importantly Jesus is still there and has never left us. We are still able to pray. Repentance is likely warranted; I know it is continually for myself.
Pressing on with hope
If my life was not reconciled with Jesus I would be absolutely devastated and crippled by fear and anxiety amidst this pandemic. If you’re not on right terms with Him I can see why you would be overcome by fear and panic. Is it the bigger question of eternity that weighs upon you? It doesn’t have to remain that way my friend, there is hope. I am a front-line worker but, even then, I’m not too worried; firemen run into the fire not away from it. The hope in the resurrection is what gives me the courage to keep pressing on. Pandemic or no pandemic, it is the only hope for me, you, and the rest of the world.