The number of people, globally, who are known to have been infected by the Coronavirus has just passed the 1 million mark. Deaths associated with the virus are spiralling. Expressions such as ‘self isolation’, ‘social distancing’, ‘ramping up’, and ‘shutting down’, have taken on a new meaning and significance. The race is on to provide more diagnostic tests, discover a suitable treatment, offer enough protective gear to those working on the front line.
But what lessons can we learn, even while we are in the midst of the crisis?
Taking this article by Mark Oden as a starting point, here are some that come to mind:
1. Fragility. A tiny clump of DNA, so small that a thousand or more would fit on a line no longer than the diameter of a human hair, is bringing the world to its knees.
Truly, ‘a person’s life is like grass. Like a flower in the field it flourishes, but when the hot wind blows by, it disappears, and one can no longer even spot the place where it once grew.’ Psalm 103:15–16
Let us not take our lives for granted, but rather pray: ‘So teach us to consider our mortality, so that we might live wisely.’ Psalm 90:12
2. Equality. The virus is not a respecter of persons, nor of ethnicities or or national boundaries. It pays no attention to the colour of our skin, the languages we speak, or the cultures we were brought up in.
We boast of our individualism. But we face this global threat as equals in our experience of pain and loss.
3. Control. Our modern ability to control many things in our lives has led towards the assumption that we can control everything. The Coronavirus has burst the bubble of this delusion. We ought, and we will, do all that we can to minimise its worst effects. But we can scarcely claim that we are in control of the situation.
4. Pain. There is not only the very real physical pain of those suffering from high temperature, persistent cough, and shortness of breath. There is the psychological pain of the fear and anxiety that many are experiencing as the disease makes its remorseless way around the globe. And there is the social pain of loneliness, isolation, and even stigmatisation. We are beginning to realise what a person with leprosy felt like in biblical times (Lev 13:45).
5. Faith. We can be gripped by fear, as we imagine the virus silently floating, clinging, infecting. Or, we can exercise faith. Faith, that is, not in some man-made object or imagined deity, but in Jesus Christ, the One who is the resurrection and the life. We may believe that, although the situation is out of our own control, it is not out of his control. Although we may not know the way out of it, he does, and if we follow him as our guide, he will not deceive us or let us down.
6. Prayer. Any situation of crisis should, of course, prompt us to cry out to God with a new urgency and intensity. Let us pray for the authorities who are having to make difficult decisions. Let us pray for our medical teams who care for the sick. Let us pray for the ill, for the fearful, for those at high risk. Pray for the Lord’s mercy and protection. Pray that he might give us a due sense of the worth and dignity of this present life and the worth and dignity of the eternal life that he offers in Christ.
7. Vanity. ‘Vanity of vanity…all is vanity’, cries the Preacher (Eccle 1:2). It is so easy to lose ourselves, and our sense of perspective, in the mad rush of our everyday lives. We focus on the urgent, while neglecting the important. We love the trivial, and forget what is actually necessary to our survival. Let us learn, in this present crisis, what is really important, and what is really meaningful, in life.
8. Hope. No virus, however devastating, constitutes as great a threat to humanity as the sin which we have so freely chosen, and which brings only misery here, and death in the hereafter.
John 11:25f ‘Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live even if he dies, and the one who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”’