Parts One and Two challenged the idea that we can claim the COVID-19 pandemic is a judgment from God. But as COVID-19 restrictions on our society start to loosen, many are reflecting on the takeaways from this experience; what are the lessons we should be learning?
But what about a theological perspective? What can we learn about God and consequently about ourselves through this pandemic?
- Our times are in His hand.
At this point in the process, life before the pandemic seems like a dream, surreal. Even in January (Can you remember what life was like?) when we were hearing reports of a new virus in China, who saw all this coming? No one. Even if someone anticipated the possibility of a pandemic-level outbreak, who saw shelter-in-place orders for healthy people, businesses shuttered, toilet paper shortages, etc. coming? No one.
No one, but God.
“Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,Isaiah 46:9-10
Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure”
In Daniel 4, Neubuchadnezzar, at the height of his kingdom, was stricken with insanity and lived as an animal for seven years. The lesson repeated three times in that chapter was for him to know that “the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men” (Daniel 4:17, 25, 32).
David, the king, echoed this sentiment when he confessed in a prayer, “thou reignest over all” (1 Chronicles 29:12).
I am not suggesting that God caused this. I am saying that God allowed this, God guided this, and God is using this. If we don’t learn the lesson that all things come to us from His hand, we will be a frustrated people.
“What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?”Job 2:10
Job presents the right conception of our lives. God weaves the fabric of our lives with the threads that He chooses. Can we accept that both the “good” and the “bad” we experience come from God’s hand?
It is a lesson this pandemic is allowing us to learn.
- Death is the great equalizer of humanity; all people will face it.
Common to all life on earth is death. Ironic, I know. Science and technology have made tremendous advancements in the areas of medicine, surgeries, and life-saving techniques in order to extend the time between life’s beginning and ending. But at some point our efforts to preserve human life fail. We are unable to extend the time of life indefinitely. The pandemic has reminded us of this fact.
Despite demographic disparities in death rates of COVID-19, all ethnicities have been affected by it. Death is the great equalizer.
“The days of our years are [seventy years]; and if by reason of strength they be [eighty] years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”Psalm 90:10
“The wise man’s eyes are in his head; but the fool walketh in darkness: and I myself perceived also that one event happeneth to them all.”Job 2:14
Faced with their own mortality, writers of Scripture emphasized the importance of taking advantage of life, today.
“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.”Ecclesiastes 9:10
“So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”Psalm 90:12
This life is not all there is, but this life is all we have to prepare us for what is next. It’s a one-off; there are no do-overs. You are able to do something today. You are able to accomplish something today. You are able to choose something today. There are no guarantees of tomorrow.
“Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.”Proverbs 27:1
“Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”James 4:14
This pandemic is allowing us to learn the brevity and value of life.
- We need answers and help beyond ourselves.
One of the most difficult aspects of the pandemic and the response that accompanied it was the lack of certainty. How deadly is the disease? Is isolation the best way to combat COVID-19? What is considered a safe distance? Guidelines for stay-at-home orders and reopening phases were unclear at times.
People were looking for answers. But all of the human response, from government officials to medical experts, merely created more questions. Confusion reigned.
The Book of Job is full of questions in the midst of a confusing time. Job wanted to know why he was experiencing such devastating hardship. His friends were attempting to answer that question with criticisms of Job and speculations about God. Neither Job’s complaints nor his friends speculations led to any certainty.
In the end, God confronts both Job and his friends with reminders of His own power, wisdom, and goodness.
“Wilt thou also disannul my judgment? wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayest be righteous?Job 40:8-9
Hast thou an arm like God? or canst thou thunder with a voice like him?”
Job had questions for God; God responds with questions for him. Job challenged God’s handling of his life; God challenges Job’s ability to rule the Creation.
“Doth the hawk fly by thy wisdom, and stretch her wings toward the south?Job 39:26-27
Doth the eagle mount up at thy command, and make her nest on high?”
“Look on every one that is proud, and bring him low; and tread down the wicked in their place.Job 40:12-14
Hide them in the dust together; and bind their faces in secret.
Then will I also confess unto thee that thine own right hand can save thee.”
The lesson of Job is simple: we need answers and help from outside of ourselves. Living through this pandemic should have taught us that.
How many of us responded poorly (by Christian standards) to the fear and restrictions caused by this pandemic?
How many of us demonstrated a Christlike spirit toward our families or governmental officials rather than a contentious, critical one?
How many of us can say that we lived in an attitude of trust rather than complaint?
How many of us can say that we looked for God rather than looking for conspiracy theories?
If this experience hasn’t humbled us and caused us to reflect on our inability and need, what will?
May God help us (as I’m sure He will) if we haven’t.