The world is in great panic. Economies are stalling. The statistics are shocking. The reports are disheartening. We are all affected. Some are infected. These are indeed perilous times. The World Health Organisation (WHO) is monitoring the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic around the clock. They are doing as much as is humanly possible. But in times like these, how should Christians think? What important truths should we recall to mind? We must remember at least three things.
Away from the carefree busyness of daily life, we now get to know that eternity beckons.
1. Christ Is Sovereign
This is not an empty platitude. It’s an eminently potent truth. This is a lifejacket for our souls, preventing us from sinking into despair. Because God rules the world by his wise and unyielding providence, we can be assured that there is not a single maverick molecule in the entire universe. COVID-19 didn’t accidentally slip through God’s sovereign hands to randomly harm the world. All authority in heaven and on earth has been granted to Christ (Matthew 28:18). He superintends over all the affairs of our world (Daniel 4:35).
Because God rules the world, we can be assured that there is not a single maverick molecule in the entire universe
The Westminster Confession of Faith says, “he directs, regulates, and governs every creature, action, and thing, from the greatest to the least, by his completely wise and holy providence. He does so in accordance with his infallible foreknowledge and the voluntary, unchangeable purpose of his own will, all to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.” From dark monstrous oceans to devastating microscopic viruses, everything is under his reign. He ordains pestilence and pandemics.
Therefore, in light of all the hysteria and helplessness, turmoil and tensions, fears and foreboding, may this truth buoy us. He has not forgotten or forsaken us. His might has not failed. Nor have his mercies faded. He is not a malevolent despot. Nor is he an impotent landlord.
He has not forgotten or forsaken us. His might has not failed. Nor have his mercies faded
2. Christians Are Safe
We are the sheep of Christ. Pandemics like the COVID-19 blanket us in darkness. But the Bible is a treasure trove of life-giving truth. The psalmist famously declared, “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). Therefore, sometimes the good Shepherd graciously leads his sheep in difficult places. Gloomy, dark places where death feels imminent and despair is near inevitable. These are the chilling circumstances of life. But they are not random.
It would be a mistake for Christians to suppose that they won’t find themselves in the dark. But it is a fact that the Christian is safe and secure. The never-ending presence of our good Shepherd emboldens us to defiantly say: ‘We will fear no evil.’
The Shadow vs. The Substance
Commenting on this verse, Matthew Henry says, “There is a difference between shadow and substance… the shadow of a serpent does not sting and the shadow of a sword does not kill.’ Similarly, the shadow of death does not kill. COVID-19 can ravage the body, but it can’t ruin the soul. For the Christian is eternally secure, not from physical death but from eternal damnation.
It would be a mistake for Christians to suppose that they won’t find themselves in the dark. But it is a fact that the Christian is safe and secure
In the words of Charles Spurgeon, “Behind the shadow of physical death, there is the light of the resurrection life of Christ. Death only lies between the believer and the glory that is to be his. We are indestructible. Should the worst happen and we end up succumbing, even then we can rest assured that our eschatological hope will not be dashed.” Therefore we can be persuaded that nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39).
Yet this is not vain triumphalism. Rather it is rock solid hope! Nothing can pluck the Christian out of the hand of God. His love for his children is as sure as his sovereignty. It’s a sovereign love.
3. COVID-19 Is Salutary
There is a salutary effect to all of this. A dark cloud can have a silver lining. Tragedy has a way of arousing us from spiritual slumber. Dismal disappointments, disturbing dilemmas and dark distresses force us to consider ultimate realities. They goad the Christian out of worldliness. In fact they help clarify our vision. COVID-19 affords us an opportunity to consider mortality and eternity.
We can think more clearly about what it means to love God and our neighbours. Away from the carefree busyness of daily life, we now get to know that eternity beckons. Our idols are smashed. Our sense of security is rocked. Anxieties are exposed. And trust is tested. In some senses, our profession of faith is screened. But our hope is also galvanised.
Seeing Things More Clearly
We see God more plainly, we hear his word more receptively, we shine the light of Christ more brightly and we live more wisely. Maybe the good Shepherd knows that a pandemic can help us sense his presence best.
May it not be lost on us that in all these things, Christ is sovereign.
Please don’t misunderstand me. Death is devastating. This disease is grievously destructive. Christians must sanitise their hands, watch the news, listen to their national leaders, take every caution, pray for all, help the weak and hope for relief. But as we join with the rest of humanity to do these things, may it not be lost on us that in all these things, Christ is sovereign.
The Christian is eternally safe and God can use COVID-19 to strengthen our faith by loosening our grip on this world. For we know that for those who love God, all things work together for their good (Romans 8:28).