The COVID-19 pandemic caught the world by surprise. According to World Health Organisation (WHO), there have been almost 1 million COVID-19 related deaths. Every individual has been negatively affected by the virus in one way or another. Because of this, the world considers COVID-19 to be a curse. But are there benefits from its coming? I believe that there are indeed positive aspects, which I call “blessings.”
Looking Past the Pain
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2). James lead the church in Jerusalem through many challenges and tough times (see Acts 12:17; 15:6-15).
After Stephen’s martyrdom (Acts 7:55-8:55), persecutions against Christians increased and many Christians fled Jerusalem and lived in “diaspora.” These Christians suffered “trials of many kinds” (James 1:1-2). However, James urged them not to focus on the pain, but to realise its benefits. “You know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:3). This in turn has a perfecting effect (James 1:4). James understood the reality of hardship. But he urged his recipients to count their blessings amidst them.
James understood the reality of hardship. But he urged his recipients to count their blessings amidst them
It is important to understand God’s sovereignty. God is above all things and powers; He is able to do anything. All things are under his control. There is nothing that happens without him permitting it (Isaiah 45:7-9; Job 42:2; Hebrews 12:3-17).
Furthermore, God uses these things for the good of his people (Romans 8:28). Despite the pain it has caused, under God’s sovereign control COVID-19 has blessed us in many ways, both spiritually and in other aspects of our life.
3 Clear Spiritual Blessings from COVID-19
Just as COVID-19 has given many of us time for increased prayer, it has resulted in a pause for reflection. Most of us probably long for the busyness of our lives prior to COVID-19. But it is hard to ignore God’s work in the newfound quietness of life. I will list three areas.
1. Time with Family
Due to the pandemic, many parents have had a chance to bond and pray with their families. Time with family allows us to pray together, answer the many questions children ask, teach them the Word of God, and lead them to know and grow in God. Previously, many parents were too busy and left their children’s affairs to school teachers, maids, carers and other family members.
2. Rest and Reflection
Those who were incessantly busy now have have time to rest and reflect. Because of the time to reflect, we are organising our lives to do things differently. Even rightly. Some have made new resolutions to enhance their spiritual life and ministry. But slowing down has not merely resulted in better and more effective planning. For the chance for reflection – or introspection – is much needed in our relentless lifestyles.
3. Innovation and Creativity
Many Christian leaders had been reluctant to use technologies in their ministries. Thus COVID-19 has coerced them to learn and use them. Technology is a gift from God which, when harnessed by wisdom, can be one of his blessings. Just consider how many churches have been able to continue ‘meeting’ online; or how Christians have been able to communicate with one another despite distance.
Technology is a gift from God which, when harnessed by wisdom, can be one of his blessings
Plus 5 ‘Physical’ Blessings
In addition to the three blessings listed above, there are further blessings to be noted. We might call these “physical” blessings. But, admittedly, this distinction is somewhat flawed.
First, the world has learned humility. Some countries and people thought they were able to solve every problem. But COVID-19 has proved otherwise. It has brought countries and people to their knees. This is an important corrective not only to human power and pride, but a necessary lesson for individuals. For we tend to divinise great leaders, nations and organisations. For now, however, all most of us can do at the moment is pray fervently to our sovereign God and wait faithfully.
The world has learned humility. Some countries and people thought they were able to solve every problem. But COVID-19 has proved otherwise
Second, COVID-19 has reiterated the need for unity. Many nations have banded together to tackle the pandemic. In East Africa, heads of states are talking about navigating the disease as one bloc. Governments and oppositions, different religious groups, and communities have come together to combat COVID-19. Therefore, the unity which many countries and communities undervalued or disliked has been made inevitable through the presence of the pandemic.
Third, we have learned the significance of hygiene and good ethics. Hygiene is required to combat COVID-19. The three ‘do nots’: Do not touch your mouth; do not touch your eyes; and do not touch your nose are important hygiene-base practices, at all times. People who spit in public, or do not wash their hands regularly, now know they must change their behaviours. Cleanliness is not merely a preference but a vital preventative measure against disease. Therefore doing so is not only hygienic but morally responsible.
Cleanliness is not merely a preference but a vital preventative measure against disease
Health System Improvements
Fourth, COVID-19 has helped the world conduct self-assessments. Governments are realising how strong or weak their health systems and facilities are. Many are already fixing messes or planning to fix them after the pandemic. People now know they need to have different and better approaches to health systems.
Lastly, we are enjoying cleaner environments because of COVID-19. News agencies and scientists are reporting that there has been significant reduction in air pollution resulting in cleaner air. For example, COVID-19 has resulted in Kampala air quality improving by as much as 40%.
Crises Teach Us About God
This discussion shows us that crisis or pains are not necessarily bad or evil. Our sovereign God is able to use every crisis to work for our good. Therefore, as Christians we should be assured that crises can grow us.
Whenever we go through crises, we struggle to keep going. We must persevere. When we do so, we grow stronger. This is at least one of the points made in James Chapter 1. A crisis makes us focus and depend more on God. For when no one and nothing can help us we instinctively turn to Him.
Crisis makes us focus and depend more on God. For when no one and nothing can help us we instinctively turn to Him
A crisis also helps us to see the power of God. When we depend on God during crisis, he comes through to help us. He is with his church, a present and powerful comforter. We may even say that a crisis increases our faith in God. When we are in crisis and God helps us we are better prepared for future moments and doubts. As Paul says, “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).
The Sum of Our Blessings
It is my prayer that the world will emerge healthier, stronger and more organised after the pandemic. This can certainly be the case for Christians in crisis. For when they come, our faith should cause us to focus on the Lord and what he teaches us during struggles and hardship.
So, instead of throwing ourselves into the worries and pains of the crisis, rather than being overwhelmed by anxiety, let’s cast our burdens on the Lord. More than this, let’s ask God what he might be teaching us through our crisis.