Will we ride out the storm? What if death comes? Will I persevere? These are the questions many are asking. At first, we in Africa heard about COVID-19 from far away. We wished, others even thought, that it would never reach us. Some speculated that Africans are immune to the disease because it took quite a while to reach the continent. Some said the virus will not survive in our heat and we desperately wanted that to be true.
But it arrived in Ghana. At the end of April we have seen over 1500 cases, 11 deaths and 155 recoveries. When we see images from the worst-hit places like Italy and the UK, where hundreds of people are dying daily, we are understandably worried. Fear is not out of place. For we can’t help but wonder what will happen as the pandemic reaches further into the general populace.
Will Everything Turn Out “Okay”?
Most of us have been taught that to have faith in God is to believe that things will always turn out fine. That even as the storm rages all around us, we will somehow remain untouched by its swirling winds. Faith in God will deliver us from it all. Certainly, there has been no shortage of people binding the virus and claiming immunity from it. However, we cannot hide from the fact that Christians all over the world are enduring tremendous suffering. We need only survey the statistics from hardest-hit countries. Those Christians were not given immunity and we cannot assume that they had ‘weaker faith’. Christians suffering all over the world do not possess a false gospel. For Christians are not exempt from the hardships in this life.
We need to read the whole counsel of Scripture. Not just cherry-picked verses that tell us what we want to hear
We cannot simply claim the good things in life. Nor should we continuously feed ourselves with teaching that doesn’t prepare us for life’s difficulties. Billy Graham writes in his book The Journey, “Evil and suffering are real . . . They aren’t an illusion, nor are they simply an absence of good. We are fallen creatures living in a fallen world that has been twisted and corrupted by sin, and we all share in its brokenness. Most of all, we share in its tragic legacy of disease and death.”
Build Your House to Withstand the Storm
Therefore we need to read the whole counsel of Scripture and not just cherry-picked verses that tell us what we want to hear. We must wrestle with and engage passages that explore life’s difficult questions. A balanced diet of the Word should include the bits we don’t want to think about but are vital to our spiritual well-being. It is like making sure that you are not building a house of straw that will be quickly destroyed by the storm.
A balanced diet of the Word should include the bits we don’t want to think about but are vital to our spiritual well-being
What if Death Knocks at the Door?
In the aftermath of the Spanish Flu of 1918, Francis Grimke, an American Presbyterian minister, said this in a sermon:
“I felt, as doubtless you all felt, who are Christians, the blessedness of a firm grip upon Jesus Christ—the blessedness of a realising sense of being anchored in God and in His precious promises. While the plague was raging, while thousands were dying, what a comfort it was to feel that we were in the hands of a loving Father who was looking out for us, who had given us the great assurance that all things should work together for our good. And, therefore, that come what would—whether we were smitten with the epidemic or not, or whether being smitten, we survived or perished, we knew it would be well with us, that there was no reason to be alarmed. Even if death came, we knew it was all right.”
While the plague was raging, while thousands were dying, what a comfort it was to feel that we were in the hands of a loving Father who was looking out for us
Build on the Rock of Christ
True faith is always anchored in God no matter how overwhelming the storm. We pray and bring our petitions to Him because He is our Father. We trust that He works things according to His purposes, even when we don’t understand them. Grimke went on to say: “In the presence of such a faith, in the realisation of God’s love, as revealed in Jesus Christ, in the consciousness of fellowship with him, what are epidemics, what are scourges, what are all of life’s trials, sufferings, disappointments? They only tend to work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory”.
If our faith rests on Christ who is the Solid Rock. And we fix our eyes on God and His eternal promises. We can endure and persevere even when we are directly impacted by this pandemic because we know where our journeys end.
Empowered to Endure
In his first letter, Peter reminds us that we are exiles in this world, facing different trials. But our hope is living and our inheritance is secure and kept safe for us. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3-5).
What are epidemics, life’s trials, sufferings, disappointments? They only tend to work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory
Yet we do not only have an inheritance to look forward to. For God himself empowers us to endure until that time when it is revealed. What an amazing promise! In this time, while we are here, we can actively live in a manner worthy of the gospel without fear. This is not reckless courage that makes us take unnecessary risks. We must not endanger ourselves or those around us. This courage stems from the power of God. He holds us tightly and teaches us how to live, to show love to all. Encouraging, comforting and loving those around us during this difficult time.
Secure in the Storm
We might not know what tomorrow will look like. Nor can we accurately anticipate the far reaching effects of the COVID-19 pandemic as it sweeps through the world. We might be uncertain at the moment about what the future holds. But we are secure in the fact that we are loved by the Lord Jesus Christ and kept by God (Jude 1:1).
We have an imperishable, undefiled and unfading inheritance kept for us by God and completely untainted by this virus, or any other storm for that matter. Therefore we are free to love God and our neighbours as best as we can in this period. And even if we are touched by this disease and its effects, we can sing: “We have an anchor that keeps the soul / Steadfast and sure while the billows roll / Fastened to the Rock which cannot move / Grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love.“