The coronavirus pandemic has taught me that I am a constant worrier, capable of imagining up many creative worst-case scenarios. Thankfully, God in his kindness has also used this time to help me see his ongoing goodness and grace. As I reflect upon the continuing impact the pandemic will have on all dimensions of everyday life, I think Christians will have a deeper appreciation for these four things when we walk out of this pandemic. I hope it serves as an encouragement to those who—like me—are prone to have anxious, disbelieving hearts.
1. The essentials of community
My church is streaming all our Sunday services online and indefinitely suspending all small Bible group meetings. Our church leaders are creatively harnessing technology to replicate church community whilst we practice social distancing. I’ve been encouraged to hear of so many Christians still prioritising reading the Bible one-to-one and moving cheerfully to video calls to maintain relationships and for mutual encouragement.
However good technology may be, online Christian community will only be fractionally as good as regular, physical community with Christians … I know that I cannot wait to return to the normalcy of physical Christian fellowship.
However good technology may be, though, online Christian community will only be fractionally as good as regular, physical community with Christians. Throughout this pandemic, I know that I will miss standing in proximity with my brothers and sisters in Christ after church—with a coffee cup and Arnotts biscuit in hand—having good conversations about our week. I will miss having the liberty of giving a sister in Christ the comfort of a physical hug if she’s had a rough day. Although we have committed ourselves to following best health practices, I know that I cannot wait to return to the normalcy of physical Christian fellowship. Perhaps this sense of longing is precisely why Hebrews encourage us to keep meeting together (Hebrews 10:24-25), for it offers us such a great encouragement, especially in a time like this.
I’m wondering how you’re feeling about your local church now that we cannot gather physically and regularly. Maybe you’re one of those Christians who has felt detached from Christian community for a while—from even before pandemic times. Maybe you weren’t very regular when you had the choice to be. Maybe you have always felt a real temptation to put your work or self-related pursuits ahead of church. If so, maybe now would be a good time to think of how visible God’s grace can be amongst Christian community, and commit to joining one after this crisis is over.
2. The goodness of God whilst we’re out of a pandemic
As we are wrapped in turmoil and uncertainty, I often catch myself wondering, “Gee, how often do I thank God for all the relatively peaceful and uneventful days I haven’t been caught in a pandemic?” God has been good to me, and I am sure to you too, in sustaining me through life despite my often lax and callous approach to life, hygiene and keeping healthy. As I reflect upon my life there have definitely been occasions where I have done seemingly dangerous things: sleep too little before driving, not washing my hands enough, jaywalking across the road … These things could all have ended my life pre-maturely. And yet by God’s daily grace I’m still here.
The Psalmist says the world and everything in it belongs to God (Psalm 24:1). To be able to participate in, and cultivate, this earthly life as long as we have is a great privilege. And we continue to enjoy his good creation daily: peaceful sunrises, family and friends, delicious food. God has kept us alive and well through so much so far. In this pandemic season, I often feel challenged by challenged by how little I give him thanks for any of it.
3. The goodness of God whilst we are in a pandemic
This brings me to an obvious follow-up question: Is God still good whilst we are in a pandemic? It might be slightly difficult to see his goodness whilst we are bombarded with unrelenting bad news and increasingly restrictive quarantine rules. But God may be using this pandemic to demonstrate another aspect of his character to us—his great patience—before we come face-to-face with eternal judgement (c.f.Matthew 25:31-46). If this crisis wakes us up to the reality of our temporality, and the two destinations awaiting us, isn’t this evidence of how gracious God is?
If we revere Christ as our Lord we will be guaranteed an eternity of no sickness, death or fear. This pandemic is making me thirst for such a world; teaching me to cling more closely to my saviour.
But God’s goodness doesn’t stop with reminding us of the fragility of our lives. He also provides the solution out of it. If we revere Christ as our Lord we will be guaranteed an eternity of no sickness, death or fear. This pandemic is making me thirst for such a world; teaching me to cling more closely to my saviour Christ who has secured me such a world through his sacrifice on the cross. Only the goodness of our God can use a world-wide health scare for his glory and the comfort of his people.
4. Opportunities to care for the vulnerable
Another thing I’ve begun to appreciate is how clearly God has shown us the individuals we are meant to be trying to serve and comfort in this trialling season. We know who the vulnerable people are in this pandemic: the elderly, pregnant women, and those with compromised immune systems. Through this crisis, we Christians are being given clear opportunities to joyfully and sacrificially apply the Bible’s various teachings on caring for the weak, poor and elderly.
This pandemic should encourage the Christian to do the ‘good deeds’ encouraged in Hebrews. It gives us an opportunity to demonstrate how Galatians’s instructions to ‘bear each other’s burdens’ look like today. What a beautiful picture of Jesus Christ it would paint if Christians all over the world used this time to serve those most in need.
I’m confident that your churches are working hard to meet the various needs that have arisen at this time. How can you live out your Christian convictions today? Is there someone you could do a grocery run for? Someone you can comfort with gospel hope? Christian love might be a great reprieve in a time like this.
Living through a health pandemic is unpleasant, uncertain and very uncomfortable, even for the healthiest amongst us. I know in my head that God is good, but my heart needs constant reminding. This pandemic, by God’s grace, has been that daily reminder. My prayer for all of us is that God would keep using this scary experience to sharpen our characters into the likeness of his son Jesus Christ, and to move our hands to better love and serve his people.