Never before in our lifetime have we witnessed the whole world immensely suffering from one pandemic—Covid-19. Since its occurrence, millions of people have become its victims and many have even succumbed to death. So many, as a result, are currently experiencing confusion, anxiety, fear, disappointment, and despair.
So where is God in the midst of the pandemic? Does God’s Word have answers to our condition? How must churches (pastors and believers) respond to this plight?
Response 1: Don’t Expect Heaven On Earth
It goes without saying that we live in a fallen world tainted with sin and suffering. Man’s sin and rebellion against God in Genesis 3 brought a terrible curse on the entire creation. Since then, humankind has been facing natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, famine, and plagues like coronavirus.
The Scripture declares, “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now” (Rom. 8:22). Pastor and author Tim Keller explains:
The creation is in “bondage to decay” (Rom. 8:21). It’s caught in a continuous cycle of death and decomposition. Everything in nature wears down and dies. And so nature is a realm of pain and suffering. It “has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth” (Rom. 8:22). There’s relentless pain that comes from first to last, as things decay. In this creation, no experience is untainted by pain1.
Why should we know this fact? Because we cannot expect this cursed earth to function like heaven, i.e., free from sin and suffering. Only when Christ returns will He renew the earth and make it a new creation. But as long as we live on this sin-cursed planet, we experience its painful effects. Oh, may we long for the return of Christ to restore creation!
Response 2: Trust In The Almighty God
Although we are living in a fallen world, we are not left to ourselves in our miseries. The Psalmist acknowledged, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way (earthquake comes), though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling” (Ps. 46:1-3).
If we contextualize the above Scripture, we may say with the Psalmist, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the coronavirus breaks out, spreading rapidly and coming closer to our doors.”
Elsewhere, another Psalmist sang, “For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever. He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord” (Ps. 112:6-7). Amidst alarming times, our heart can rest only by trusting in the sovereign Lord. Fear and faith don’t exist together. When we have faith in God, we don’t fear. When we fear, we don’t trust in God. Instead, when we are anxious, we can honestly share our fears and insecurities with God, urging Him to strengthen our faith in Him.
Joni Eareckson Tada is an author, speaker, singer, and painter—all done from a wheelchair. On July 30, 1967, when Joni was just 17 years old, she suffered a diving accident that made her quadriplegic (permanently unable to move or feel her arms or legs). Later she suffered from third-stage breast cancer. During the Covid-19 crisis, she wrote:
I am an individual at great risk to this coronavirus. I am an ageing quadriplegic (70 years) with very fragile lungs, an immune system that can be easily compromised. But I bolster my confidence that the world belongs to Almighty God, so Christians can be confident in His plan and purposes. There is absolutely no reason to be caught up in the panic or to be caught up in the blame2.
Therefore, since we have the Almighty God, the Maker of the heavens and the earth, let us trust in Him, not panic, but cry out for His help, and know that He will accomplish His will and purposes.
Response 3: Be Wise And Stay Safe
The Scripture indicates, “The prudent (wise) sees danger and hides himself, but the simple (foolish) go on and suffer for it” (Prov. 22:3). We must not panic, but we must be careful and not reckless. Many are needlessly contracting Covid because of not perceiving the impending dangers. Therefore,
- Keep washing your hands for 20 seconds, especially when you go out and touch things.
- Avoid touching your face, eyes, mouth, and nose. The primary way we contract the virus is by touching our face with our infected fingers.
- Wear a good quality facemask.
- Maintain social distance, especially from people who have cough, cold and fever. Avoid public places, parties, and all kinds of crowded gatherings.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus.”3
Remember, it is foolishness to be careless and trust in the Lord. It is also foolishness to be careful and not trust in the Lord.
Response 4: Preach The Gospel To The Hopeless
God’s Word asserts, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). How blessed are we, beloved children of God, to have this hope of eternal life in Christ Jesus! But how saddening it is to see multitudes of people around us living Christless and hopeless lives!
It is good to consider our safety, but let us not lose sight of the hopeless state of unbelievers. When Paul and Silas were awfully beaten and thrown in prison, they were not preoccupied with their own affliction. Instead, in their physical pain and agony, they bore witness to the gospel of Christ before the prisoners and jailer. Their bold witness eventually led the jailer and his household to the Lord (Acts 16:16-34).
Let us know that more than Covid, sin is a deadly disease. More than deliverance from Covid, people need Christ to deliver them from their sin. So when death is looming over and around us, isn’t this the time for us to open our mouths and boldly proclaim the gospel of Christ? Listen to how Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892) actively proclaimed the gospel during the cholera pandemic:
If there ever be a time when the mind is sensitive, it is when death is abroad. I recollect, when first I came to London, how anxiously people listened to the gospel, for the cholera was raging terribly. There was little scoffing then… All day, and sometimes all night long, I went about from house to house, and saw men and women dying, and, oh, how glad they were to see my face! When many were afraid to enter their houses lest they should catch the deadly disease, we who had no fear about such things found ourselves most gladly listened to when we spoke of Christ and of things Divine4.
So this is not the time for us to stay silent. The virus is surging everywhere and claiming the lives of many. Let us do the good works we can and faithfully proclaim the gospel of Christ, trusting God to regenerate souls and bring them into His eternal kingdom.
Response 5: Be Ready To Die Anytime
What is our life on earth? The Word of God answers, “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (Jam. 4:14). We live in a world of uncertainties. Our earthly life is short. Death is inevitable. And we must be ready to face death anytime.
We need not panic if we die because our beloved Lord said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live…Do you believe this?” (Jn. 11:25-26) Do you really believe the words of Christ? Did not the Lord say, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away?” (Luke 21:33)
Remember that it is the Lord who holds the “keys of Death and Hades” (Rev. 1:18). If our Lord stretches our life on earth, we live. And if He calls us home, none can withhold us. John Charles Ryle (1816-1900) rightly stated, “All the powers of the world cannot take away my life, till God permits. All the physicians of earth cannot preserve it, when God calls me away.”5
During the 19th century, millions of people succumbed to the cholera pandemic. Consider the testimony of Charles H. Spurgeon about a young woman who was dying from cholera:
I went home, and was soon called away again; that time, to see a young woman. She also was in the last extremity, but it was a fair, fair sight. She was singing, — though she knew she was dying, — and talking to those round about her, telling her brothers and sisters to follow her to Heaven, bidding goodbye to her father, and all the while smiling as if it had been her marriage day. She was happy and blessed…Who is the man that does not fear to die? I will tell you. The man that is a believer.6
Oh, may we courageously face death like this young woman with joy and peace! To those in Christ, death on earth is a birthday in heaven. To a Christian, death is not a demotion to despair, but a promotion to glory. A believer may be separated from his near and dear ones by death, but he goes nearest to the most dearest One by whom and for whom he was created.
Therefore, take heart dear believers in Christ. Because Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead, we who believe in our risen Savior and exalted Lord can be ready to die anytime and enter into God’s eternal glory. And if you, dear reader, have not genuinely repented of your sins and believed in the Lord Jesus, why don’t you do that right now and receive God’s free gift of eternal life in Christ?
1 Tim Keller, “Creation’s Groans Are Not Meaningless”, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/creations-groans-are-not-meaningless/
2 Joni Eareckson Tada, “The Coronavirus and God’s Sovereignty”, https://www.joniandfriends.org/the-coronavirus-and-gods-sovereignty/
3 “Prevent COVID-19: How to Protect Yourself from the Coronavirus”, https://healthmatters.nyp.org/how-to-protect-yourself-from-coronavirus-covid-19/
4 Charles H. Spurgeon, “Fields White for Harvest”, https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/fields-white-for-harvest/#flipbook/
5 “J. C. Ryle’s Expository Thoughts on the Gospels”, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ryl/luke-13.html
6 “Spurgeon and the Cholera Outbreak of 1854”, https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/blog-entries/spurgeon-and-the-cholera-outbreak-of-1854/
C. Stephen David serves as a pastor at Ekklesia Evangelical Fellowship, Hyderabad, Telangana. He is married to Chaitanya and they have two children.