As I write this there’s a chance that Jack and I have been exposed to Covid-19. We were already starting to wind down non-essential outings, but when friends asked us to meet them for lunch last Wednesday, we agreed. They mentioned that their son had just returned from the Caribbean where he worked with a water purification project for a local ministry. When he left here there were no recorded cases in the Caribbean basin.
A few days later our friends texted us from the hospital where they had taken their very sick son. He tested negative for flu. The doctors also tested him for strep throat, Covid-19 and tropical diseases. On Saturday night he was discharged and the family was asked to self-quarantine while they await word. We’re waiting with them. Last Wednesday the country where he had visited reported their first five Corona cases.
In response to our friends’ texts we decided to self-isolate until their son’s results come in. I felt disappointed at first. Because I think that, regardless of his results, this will be TEOTWAWKI—the end of the world as we know it (for a while). We will pretty much self-isolate until Dr. Fauci and team recommend otherwise.
Whereas a Facebook meme read, “The Introvert: ‘I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life!,’ my extroverted soul is sad to kiss so many ministry and social commitments good-bye. I’ve deleted Church, Bible Study, Prison Ministry, book club, a mentoring meeting, and a spring style show from my calendar. But, like President Obama said, “I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone,” and I plan to keep writing and reaching out to help and encourage others.
I’m surprised by how little fear I’ve felt. Even at the prospect of contracting the virus from my friends. I think possibly the best explanation is that…
B. We’ve been preparing for a couple of weeks. Getting hair cuts, Laying in groceries, cleaning supplies and meds. But more importantly…
A. I’ve been preparing my heart for a crisis–praying and focusing on the good and loving sovereignty of God.
God’s sovereignty is far stronger than our emotions
Emotions are more contagious than Covid-19. Think about it…I drove by my local hospital and saw the triage tents outside the ER to screen for Covid symptoms before people walk in. I had an immediate, visceral response: Yikes!
Maybe you have looked at empty shelves in the stores or on social media and thought the same thing. And then if we see others panic buying we are tempted to start buying too. I have to be careful how I talk about the scene at the ER to my friends because talking about it ratchets up fear.
But God has given us the freedom to choose where to focus our minds. We lean into Jesus and we are no longer slaves to our feelings and fears. Instead of giving in to the temptation to write the book on how this might end in mayhem and death, we can choose to focus on Jesus. Especially his good, loving, sovereign rule.
“And the [fears] of earth will grow strangely dim/ In the light of his glory and grace.
God’s Sovereignty is far stronger than Covid-19
When we think of the sovereignty of God we like to think of and pray for his protection. We bank on the truth that God is strong enough to turn back any threat. Strong enough to overcome any virus, any income loss, any senior year loss, any illness. Many are praying the Psalms right now:
“I will say to the LORD, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’ For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence…” (Psalm 91:2-3).
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth…The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore (Psalm 121:1,2; 7,8).
If God were not the ultimate power in the Universe he could not protect us. But he is and he can. God can protect us. But will he?
There is another aspect to God’s sovereignty we don’t like to think about
I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things (Isaiah 45:7) .
Then the LORD said to Moses, “…present yourself before Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD…, “Let my people go…For this time I will send all my plagues on you yourself, and on your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is none like me in all the earth. For by now I could have put out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth. But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth Exodus 9:13-16 … [emphasis mine]
God is sovereign. All plagues are ultimately his plagues. He threatened to wipe Egypt out with pestilence. He can make well being or calamity with a word.
But our God is so loving. He always allows calamity with a life-saving purpose–so that we can know him. Know his sovereign power, know his love and mercy.
We have so many struggles and sorrows. You may be spending this very day in ways you never expected. What we need most is to know and experience God for the Treasure he is. “He is not a tame lion, but he’s good.” And we need to turn to him, believe him and receive his gift of life to the full. And look for the ways he aims to bring good and joy to us in the midst of this.
Philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal said, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” “According to Pascal, we fear the silence of existence, we dread boredom and instead choose aimless distraction, and we can’t help but run from the problems of our emotions into the false comforts of the mind,” writes Zat Rana.
I’ve wondered if part of God’s sovereign purpose in allowing this pestilence is to give us a world-wide timeout to sit in our rooms and think about our lives.
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to us.
Cleanse our hands, not just of Corona virus, but purify our hands and hearts from our distractions and busyness. From our double-minded devotion to the enchantment of worldliness and the real Treasure of God and his Kingdom.
The longer we endure social isolation the more we may indeed be wretched and mourn and weep. And our laughter may be turned to mourning and our joy to gloom.
But in the quiet and reflection, as we humble ourselves before the Lord, in his time he will exalt us. (italics from James 4:8-10)
We will experience his love. We will see his power. We will look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. (Psalm 27:13)
In his sovereignty God may allow hard, painful things. But because he is so good and loving he will use it for his good purposes. He did it for the Egyptians.
After the plagues, after the pestilence, when “600,000 Israelite men plus women and children” finally left Egypt and 400 years of slavery, “many other people went up with them” (Exodus 12:38). These Egyptians and other foreigners had seen the power and goodness of the Lord in the midst of the chaos and destruction. They joined the joyful journey to know God and experience his sovereign love and grace.
Even so, God is drawing us and others to know and treasure him more through this huge disruption and loss. And he promises that we will experience his goodness as we fully trust him.
The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forget the work of your hands. (Psalm 138:8)
(3/18/20 @4:12 pm: Just received word that our friend’s son has tested negative for Covid-19. We are so thankful for all your prayers and encouraging messages. Still praying for our friends’ son whom doctors believe has dengue fever. Nasty stuff with no cure. You just have to ride it out.)