First off, there are many differences between the Christian God and Covid-19.
The obvious include the fact that one came in the form of a man two-thousand years ago proclaiming himself as the savior the world has long been awaiting while the other is a micro-organism currently bulldozing human civilization as we know it. One claimed to have no origin because He’s existed forever and the other originated when a bat and another creature–most likely a pangolin–had the misfortune of meeting one another.
More comparisons are still to come. Before then I want to explicate my purpose behind these comparisons.
What tends to happen in pandemic is that the sickness, the number of infected, the number of deaths, and–even more so than usual– the incompetence of the government becomes the hottest topics anybody can chat about. Suddenly, everybody is a Stanford professor on virology. Why? Because of fear. Fear of too many things to list without my fingers falling off from typing them and your eyeballs popping out of your head from reading them. But mostly fear of death. Cause, well, let’s admit it, people don’t want to die.
From the way the media and your crazed relatives are portraying it, the virus is the most fear-inspiring thing to ever roam the earth. It’s as if the thing is omnipresent and omnipotent, like God. Except it’s not at all like God, and so far beneath Him, in fact, that it’s not even worthy of being compared to Him. Yet, today, I find it necessary to attempt this comparison for both our sakes.
When all we see, hear, think, dream, breathe is the virus (ok, hopefully neither of us is breathing it right now), of course, it’s going to appear ginormous, like some unscalable mountain hanging over our heads. But once you add God into the picture, all of a sudden that mountain becomes gravel-sized, not because it shrank in size but because God’s majesty and power overshadows it by so much.
You might say, “Well, if you place God next to anything then of course that other thing is going to appear tiny!”
That’s true. But keep in mind that in doing so, we’re not cheating by distorting reality. We’re unveiling it, making it more accurate. God is constantly in the picture, whether we’re aware or not. Just because you cover someone’s face in a photo with your thumb does not mean you’ve erased them from it.
So let’s continue with the comparisons, shall we?
Covid-19 is not forever. God is.
Time is strange. We think of time as the great dictator over all existence. After all, everything is subject to the effects of time, right? And if this is the case, everything is subject to change because naturally as time passes, things change. A rock changes in size as the wind tears at it. Our own bodies change all the time with respect to size, strength, color, and shape. Even something as formidable as entire seas can dry up and become an infinite stretch of desert given enough time.
The Bible agrees that everything in creation is subject to time and change. Everything’s creator, God, is not.
Listen to what Psalm 102 verses 25-27 has to say about God: Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, but you are the same, and your years have no end.
Or what Hebrews 13 verse 18 says about Jesus: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
For Christians, this is an especially comforting reality. We know that the promises God gave us holds true under every circumstance, fearful or peaceful. He says He’ll be with us till the end of the age. He says there is nothing in all of creation that can separate us from the love of Christ. He says He is leading us to our heavenly home, where we will be with Him forever. These are the promises which gives Christians hope and comfort in dark times like these, where the brokenness of the world is especially exacerbated.
For those who are not in Christ, He also has a few guarantees, though none as assuaging as the ones for His believers. We’ve all heard of the typical “agony for eternity under God’s wrath” sort of thing, but there’s more. There’s guarantee of agony even now in your present life on earth.
Without God, you can’t truly be satisfied. For as long as you live, you’ll be scrambling to fill a hole within yourself, stuffing it with whatever appeals to you–work, accolades, morality, fancier and fancier possessions, you name it. But that hole isn’t car-shaped, family-shaped, or even good deeds-shaped. It’s God shaped. God Himself is the only one who can fill the hole.
On top of that, without God, you can’t experience true lasting peace, joy, hope, love. Again, it’s because of the way humans are designed. A sport like football or a hobby like watching movies is pleasurable in itself, but as someone God created in His own image you were never meant to derive life from it. You’re meant to derive life from God. He designed humans so that He Himself is our peace and joy. We’re meant for something much greater than football or movies. That’s a guarantee.
Now, about the virus.
There was a time before the virus. A time where the virus runs rampant. A time after the virus. In other words, time will hustle the progression of covid-19 along just like it hustles everything else under the sun along. I think even the most panicked alarmist stowed away in their underground bunker with five-hundred twenty-three toilet paper rolls and enough cans of spaghetti to feed a small nation can agree that there will come a time when the virus isn’t all that the world and their aunt Betty can talk about, when it’ll diminish into nothing more than an unpleasant memory.
There will be an end to the Virus. Its reign shall end. That’s a guarantee. God, on the other hand, has no end and neither will His reign, goodness, love, and promises. That’s also a guarantee.
Covid-19 is not all-powerful. God is.
What makes something powerful? I’ve been contemplating this after I re-watched Avengers: Infinity War with my sister this week. Why is Thanos the most powerful villain? Who is the strongest avenger? What is the measure for power in the marvel universe? What about ours?
With the way people have been treating the virus, you’d think it’s the most powerful force in the world (or at least for 2020 because keep in mind the limitations of time). It’s certainly impactful enough to run our supermarkets into chaos, shutdown half of society, and prevent college kids from having parties.
But something even more powerful is also in the picture.
Consider Psalm 24 verse 1: The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.
Without God, there would be no supermarkets, no society, no college parties, cause without God, the world would not exist. You and I would certainly not. Neither would covid-19. There’s a reason why the Bible instructs us to fear God and not man nor princes, why one of the phrases God repeats most in the Bible is “Do not be afraid”. Again, place anything next to God, and that thing will become a thousandth its size. So, do you fear the mountain or the one who can make a mountain look like a gravel?
Look at how Job describes Him in Job 26 verses 7-14: God stretches the northern sky over empty space and hangs the earth on nothing. He wraps the rain in his thick clouds, and the clouds don’t burst with the weight. He covers the face of the moon, shrouding it with his clouds. He created the horizon when he separated the waters: he set the boundary between day and night. The foundations of heaven tremble; they shudder at his rebuke. By his power the sea grew calm. By his skill he crushed the great sea monster. His Spirit made the heavens beautiful, and his power pierced the gliding serpent. These are just the beginning of all that he does, merely a whisper of his power. Who, then, can comprehend the thunder of his power?
Merely a whisper. This reminds me of the time when Elijah was so discouraged by the Israelite’s indifference and the queen’s obstinate disbelief against a jaw-dropping demonstration of God’s power that he hid in the side of a mountain. Scripture says at that time God sent a wind that tore mountains apart, an earthquake, and a fire. Then He sent a gentle whisper. Scripture says that while God was not in the wind, earthquake, nor fire, He was in the whisper.
God is powerful, yes, but He’s also gentle, kind, loving, compassionate. Just because He’s great and mighty doesn’t mean He overlooks what is small and helpless.
God knows better than we do just how weak we are physically, emotionally, spiritually. He is able to empathize with us in our sufferings, pain, and sorrow. He knows how easily we burst into anger. He sees the cracks in our self-composure as we try to put on a brave face as clearly as a parent can see when a small child is fibbing.
Because He doesn’t scorn us in our weakness and smallness, He understands why we would get anxious over something like covid-19. He wants us to trust Him with the things that we see as overwhelming as well as the things that we see as miniscule. God cares about the small and the big in our lives.
Remember my analogy from earlier? He doesn’t reject that our problems are big like mountains. The global situation around the virus is big and challenging for people anywhere. It’s just that, relative to God, they become less daunting.
Covid-19 destroys human lives. God saves them.
We’ve talked quite a bit about the size of God’s power, but we’ve still yet to touch on His most amazing ability yet: the ability to save.
What does “save” mean? Let’s take a look.
John 3:16 goes as follows, “For God so loved the world, He gave His one and only son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Ever heard of that? If not, I think it’s best we start with the basics such as what the heck are we in danger of and is it really that bad?
Put down the three other devices you’ve been fidgeting with, grab your reading glasses, lean in, and pay attention. This is vital information.
See, one thing about this world is that it’s teeming with problems. Try going one day without running into one. You can’t. They’re everywhere in every form imaginable. Our coffee didn’t come out right. The stocks are sinking. Civil war is stirring again in some obscure African nation. Your favorite t.v. character just died. Covid-19 is demolishing normal life.
Yet the champion of all problems in this world, this life, at any given point in history or the future has been, is, and will be sin. Sin, in the simplest terms, is missing the mark. What is this “mark”? It’s the standard of perfect obedience that God expects from us that only Jesus achieved with his perfect life. His life was perfect because he lived in total obedience to God, doing the Father’s will.
We as humans born with an innate sinful nature can never be perfect. We can cocoon ourselves in an aura of morality, but that doesn’t fool God. He says in 1 Samuel 16 verse 7, “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” We’ve all sinned–once, twice, probably closer to a billion times in our lives. Think back to the last time you had a judgemental thought against someone, the last time you told any lie, the last time a lustful thought flitted through your mind. These and many more are examples of sinning.
“Well of course nobody besides Jesus can be perfect!” You might retort. Hold your horses. I acknowledge nobody is perfect when measured by God’s standards and that’s a problem; however, there’s a way out. (Told you God is powerful).
God’s solution to the greatest problem in the world? Sacrificing His one and only son. It says so right there in John 3:16. Because God is a just God, meaning like any impartial judge He must allot everyone’s punishment according to their deeds, every single person across all of time is guilty because every single person out of their innate sinful nature has sinned. The consequence for sin? Eternal separation from God, wrath, Hell, and so on the names go. God, in His loving kindness, did not want us to live lives shackled by sin, chasing after dead things that cannot truly fill us, living dead lives only to die at the end, so He sent Jesus to pay the debt for our sin. Here’s the caveat: only those who believe they are guilty of sin, need a savior, and personally accepts Jesus as their savior and Lord over their lives can receive the pardon that God grants freely.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23). Everyone needs this gift of life God offers, but it’s up to each individual to decide whether or not they want this gift.
Let’s shift the spotlight onto covid-19. We’ve already established previously that it’s a big problem in and of itself, one reason being that it destroys lives. Literally. It’s lethal to us and our loved ones. Not only that, it steals people’s livelihoods so that children are falling behind in school, businesses owners who’ve worked years or decades at keeping their businesses alive are shuttering, and people in countless households are wondering how to put food on the table. It’s a problem alright.
But also remember, covid-19 will pass. The case numbers and death rate will fall. The gears of society will start again and nations will resume ticking. People will be employed and children return to school. This problem will pass.
Sin will not simply “pass”.
The anxiety, fears, helplessness, loneliness this whole virus situation have induced will not pass. They’ll pop up again from some other cause then another then another over and over without end.
We need a God who is powerful, who can tear mountains apart (literally and metaphorically) yet who meets us in our weakness, in our tears and failings, who has compassion on us. We need a God who can fill that ever-growing hole within us. We need a God who makes something as towering as a pandemic appear gravel-sized in light of His greatness. We need a savior, Jesus, to rescue us from our sins so that we can even be with this mighty God.
My closing note to you is if you haven’t already, remove your thumb that’s covering God’s image and take another careful look at covid-19’s effect over the world and in your personal life with Him in the picture. If you don’t know God enough to know how to identify Him in the picture, well then, start getting to know Him. Start today even. Don’t be shy. He loves you.
I hope this has been helpful to you whoever you may be and whatever you may be going through in this time.
I think even having written all of this as both a message to you and as a reflection upon this historical event for myself, I’m still learning to trust God’s wisdom regarding all that is happening. I’m sure many of you can empathize with this struggle, so I’m going to drop links below to two recently released Desiring God videos. In the first one, Pastor John Piper further explains how exactly we should make sense of the virus. In the second, he advises us on how to handle our fears towards the virus.
First video– https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IfStzaznIzk
Happy watching and feel free to reach out if you want prayer for anything or want to continue the discourse!