A glance over the headlines calls it COVID-19. Colloquially it is called Coronavirus. And it seems to be spreading. I have looked up the words pandemic and epidemic and neither word is entirely accurate yet. And further from reality are the words ‘plague’ and ‘pestilence’. I cannot imagine the latter word being employed by anyone since it is such an ancient word. And the word ‘plague’ has been restricted to the specific disease of bubonic plague that has ravaged the globe at various times.
A cursory search of the Scriptures for the word ‘plague’ yields various results that I believe will help to balance the thoughts of a person of faith. Habakkuk gives God credit for diseases. God uses illness as a clear sign of judgment on both Egypt and Israel at various stages of history. And yet there are also comforting words about protection from plague found in Psalm 91. Jesus predicted the multiplying of wars and diseases in the end. And the pale horse in the book of Revelation brings with him a cataclysmic pestilence.
The follower of Christ who trusts the Bible as authoritative will seek to keep all of these things in balance with the central truth of God’s great love for His people already sealed in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross for us. He bore our curse and we are those who rejoice that “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!” Our hope doesn’t rest in health. We cannot allow bad things that happen here to shake us from the foundation of our hope in a great love that has ALREADY been given.
So how should Christians view a rising virus like this COVID-19? We take all the bad we encounter in this world, and we pray for the end of suffering. We seek to love people and to empathize with their suffering. But we do not allow this ‘plague’ to shake us from the firm trust that God has this well in hand. He is working a plan beyond our limited understanding. And when we see the consequences of sin like disease and illness, or even cancer or murder or adultery or any other larger or smaller signs of distress in this world. We see it as the throes of birth. This old created order is heaving, groaning, and desperately moving us along toward a hope and trust in a renewed order. We are being shaken from the blindness of hope and trust in our best life now.
Our best life CANNOT be now, when diseases stalk us by day and darkness and evils stalk us by night. Our hero has come and He has secured a powerful future where he will set it all straight. So come what may, God will sometimes use tragedy, plague, and brokenness to shake us awake to what really matters.
As you read the headlines, pray for the suffering to end. But ALSO learn the lesson of the suffering. Consider what we deserve and what we have through faith in Jesus. And feel free to mourn and groan over this broken world, while acknowledging that these are signs meant to remind us, that there is a better world coming for those who are His through faith in Jesus.