Almost every conversation I’ve had with someone in the last four months has, at some point, touched on COVID. It’s inescapable – it’s touched every part of our lives. And yet, we’re so fatigued by it. We don’t want to keep talking about it because we’re sick of its dominance in our lives, but somehow we can’t help it.
I haven’t said much about it on social media. I’ve watched the “mask/no-mask” wars go back and forth. I’ve seen the anger, the outbursts, the sarcastic memes, the virtue signaling, the shaming, and on and on. I’ve had opinions about all of it, most of which I’ve expressed verbally to a few select people in my life.
But in the last week or so, I’ve started to formulate thoughts around my biggest concern with all of this: that we are living in and perpetuating a culture of fear that has become dangerous – especially to believers.
This morning, I read an article titled “Coronavirus Stalks in the Darkness, But Do Not Be Afraid,” written by a Catholic priest – and it was everything I had been feeling that I needed to hear. I’ll share a couple quotes from it, but really, I encourage you to go read the whole thing.
He says, “In the Church, collectively speaking, we too have cowered and capitulated. We have not summoned people to trust and faith. We have hidden our teachings on the role of suffering in bringing forth holiness and future glory. We have not presented the theology of death and dying at a time when it is so needed.”
Then he says this: “What is our end game? Prudence has its place, but my concern as a pastor and physician of souls is that we are allowing unrelenting fear to drive our response. Until we as the Church confront the situation and ‘man up’ as Christians should, fear will masquerade as prudence, and folks like me who question whether we’ve gone too far will be called irresponsible and even reprehensible.”
And finally: “Are sickness and death the worst fate or is crippling fear a far more painful and dehumanizing sentence? Isn’t there more to living than just not dying or not getting sick? Will we as a Church be part of this conversation or will we remain fearfully silent? Will we simply reflect the beliefs and opinions of the current culture, or will we influence it with a theology that insists that suffering and death have meaning and an important role in our lives?”
Yes to all of that. When I look around me, I see that people everywhere have succumbed to fear as a way of life, despite what the evidence is showing us. The evidence is showing us that there is a very high survival rate for this virus, but people have bought into the never-ending “what-if” uncertainties.
“Well, yes, I might survive it, but I might pass it on to an elderly person or someone who’s high risk, and they might die” goes the logic.
They might die. Or they might not die. There have been elderly and high-risk people who have survived it, too. But we’re so afraid of all the possibilities, that we try to do everything we can to keep them from happening.
But here’s the deal: my time of death and yours have already been appointed by God. And if it’s going to be from coronavirus, then that’s what will happen. I could take all the precautions in the world, but if that’s how I’m supposed to die, then those precautions won’t keep me from getting it and dying. And if I’m not supposed to die from it, then I will survive the germs and exposure and maybe even getting it.
If we say we believe in the sovereignty of God and then live our lives in utter fear of any sickness or accident, then we’re not showing actual trust in Him. Our theology is proved by our living – and I’m starting to question the theology that many Christians profess by the way they’re living. We take necessary prudence, like the writer of the previous article stated, but we also don’t let fear stop us from hugging those we love, gathering in person with those we love, or doing what God has called us to do here on earth.
Ann Voskamp put it like this in one of her recent blog posts:
Our brains beg for timelines because maybe we’re all addicted to controlling storylines. We think if we can find the certainty of the plot line, then we think we can certainly find a way to control it.
We think if we knew with certainty the story, we’d certainly find out a way to write the story better. We think if we kinda knew what was coming, we could become our own kind of gods — better than God.
Maybe: The reason we don’t get any crystal balls is to shatter any allusion of control.
Maybe: The reason we don’t get any crystal balls is to shatter any allusion of being God.
This is the one great truth: The only thing that is certain is uncertainty — and the certainty of God.
A pandemic earnestly compels us to embrace both. This is not a bad thing. All of life is about learning to embrace both.
I know this is true in my own life – I’m constantly trying to control everything and find the “certainty of the plot line” when God has specifically kept it hidden from me on purpose. But the uncertainty shouldn’t make me turn away from living – it should make me lean even harder into trusting the God who has control over all my living.
The newspaper said a few weeks ago that if everyone started wearing masks, then this virus could be stopped in 4-6 weeks and thousands of lives would be saved. Now the majority of people are wearing masks in public, and it hasn’t ended. So they have to reach out to something else to blame it on (people having barbecues in their backyards is the next thing they’re blaming it on).
When people are afraid, they look to something or someone to blame the cause of their fear on. And then they try to control the situation however they can. They can’t control the coronavirus, but they can control wearing masks – so this is their source of hope that they’re clinging to.
Masks won’t ultimately save us, though. Only God can save us.
Masks might delay or stop us from catching a virus. But they can’t ultimately give us what we need, which is deliverance from sin – and deliverance from fear.
As Christians who believe this, we also need to find more courage in speaking up about it. I will admit – I have let the fear of the very loud “other side” keep me intimidated about saying anything – but not anymore. The world needs to hear truth, and if Christians are too afraid to speak it, then where will they hear it from?
In an interview with Pastor John MacArthur on the Eric Metaxas show about reopening his church in California (long, but well-worth the listen), MacArthur made the point that Christians are to be the salt and the light in the world. If we are not shining the light of Jesus in both our words and our actions, then where will the world find its hope in this dark time?
So what is the answer? Well, on 7/28, our county reported that the death rate from COVID was 1.5% with the average age of death at 76, and only two deaths under the age of 50. And worldwide, about 10.6 million people have recovered from COVID.
Numbers like these signal to me that I don’t need to be afraid of it. And even if it took a turn for the worse and dozens of people all around me started dying every day (which seems unlikely based on all that they know and that has happened with the virus), I still don’t need to be afraid because I know that my future is secure – either in heaven or on earth. I can have peace in my heart when I go grocery shopping, when I go out to eat, when I pass people in the park – because I’m not living in crippling fear that one of them might give it to me. I’m not going to freak out if a mask slips down or if I see someone not wearing one because I know that God is bigger than the germs that might come flying towards me.
But even better, I’m going to let the iconic C.S. Lewis give us some advice because he is far more eloquent than I:
This is what he said in 1948 “On Living in an Atomic Age,” when people were living in fear of the atomic bomb:
In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia migiht land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”
In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors – anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.
This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things – praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts – not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.
Amen. May our minds instead be dominated by pursuing Christ better, serving others well, trusting in His wise direction of our lives, and hoping in our eternal homes. And may we start living our lives again without the overhanging dread of catching a disease.
Come, Lord Jesus, come.
Photo by M.T ElGassier on Unsplash.