There is a concern of more considerable significance than any of those commonly gleaned from the current coronavirus crisis. It is the possibility that a spiritual message from God could go overlooked.
As a whole, people have tremendous faith in medical science to cure any illness. Wisdom would readily acknowledge that the advances made in healthcare are astonishing, but it remains something of an art. It still requires imagination, guesswork, trial and error methods. Medical experts aren’t always confident about what they’re doing. Though most people are never involved in the esoteric aspects of medical research, even the layman can see it’s a risky business, and there are no guarantees it can always help us.
Yet because we have such high expectations, we tend to overuse it. Physicians say large portions of the people they see do not actually need a doctor. They suffer from an ailment that could just as easily be served with a little rest and self-tender love and care, and not a prescription. So much medicine is dispensed for psychological reasons rather than an actual physical sickness. Millions and millions of dollars are spent by people who have come to believe that a pill can relieve almost anything.
Our oft unquestioning faith in medical science and use of its facilities is driven by latent anxieties of suffering, aging, pain, and disability. Worst of all, death terrifies us. These fears are met with an unfounded faith in the perceived absolute power and sagacity of the medical profession. Some physicians will even encourage this dependency.
Is it any wonder healthcare costs have astronomically risen? Is it any wonder so many people are willing to risk their freedom for a socialistic healthcare system?
My point is this. We should affirm the value of the healing arts as a gift from God. Indeed, there is much that medicine can do for us. Still, it has its limits. Its practitioners are not gods. They possess no sacral mystique, but are fallible human beings like the rest of us. People with faith in the Lord of creation; know it is only God who is never in error. Only God is ever in complete control. And although we would not readily dismiss the blessings of medical research and practice, only God truly has the power to heal.
So, how is this related to the current coronavirus pandemic? There are several ways, but for now, let’s stick to the spiritual. Health experts are working around the clock to contain the virus and to find a vaccine. Things appear promising. Yet everything could turn on a dime. The virus could mutate into something more infectious and lethal. Infections could spread beyond the capacity to handle despite the medical community’s best efforts. The death toll could escalate into thousands upon thousands.
Other variables include the severe weakening of our economy, which could not only leave us with hospitals overflowing with the ill, but our streets filled with the hungry and homeless. Only God knows, and ultimately our plight is in his hands, not the doctors and medical scientists that are seeking to provide a solution.
Neither can the government save us. Government like medical science is meant to serve us, but government must always be eyed with a healthy dose of skepticism, especially in an hour of crisis. Governments have a penchant for capitalizing on crises as a means of extending their powers and reducing our liberties.
These words should not generate panic, but are meant to precipitate deep contemplation. Neither do they give an excuse for ignoring the direction of healthcare experts or the government’s instructions at this time. Their purpose is simply to declare unequivocally that our hope is in God. They are meant to say that God, in His all-wise providence has allowed this moment to serve His purposes, one of which is to remind us of our profound vulnerabilities and desperate need of Him.
It’s a point of tremendous consternation for some people that God would be at the heart of a calamity. It is, however, a jagged reality pill that must be taken if we would be spiritually healthy. Yes, God may use trouble to send a message, to make us reflect, to cause us to take introspection, to change our direction, and reshape our persons. How we respond to Him can make the difference.
In Jeremiah 18:1-11, the Bible says the prophet Jeremiah observed a potter working at his wheel. Jeremiah said he saw that people are like clay in God’s hands. If God sees their lives marred by rebellion towards Him, He reserves the right to break the vessel down and rework it.
Jeremiah said if the Lord declares judgment on a nation and that nation turns from its evil, the Lord can avert the disaster heading their way. If they ignore God and refuse to start living right, then God won’t oblige himself to help them at all.
The story of the potter and his wheel illustrates a double freedom that can only be exercised within a specific window of time. People have the freedom to respond to God’s sovereign plans, and God has the freedom to change his plans in the context of their timely response.
During these recent uncertain days, much has been said about the choice between fear and faith. But an equally important message may be the choice between repentance and ruin. When we have operated throughout our lives, individually and corporately, without the appropriate recognition of God, his grace and mercies, then calamity behooves us like prodigals to return home to a loving and benevolent Heavenly Father, lest our lot become worse.
Song writer and musician, Steven Van Zandt, once said, “What the world needs is an Emergency Boss – an Emergency Czar – an Emergency Commander – a true Master of Disaster – one person completely responsible for the anticipation, immediate reconnaissance, and urgent execution of rescue and relief efforts around the world.”
There is only one person, one entity that fits this role – not medical research – not the government – not anyone else – but only God.
That’s the message that may be lost and overlooked in the COVID-19 health pandemic.
Let’s face it; even if the coronavirus doesn’t get worse and the danger passes swiftly, everyone who is outside of saving faith in Jesus Christ is facing an incomparable disaster – the loss of their soul.
Jonathan Edwards, the Congregationalist Protestant theologian of the 17th Century, said that every person without Christ “hangs by a slender thread” over the pit of hell, “with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it, and burn it asunder.” Without Christ, said Edwards, they have nothing of their own making to save them, nothing to keep off the flames of wrath, and nothing that they can do to induce God to spare them. If God is ignored past the opportunity of his gracious offer to repent and be saved, everything is lost – lost forever.
Could you be missing the message highlighted by COVID-19? Is the message lost to America? Is it lost to much of the world?
Emergencies, traumas, challenging and impassable predicaments, can serve as powerful dispatches of God’s authority over us. God alone is in control. God alone is our hope. God alone is the source of healing. God alone can save. God alone can make the injustice right. God alone can turn the tragic around.
We don’t just need God in times of trouble, but every single moment of every single day. And we can’t just keep thumbing our nose at God and expect Him to be there for us when we’re in distress.
What do you need to decide? Do you recognize, perhaps now more than ever, your need of God? Do you need to repent of your sins and turn to Christ?
Rev. Mark H. Creech is executive director of the Raleigh-based Christian Action League of North Carolina Inc.