This is the final installment of the 2-part series on ‘Pandemic and people of God’. The first part can be read at Part 1
If you are hard pressed on time and find this write-up too long, I would like to leave you with this song. Hope it blesses you as it blessed me: Ancient Of Days
If you are still reading, thank you for encouraging me to write more. Here I continue to build on the topic of suffering and then conclude by mentioning some specific biblical responses to this pandemic.
What is a Christian response to suffering?
To start, I take inspiration from Apostle Paul- he writes in his epistle to the church in Corinth that he had been beaten, put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, gone without food, was materially poor, despised by people and called an imposter. However, Paul exhorts the church of Corinth to prove themselves in such times of suffering as he did with his purity, his understanding, his patience, his kindness by the holy spirit within him and by his sincere love (2Corinthians 6:4-10). This states his deep desire to do God’s will.
Going a step further in these thoughts, if ever in our extreme sufferings we feel like doubting the love of God and doubting his presence and intent, I prayerfully urge my brothers and sisters to seek the face of Jesus. There is no suffering that our Lord does not know, he personally in his human form bore all kinds of suffering – the pain, agony, insult, betrayal, loneliness, and all other unimaginable sufferings. We pray about our sufferings to a God who exactly knows our pain and loves us unconditionally.
Finally, if I can encourage you further, Apostle Paul talks about rejoicing in our sufferings. He rejoices as he accepts sufferings in his life (which were many) as an opportunity to forge his Christian character-
“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us”. (Romans 5:3-5) This verse is called the golden verse in spiritual maturity and if you noticed the entry point to that spiritual maturity is suffering.
My inspiration to write this article has been the damage and suffering caused by Covid-19 pandemic. As corona virus news became mainstream early this year, my small bouts of fear and anxiety led me to persevere to understand the scripture better and eventually led me to the hope provided by the scripture during this pandemic. At the end of the day, if we think about it, isn’t the greatest suffering one in which there is no hope? No hope of restoration? No healing, no sense of love or worth. Bible gives us hope that we will be restored, healed, loved and all our losses in this world will be made up for several times over in Heaven till eternity.
“For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!”. (2 Corinthians 4:17)
It is God who provides us with Hope, leading us through our tough times, knowing our hurt and pain, being close to us, listening to our cries and prayers, knowing our hearts’ deepest desires and working out all things for our good.
Pandemic and people of God
Pandemic is defined by WHO as “an epidemic occurring worldwide, or over a very wide area, crossing international boundaries and usually affecting a large number of people”. I can hardly overstate the suffering it has caused all over the world. The primary impact of the pandemic has obviously been the loss of lives and the large number of people contracting the virus; however, I believe the secondary impacts of the pandemic has been quite detrimental as well. Here are few of them:
- Millions have lost means to sustain their livelihood; the World Bank predicts as many as 60 million people to be pushed into extreme poverty (less than $2 a day) due to the pandemic
- Significant increase in Stress and anxiety due to social isolation
- Learning Loss in students due to school closures
Following are few biblical responses to consider during this pandemic:
- Repent: This pandemic is a disrupter in many aspects. As people of God we should take it as an event in which we are called- ‘to put off our old self and put on a new self’ Ephesians 4:22-24. Bible says that suffering is a call for us to turn away from anything that keeps us away from treasuring anything on Earth above God. Luke 13:4-5
Pre-Covid was a time when the unemployment figures in the United States of America were at a record low, economy was booming, science and technology seemed to have all the answers and it seemed nothing could to go wrong. It was easy in these times to believe that human wisdom is sufficient for sustenance. Covid19 humbled humanity in just a matter of few weeks.
Bible strictly warns against any form of idol worship, sometimes idols are obvious as they have a shape and are tangible, however, if there is anything which stops us from fulfilling God’s purpose for us then those would be our personal idols. It could be our desire to attain wealth, any form of addiction-to substance, to media, video games, news, being obsessed about progressing at work or any other obsession. This could be the time when we can reflect and identify our idols.
- Have Faith: Suffering is also a call to rely on God. Bible says that a believer walks in faith and not by sight 2 Corinthians 5:7. If my faith solely rested on the development of a Vaccine I would be edgy as my peace would depend on the timing of a vaccine, however, my faith is in God’s sovereign hand in everything including bringing healing on his land. Having faith in God like a house built on a solid foundation, rain fell, and the floods came, the winds blew and slammed against the house; and yet did not fall, for it had been founded on a solid foundation. Mathew 7:24-27 God’s love and his promises for us will remain and never fail us. God asks us not to get anxious but take our stresses and worries to him in prayer. Philippians 4:6
- Love: As believers of Christ we have been bestowed upon with the amazing grace of God where we have been justified by faith to cherish the riches of heaven, not because of our actions but as a gift from God. The same grace transcends into hope for us in this broken world full of suffering. This hope gives us peace and comfort that our heavenly father will take care of us through the pandemic. As we receive this Love and Grace, we are also called to extend this love to our neighbors and to the society at large by sharing our resources, following safety and prevention guidelines instituted by the leaders, being kind and patient at home and outside, reaching out to our friends and community to check on their well-being and never missing out on an opportunity to be a blessing to someone.
- Give Thanks: As believers we have been called to give thanks in all circumstances. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 in times of suffering and joy alike. We should thank God for all the things we might be taking for granted every day before the pandemic- food on our plates, our ability to go out for walks, to travel, our jobs, the schools our children go to and the list can go on. Church is called the body of Christ with Jesus Christ being its head and each believer is a part of it. We are all called to be one. We can always reach out to our church community in times of our trouble and should give thanks for our church as well. Also as encouragement we need to know that this pandemic has the power only over the worldly things but can never snatch away from us the Hope of restoration and reconciliation that God has promised for his children through our lord and savior Jesus Christ. Let us never cease to give thanks.
“We shall steer safely through every storm,
So long as our heart is right,
Our intention fervent, our courage steadfast,
And our trust fixed on God.”
– St. Francis De Sales