Reports of the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, are plastered across media platforms. Everywhere we turn, we see and hear concerns and warnings regarding the respiratory illness it can cause, COVID-19.
How should we prepare? What do we need to know about the virus? Are we stocked up on the pharmaceuticals we regularly consume? How dangerous is the coronavirus to our health?
The internet is laden with tips to prepare for potential contact with the sickness. Infectious disease specialists now say that it’s not if, but when the virus begins circulating in the United States. The New York Times has created a newsletter dedicated entirely to daily reports surrounding the progression of the virus.
For the first time since the coronavirus outbreak, a greater number of new cases are being reported outside of China than within. Conspiracy theories are surfacing like wildfire. Just this week, a report of an infection in California—without link to foreign travel—raises possible confirmation that we already have undetected viral circulation, or community transmission, within the United States.
And despite our wildly equipped force of scientists, infectious disease specialists, and stout political authority, we remain generally mystified by the infection. There is still great uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus. Elements such as the virus’ incubation period, transmissibility, and mortality have yet to be fully determined.
What does the coronavirus expose about the times?
Peter Brooks, Senior Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, recommends our focus be geared toward the fundamentals: “Keeping the crisis in context, pushing for full transparency, seeking international coordination and cooperation, employing a ‘whole of government’ approach, enhancing epidemic indications and warning, prioritizing the development of treatments, and supporting all elements of the U.S. health care system.”
These points of attention are both valid and critical next steps in the days to come. But the coronavirus very clearly reveals that we are not in control.
Humankind is a self-reliant cohort. We engage in life with an aura of immortality—anything is achievable with enough grit, money, power, and knowledge.
But the truth is found in Christ alone. Our lives on earth are momentary, afflicted by the struggles of mortality and the frailty of our human existence.
Matthew 6:19–21 says: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Are our hearts grounded in the fleeting promise of safety from outbreaks such as the coronavirus?
If so, we will be fearful, disappointed, and dismayed. In moments such as these, our temporal nature is grossly exposed. We are here today and gone tomorrow (2 Peter 3:11).
Natural disasters and threats to our health are two of the most evident depictions of our lack of worldly control.
Three lessons from the coronavirus outbreak
1. We are called to intercede.
If I am completely honest, while pondering the rapidly growing information surrounding the coronavirus, I was convicted.
I had been so wrapped up in concerns about the virus infiltrating the United States, my husband’s risk of exposure through air travel, and general anxieties surrounding my lack of understanding of the fundamentals of the virus, I had forgotten my call to intercession.
As Christians, we are commissioned to pray for our brothers and sisters. First Timothy 2:1 says: “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people.”
The threat of the virus to our country, and, more personally, to my daily living, is a legitimate concern warranting prayer. But what about prayer for the lives who have been so deeply affected by the virus already? What about the families who have lost loved ones, have limited access to health care, and are currently battling the repercussions of the disease, whether in quarantine or otherwise?
The dangers of the virus may perhaps pose less risk than the influenza viruses we face yearly, yet the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus make it much more alarming.
And, beyond the lives already impacted by the malady itself, we must pray for the national and international political figures working tirelessly to contain and combat the illness and for the scientists striving to procure a vaccination and gain greater clarity surrounding the virus.
2. We must cling to God as our foundation.
God is our foundation. No other comfort in this world can sustain us. But God can and he does when we turn to him alone.
Isaiah 28:16 says: “Therefore thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold I am the one who has laid a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: “Whoever believes will not be in haste.”’”
Are you turning to God as your tested stone, your sure foundation? Or are you seeking comfort in the news, political announcements, and scientific advances surrounding this infection?
While science may seem a valid place to seek hope, answers that can soothe our souls and quiet our minds, it is in moments such as these that we realize the façade of human-determined certainty.
At present, there is no certainty. There is not one human being who can provide the answers we need to combat the coronavirus and prevent its continued spread.
But the redeeming truth is that God is our rock. He can and will provide the strength, courage, and bravery we need to navigate the uncertainties of this world. We must humbly sit at his feet and allow him to be our cornerstone.
3. Our trust is in the Lord.
Yesterday, I was speaking to a friend traveling on a business trip in Berlin. She is currently pregnant with her second child and anxious to return home.
When met with my immediate concern, she responded: “I am not so much worried about contracting the illness. The people it’s so bad for are people my parents age. But I don’t want to get stuck here.”
First of all, I am in awe of her strength.
Second, what ought to have been a routine work trip turned into a potential extended stay in a foreign country afflicted by an unknown infection.
Again, the world does not offer certainty. Like David in Psalm 56:3–4, we must declare: “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?”
Where is your trust?
Could the coronavirus be the glue that binds us together?
An election year has a way of highlighting our dissimilarities to a greater degree, further tearing our nation apart on the basis of political divides and divergent beliefs.
Perhaps the surfacing of the coronavirus was timely. It is plausible that the virus provides an opportunity for us all to ponder our lack of immortality and the need for our country, and the world, to put our differences aside and work toward combating the battles of the flesh together.
For there are very few things that craft such an urgent call to action as a worldwide pandemic. It is my hope that the coronavirus be a glue that binds us humbly together and reminds us that we are all working for the good of humankind as a team.
In this time of uncertainty, when the susceptibility of our human bodies to infection and disease is so evident, I invite you to join me in prayerfully seeking a solid foundation in Christ by placing our trust fully in him.
May we pray strength, courage, and discernment over the people who are diligently caring for and representing our country and the countries of others.
May we seek assurance in the solid foundation of Christ, with our feet firmly rooted to the truth of God’s word.
And may our trust be positioned wholly on God. The certainties of this world will leave us grasping for more—simply because they cannot be certain. But Christ offers truth that is assured, truth that will meet us in our weary struggles and breathe new life within our souls.