Boris Johnson has coronavirus: Trusting an uncertain future to God's surprising providence

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Boris Johnson has coronavirus: Trusting an uncertain future to God’s surprising providence

March 27, 2020 -

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Millions of people around the world are working from home in response to COVID-19. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is now among them.

He announced this morning, “Over the last twenty-four hours I have developed mild symptoms and tested positive for coronavirus. I am now self-isolating, but I will continue to lead the government’s response via video-conference as we fight this virus. Together we will beat this.” 

Dr. Ian Lipkin is another surprising coronavirus patient. The medical adviser behind the pandemic movie Contagion told reporters: “If it can hit me, it can hit anybody. That’s the message I want to convey.” 

Coronavirus is not the only health concern of our day: Dr. Mehmet Oz told Fox News yesterday that worry can lead to a “panic attack” which “is devastating.” 

As anxiety about the future continues to escalate, let’s consider three ways God wants to calm our fears with the assurance of his redemptive providence and grace. 

One: The virus is reminding us of our mortality 

In his response to World War II, C. S. Lewis noted: “All the animal life in us, all schemes of happiness that centered in this world, were always doomed to a final frustration. In ordinary times only a wise man can realize it. Now the stupidest of us know. We see unmistakably the sort of universe in which we have all along been living and must come to terms with it.” 

Celebrities, politicians, and young people who have made news by downplaying the significance of the virus are now making news with their public apologies. As I wrote in a website article this morning, such repentance is an essential step to experiencing God’s forgiving grace and transforming power

For twenty centuries, God’s word has reminded us that “you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14). Now we are face to face with this reality. 

The good news is that God is using the fact of our mortality to lead many to himself. In fact, the Wall Street Journal is carrying an article that wonders if the pandemic could lead to a spiritual awakening in our day. Let’s pray daily that it does. 

Two: The virus is reminding us of our solidarity 

Some Amish residents in Pennsylvania are sewing about 13,000 fabric masks to donate to Lancaster Health Center. Medical schools are graduating students early so they can help with the pandemic. 

I thought this story was especially compelling: Muslim and Jewish paramedics paused to pray together in Jerusalem. As you can see in this picture, a Muslim kneels and prays toward Mecca while his colleague prays toward Jerusalem. 

Photo: Magen David Adom/Dov Lipman

A virus that knows no ethnic, religious, or geographic boundaries is reminding us of our solidarity as humans. We sometimes speak of people as members of various “races,” but this is not actually true. We have various ethnicities, but we are all members of one race—the human race. Every person on our planet was created by the same Creator (Genesis 1:27) and is loved unconditionally by our Savior (Romans 5:8). 

Let’s pray that when the pandemic is over, our solidarity will continue. 

Three: The virus is reminding us that God’s future is greater than ours 

Unusual and unanticipated outcomes are already being experienced as a result of the pandemic. 

For instance, as more people work from home, a temporary response to the disease could become permanent for many. Time and money spent commuting could be saved. And small towns could see a revival as people avoid the high costs of city life. (Walmart is already seeing an increase in clothing sales for tops but not for bottoms as more people meet via video.) 

Our greatest hope for the future, however, lies not in us but in our Lord. He reminds us: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). His plans for us are “good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2 NLT). 

When Joseph had his dreams of ascendancy, a plausible future was that he would one day lead his family’s tribe in Canaan. Who but God could foresee a future in which he would become second to Pharaoh and save their known world from starvation? 

When Moses was tending his father-in-law’s sheep in the wilderness, a plausible future was that he would inherit them and lead his family in their remote region. Who but God could foresee a future in which he would lead Israel to the edge of their Promised Land and give us the Ten Commandments? 

When Paul was blinded by Jesus on the road to Damascus, a plausible future was that he would recover his eyesight and become an important leader in the Christian movement. Who but God could foresee a future in which he would preach to kings and write half of the New Testament? 

When John was exiled on Patmos, a plausible future was that he would lead his fellow prisoners and jailers to Christ and establish a church on their prison island. Who but God could foresee a future in which the apostle would give us the book of Revelation? 

So, let’s trust God with our fears for the future, knowing that he is working in ways we cannot see to lead us into a future we cannot imagine. 

Where is this invitation especially relevant for you today? 

NOTE: For more on worshiping God when it’s hard to understand him, please see my sermon for this Sunday, “The harder it is to worship Jesus, the more we need to worship Jesus.” For devotionals intended to help us trust God with our doubts and challenges, I invite you to my YouVersion series, “Why does a good God allow bad things?”

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