Rachel and Tyler Torres made it home to the Dallas area this week. The honeymooners were on a cruise from Japan in January when there was an outbreak of COVID-19 on their ship. They spent twenty-seven days in quarantine, including fourteen days on a military base in San Antonio. “We joke now that we’ve been married fifteen years,” Rachel says.
In related news, release of the new James Bond movie will be postponed to November because of theater closures in China (which is the second biggest movie market in the world, behind the US), Italy, and South Korea. The governor of California declared a state of emergency yesterday as the number of coronavirus cases in the state rose to fifty-four. And Congress agreed to an $8.3 billion emergency spending bill to combat the epidemic.
Advice from health professionals
Coronavirus is affecting our planet in ways we have not seen in my lifetime. The Washington Post reports that “the spreading coronavirus is shaping up as a pandemic of potentially historic proportions, possibly on the scale of the global outbreak of influenza in 1957 but unlikely to be as catastrophic as the Spanish flu of 1918.”
How should we protect ourselves? Here is some advice offered by health professionals.
Let’s begin by explaining how the disease is transmitted. Droplets containing the virus are ejected from those who are sick via the mouth or nose as they cough, sneeze, laugh, sing, or talk. These droplets typically land on the floor or ground unless they hit something along the way.
To access our cells, they must enter our bodies through the eyes, nose, or mouth. (You cannot absorb them through the skin.) Experts believe sneezing and coughing are likely the primary forms of transmission. Talking face-to-face or sharing a meal could pose a risk as well.
According to the World Health Organization, viral droplets can survive on surfaces for a few hours up to several days. If we touch these droplets and then touch our face, we can get the virus.
As a result, the best defense is frequent handwashing (here’s how). Hand sanitizer is a good idea as well. Cleaning surfaces, including our cell phones, is important (here’s how). And staying at least three feet from a sick person is important. In fact, the CDC says standing within six feet could carry risk. (For more medical advice, go here.)
Advice from the wisdom of Job
No one in Scripture apart from Jesus endured greater innocent suffering than Job. What would he do if he were afflicted with coronavirus?
Choose godliness. Job said he “made a covenant with my eyes” so that he would not “gaze at a virgin” (Job 31:1). He kept this commitment in the face of horrific agony and grief. When we suffer, it is tempting to turn to sins that deceitfully promise distraction and relief. Job maintained his purity in the midst of his pain.
Seek and follow God’s leading. Job asked, “Does not he see my ways and number all my steps?” (v. 4). When we suffer, it is tempting to turn from the God who (seemingly) did not prevent our pain. But the worse our disease, the more we need a doctor.
Care for others as we care for ourselves. Job asked, “Did not he who made me in the womb make him? And did not one fashion us in the womb?” (v. 15). He continued his previous commitment to serving others despite his suffering. As Henri Nouwen noted, “wounded healers” are often the most effective healers.
Fear God above all. Job described ways he could have sinned against others (vv. 16–21) but refused to do so because “I was in terror of calamity from God, and I could not have faced his majesty” (v. 23). All physical suffering is temporary and temporal. Remember that no matter how we die, we will all die (unless Jesus returns first) and then stand before God in judgment (Hebrews 9:27).
Trust God above all. Job had been so wealthy that he was “the greatest of all the people of the east” (Job 1:3). But he testified: “If I have made gold my trust or called fine gold my confidence, if I have rejoiced because my wealth was abundant or because my hand had found much,” he would have been “false to God above” (Job 31:24–25, 28). His suffering shows that we must place our trust not in creation but in our Creator.
How God liberates us from suffering
We can trust God with our suffering because God suffers with us.
Henri Nouwen observed: “God sent Jesus to make free persons of us. He has chosen compassion as the way to freedom. That is a great deal more radical than you might at first imagine. It means that God wanted to liberate us, not by removing suffering from us, but by sharing it with us.”
He adds: “Jesus is the revelation of God’s unending, unconditional love for us human beings. Everything that Jesus has done, said, and undergone is meant to show us that the love we most long for is given to us by God, not because we deserved it, but because God is a God of love.”
Why do you need God’s compassion? With whom will you share it today?
NOTE: I recently wrote “Where is God when pandemics strike? A biblical and practical response.” The paper gives the history of pandemics and addresses the question, “Why does God allow pandemics?” It closes with seven practical steps Christians can take in response today. To receive my free paper, go here.