We are in uncharted COVID19 pandemic territory. I recently read the history of the 1918 Spanish Flu. It sounded eerily familiar to what I just heard about Italy which reported over 3,400 deaths in a 24-hour period on Thursday last.
Sports leagues have postponed their seasons. Everywhere schools are closing. Bars and restaurants are shutting down. Employees are directed to work from home if possible, and store shelves are emptying as fast as they are stocked.
As I write this, Canada has closed its borders to visitors…more countries will undoubtedly follow. The Canadian federal government is urging Canadians abroad to get the first available flight back. And according to the public health experts, it looks like the world is careening into the unknown for likely up to 6 more months and maybe longer.
All this in just a couple of weeks.
When life quickly disorients, and the centre no longer seems to hold, and the anxiety of perilous times gnaws away at our quickly diminishing sense of modern security, how should we as Christ-followers respond?
In the words of Francis Schaeffer, “How then should we live?”
In a very real way, COVID-19 is for our time analogous to what the atomic bomb was for Christ-followers in 1948 and for the preeminent Christian apologist of his day, C. S. Lewis, when he penned the following words in, “On living in an Atomic Age.”
His thoughts should resonate with us at this present moment.
“In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. ‘How are we to live in an atomic age?’ I’m tempted to reply: ‘Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.’
In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and a quite high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors – anesthetics; but we have that still.
It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.
This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible human things – praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts – not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.”
Lewis’ wisdom is the kind of guidance that should resonate with thoughtful Christians. Of course, we need to take very sensible and necessary steps to protect ourselves from cascading COVID-19 and follow the advice of public health experts.
But let’s not let the microbe dominate our minds and strangle our joy. God is with us. Our times are ultimately in his hands.
Over and over, God told his people and his leaders,
“Fear not; I am with you.”
Paul reminds us,
“God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of a sound mind.”
James exhorts us,
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God…”
So, when our institutions are being tested, leaders stumble, the comforts of predictability evaporate, and the news cycle is utterly depressing, let’s take God’s Word and Lewis’ advice to heart.
“They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that), but they need not dominate our minds.”
Blessings as we traverse the unknown ahead,