To say that this global pandemic is a deal breaker is an understatement. Moment by moment, the world is adjusting its systems around it — to surpass it and to solve it. Words will not be enough to comfort those who are grieving or struggling at this point in time. I can only imagine what it is like to suddenly lose someone you love because of a virus or to allow yourself to be exposed out there because of mandatory duties or unfavorable circumstances.
I have to admit that I have said arrogant things in the beginning of this virus outbreak. I grumbled over having to adjust and cancel my schedules and daily routines. I complained about not accomplishing certain things at work, school, home and ministry because we are being required to isolate.
But God made me realize how selfish my thoughts were. I was only thinking about myself and my “inconveniences”, and not even thinking about those who are in need and what others truly need. I was so ungrateful. I thank God for revealing such arrogance. Indeed, it is impossible to make sense of the Coronavirus when we are only so focused on ourselves and our discomforts.
Yesterday, whilst being bombarded by heartbreaking news about this virus outbreak, I was led to silently ask God, “Lord, being the Sovereign God that you are, why are you allowing this virus outbreak? What are you trying to tell or teach us in this?”
I am but a mist.
The first things I heard were verses from Proverbs and James.
“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” – Proverbs 19:21
“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” – James 4:14
I was also reminded of a verse from Jeremiah that a friend of mine recently posted on her Facebook wall.
This is what the Lord says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord . That person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see …prosperity when it comes. They will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord , whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” – Jeremiah 17:5-8
I realized that I am but a mist. I can plan all I want and direct my life in ways that I desire but I am nothing apart from Jesus. I am a mere human being under the sovereignty of a great, great God. I realized that in a world full of self-dependence/self-reliance and self-exaltation, we are just but a mist. Not only can our lives fall into ruin by an earthquake, typhoon or ash fall, but even with just a microscopic piece of genetic material. We are nothing but a mist before the God of winds and waves and everything else.
I am called to submit to my God-given authorities.
I also realized how it is easier to pray for our God-given authorities than to actually submit to them. And I am using the word “submit” because one can “obey” an authority without submitting to them but one cannot submit to an authority without obeying them.
It is shameful to share this but I also admit to have silently grumbled against my bosses at work, the decisions of our government authorities, and even the reminders of my mother to take care of myself. Last Thursday night, my Bible Study leader brought this up. She told me that the core problem of my double-mindedness into certain things is not because I was only being double-minded but because I was being inwardly rebellious towards the decisions and directions of my God-given authorities.
I was committing the sin of divination and witchcraft because of my rebelliousness (1 Samuel 15:23). I have also rebelled against God because He is the one who instituted these authorities in my life. Romans 13:2-5 says, “Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.”
In all honesty, working from home became easy in my heart when I started to appreciate my bosses instead of questioning their decisions in my head. Home quarantine became productive when I started to put value on the position of our city mayor and the president. I also found peace when I started to appreciate the efforts and reminders of my mom.
What we do not apprehend, we cannot appreciate.
My Bible study leader also happens to be a sub-specialized Anesthesiologist. But I have never fully appreciated her profession until I realized at this time how much our medical front liners are exposing their health (and practically their lives) out there for the sake of helping others who are in need.
I used to underestimate the line of corporate business I am at until I realized how significant information and communications technologies are at times like this. I used to not see the value of bankers, linesmen, delivery men, transport groups, payroll teams, grocery personnel and pharmacists until I realized how crucial their professions are in our lives.
I used to be uncomfortable with military officers and traffic enforcers until I realized at this time how their positions of authority are crucial in giving peace and order in our society. I used to be unsupportive of funds being invested on virus research and even media coverages but now I see how necessary these investments are.
With all my grumbling, complaining and whining that I confessed earlier, 1 Thessalonians 5:18 stands true: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” God is so good that He has blessed us with such people and privileges to help us in our time of need.
What we cannot appreciate, we cannot pray for.
So this is also a time to continuously pray for the wisdom and protection of our medical front liners, employers, government officials, military officers, traffic enforcers, bankers, linesmen, delivery men, transport groups, payroll teams, grocery personnel, pharmacists and many more.
This is also a time to continuously pray for the healing and comfort of those who have been confirmed positive of this virus, families who are grieving over the sudden loss of their loved ones, families who are worried and affected, and even those who have been tagged as PUI or PUM of this virus. This is also a time to continuously pray for the protection and provision of those who are homeless, those who cannot afford to buy their own masks, alcohols or soaps, those who do not have enough access to water supplies, and those whose immune systems are low due to current medical conditions.
This is also a time to appreciate the word of God, to go back to those times when He called us to repent of our ways and to seek His face. God can send out plagues (think of Moses), floods (think of Noah), storms into the sea (think of Jonah) but not without purpose. It can be His way of speaking to us.
What we cannot pray for, we cannot truly love.
And finally, in a time of fear, grief and panic, we realize how much every human being needs hope, peace and assurance of joy and life.
In the recent online worship service that our church family provided, John 4 was shared to us. It was the story of Jesus talking to a Samaritan Woman. In Jesus’ physical exhaustion and thirst and in spite of cultural differences, Jesus shared the gospel to the Samaritan Woman, revealing her sins and offering her the opportunity to repent and to receive a spring of water welling up to eternal life – that is, Jesus Himself.
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” – John 4:13
Therefore, beyond knowing how this virus outbreak can make sense and beyond prayers of comfort, protection and provision, people need the gospel. We all need to receive Jesus in our lives as our Lord and Savior.