Our lives have changed in a matter of days. Because of COVID-19 (coronavirus), we all are taking extra steps to be careful about protecting ourselves and our loved ones from this deadly virus. Hopefully you are being careful. (As a self-proclaimed germaphobe, I certainly am.)
But believers in Jesus Christ need to be extra careful not only about their physical health, but also their spiritual health. Specifically, we need to be careful in what we say (and believe) about coronavirus and other such events.
Here’s what I mean:
1. Watch your words.
“We just need to have faith, and we’ll be okay.” In recent days, I’ve heard many well-meaning believers utter such statements or share them on social media. Many of us believe that following Jesus serves as some sort of inoculation against mass diseases. What’s more, this belief often leads us to disregard caution and make rash decisions contrary to health experts’ recommendations.
But such assumptions are rooted more in the prosperity gospel than biblical faith. The prosperity gospel asserts that “God wants believers to be physically healthy, materially wealthy and personally happy” (as Dr. David W. Jones explains here). The Bible, though, assumes and promises us that we will suffer.
Our great hope is not that Jesus will save us from suffering, but that Jesus is with us in the midst of our suffering. This is a precious and beautiful promise. Faith is a wonderful gift of God with eternal rewards, but it is not a spiritual vaccination from earthly suffering.
Faith is a wonderful gift of God with eternal rewards, but it is not a spiritual vaccination from earthly suffering.
We need to watch our words not only in what we say about faith, but also in what we say about God. When natural disasters or calamities arise, many believers are quick to attribute a motive to God. Perhaps you or someone you know has assumed that the coronavirus pandemic is a judgment from God. And, for all we know, it could be.
But that’s the thing — we don’t know. Calamities could be the result of divine judgment, but they might not be. As Dr. Erik Clary explains,
A careful examination of Scripture not only fails to support the calamity-must-be-punishment thesis, but it also exposes such thinking as spiritually shallow and, at least in some cases, downright sinful.
We know that God is sovereign and in control of all things. We don’t know why he allowed something like coronavirus to happen. We would be wise to say nothing than to speak a falsehood about God.
2. Watch your witness.
What you say and do in the coming weeks will reveal a great deal about your faith. People (especially the lost) are watching our words, lives and social media feeds.
When they look at you, will they see someone grounded in a humble faith, or someone tossed about with fear and anxiety? Will they see someone who mocks and scoffs at security measures, or someone who speaks with compassion?
We have an opportunity to live hope-filled lives in a hopeless world. Make a choice now to live your life in such a way that points to your Savior.
We have an opportunity to live hope-filled lives in a hopeless world.
3. Watch your soul.
Seasons of unexpected change and worry have a way of revealing parts of ourselves we didn’t know existed. Brian Cosby puts it this way:
God uses suffering to expose the sin that clings so closely to our hearts. When we suddenly bear an affliction, our pride, impatience, and unbelief will often surface. Pain has a way of cracking open the heart, laying it bare.
What will this season reveal about you? If you have an intense scorn or derision of health officials’ recommendations, perhaps God is exposing your pride. If you’re in a constant panic and riddled with anxiety, perhaps God is exposing your fear. If you are hoarding mounds of toilet paper and soap, perhaps God is showing you your materialism.
Whatever God “cracks open” in your heart, take time to deal with it. Perhaps, then, the coronavirus pandemic can be a surprising gift to your soul.
So, yes, be careful not to spread the virus to yourself and your loved ones, but also be careful to watch your words, your witness and your soul.