Grocery shopping has become a surreal experience – from the wearing a mask and gloves to getting your temperature checked with new devices that no one was using a year ago. But then it became a disconnect experience. I admit, I had been reading a science fiction novel, so maybe I was hallucinating? But no, my camera confirmed that I living in a new reality had truly arrived – someone had purchased full hazmat gear and was walking down the aisle shopping – just like the rest of us. And no one seemed fazed in the least bit! I realized, we are all of us living the dystopian future of movies and books, and no one knows when it will end. Every person in the world, whether we want to be or not, is in this for the long-haul.

Trivial Connection

I thought you might enjoy this little bit of trivia… according to the online etymological dictionary, long-haul was first coined in 1873. It was originally used by the railroad companies, and referred to the relative length of transportation. The longer the “haul,” the steeper the price that was paid. What an apt term for all of us, because the longer COVID-19 is amongst us, the steeper the price being paid by every person on this planet.

Terms of Payment

None of us asked for this, but we are all paying – in one way or another. The terms of payment have been different, depending on who is being impacted, but no one has gotten off for free. When I think of “payment,” in this case, I am not thinking of reimbursing the virus, but rather, what the virus has done to us. What is it revealing? Tragically, the picture is not a pretty one.

Governments are flexing their arms and new laws are being passed to allow authorities to force the population into observing what should be common sense: to wear masks around strangers and to maintain a good distance from them. But governments are going further than that, by mandating changes to ingrained societal systems. Overnight, students are being forced into online learning – even if they can’t afford a computer! Overnight, people have to think twice before they go to a doctor for medical help. In some situations, even that option is not available.

Many individuals have given into fear. I’m guessing the shopper I saw in the supermarket falls into that category. Others enter into denial and would rather die than wear a face mask for any reason. Everyone has become an authority on how to fight the coronavirus, as though their knowledge can fight the grim reality. And this response is impacting nearly every nation in the world.

The payment is steep. It is causing us to face every weakness possible in human nature and to watch these weaknesses displayed in all their ugliness to the world. The thirst for power of governments, the rebellion against authority among citizens, the anger, frustration, and the demand for an answer from the God of Science for a disease that no one understands or can control.

The Blame Game

In the Middle Ages the Jews were often blamed for the plague because they were among the few who did not get the disease – most likely because of their washing habits. Now, in a few cases, Jews have been blamed for the spread of the virus because of how many have been diagnosed with COVID-19 – but again because of their custom of large and close gatherings – an ideal atmosphere for the spread of the virus.

Others blame the Chinese people for their strange eating habits, because COVID-19 came out of a wet market where strange and exotic meats are sold. Others say humans are the culprit – that the virus was manmade and engineered by Chinese scientists, or possibly even a Chinese-American cooperation gone badly wrong.

Does it really matter what caused the virus, why it has spread, why it is changing, or why some people catch it and others don’t? Will finding someone to blame for this virus and the way it has impacted our lives solve anything?

If we really want someone to “blame” then maybe we need to look a bit higher, to someone who has the whole world in His hands and does not passively stand by and watch – as so many claim. Rather, when something like this happens, He considers very carefully how HE will use it to bring about HIS purposes. There is a God who is greater and more powerful than the God of Science.

If there really is a Creator God – where is He now?

There is only one question we should ask, but it is a hard one, because we may not like the answers. If there really is a Creator God, then where is He now?

I can only give you a very simple answer. He is here with us in our suffering.

Knowing this, there are many responses we can have. Speaking symbolically, we can behave like a rebellious child with a temper tantrum, and kick and scream and say we don’t like what is happening, or like a rebellious teen-ager and pout, stomp, our feet, and then turn our backs on God and go our own way. Or we can behave like a trusting child and ask God to pick us up and carry us, or like a trusting young person who is with Him for the long-haul on this “hike,” holds tightly to His hand, and does whatever He says as he guides us to the end of the trail.

I don’t know a lot beyond this, God is here with us in all of our suffering.

Personal Reflections

I won’t begin to pretend to know why God has allowed COVID-19 to enter our world. My guess though, is that this is a sin-caused problem and not a God-caused problem (by sin caused, I mean, we live in a fallen world and sin effects everything whether we understand it or not). This is but one aspect, albeit a terrible one, of “all creation crying out for the full revelation of the sons of God.” (Romans 8:19-22).

Finding a solution for COVID-19

We all want a solution. But it seems like even the scientists are confused. I do not believe this confusion comes from God, but rather, is a result of idolatry. The “God of Science” has become an idol and millions worship at its feet. Yet the scientific community has been confused by this virus. A search in PubMed (a free international publications index for searches that is run by the USA National Library of Science and National Institutes of Health) for “COVID-19 coronavirus” brings up more than 20,000 publications. Some contradict each other, and NONE of them have found a solution to its extremely contagious nature. Everyone says a vaccine is on the way, but depending on your politics that too is fraught with controversy – and not just in the USA!

Scientists need knowledge but reject the Source of knowledge

Most scientists today worship the “God of Science.” They accept the theory of evolution as a proven fact, and range from agnostic to hard-core atheists. They worship in libraries, in laboratories, and sing their praises in scientific papers. Many of their discoveries have helped to make our lives better. But on the walls of their institutes they thank donors, and the acknowledgements written in most of their papers thank editors, medical writers, and laboratory personnel for their help. Nowhere is thanks to the God of Creation given. Now the God of Creation is challenging the God of Science.

In Proverbs 1:7, we have a profound statement and declaration:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline.

Many people think that this is referring only to knowledge of spiritual things, but that is not what is written in the text. In fact, the rest of Proverbs provides wisdom for parents, children, business people, and kings. Does this wisdom not apply to scientists?

Some Christian scientists (not all), disconnect their faith from their science and forget to ASK God for help in their research. To you, I would share the testimony of the famous researcher, George Washington Carver, who discovered the many amazing uses for the peanut (which society rejected because of economic issues!).

 The Lord always provides me with life changing ideas. Not that I am special. The Lord provides everyone with life changing ideas. These ideas are quite literally a treasure from the Almighty. It is up to each of us however, to choose and dig for the treasure.

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To non-Christians, I would encourage you to seek the God of Creation and acknowledge Him. You may laugh at the idea of God revealing His ultimate wisdom through the death and resurrection of Jesus on the cross, to bring full forgiveness and reconciliation to God through His shed blood. But what if it’s true? If it is, then maybe, just maybe, this God, who paid the ultimate price to save our souls, would be willing to help your efforts in “saving” peoples’ physical lives (which He also cares about), if you will but seek HIS wisdom.

If God can be foolish, I assure you, that God in His most foolish moment is wiser than all the wisdom that can be found in this world (1 Corinthians 1:18-19).

The cost of rejecting God’s wisdom

In Proverbs, the cost of rejecting God’s wisdom is graphically drawn in Proverbs 1:24-31. Here are just a few key verses from that passage:

24Since I called out and you refused, extended my hand and no one paid attention, 25 since you neglected all my counsel and did not accept my correction, 26 I, in turn, will laugh at your calamity. I will mock when terror strikes you, …  28 Then they will call me, but I won’t answer; they will search for me, but won’t find me. 29 Because they hated knowledge, didn’t choose to fear the LORD, 30 were not interested in my counsel, and rejected all my correction…

 All humankind is paying this price… it is not God who has rejected us, but we who have rejected God.

But innocent people are suffering…

Tragically, innocent people are suffering. And again, all I know, is that for those who call out to Him, God is there with them in their suffering.

I wish, oh how I wish I had all the answers, I don’t. I do not know your particular situation. I am pretty certain though, that this pandemic is affecting you in some way, and that you did nothing to deserve it. I know that many of the readers of my blog believe in Jesus, a few only believe in God, but there are others who have not yet made a decision.

We are all in this together. If I am wrestling and struggling with what is happening, I am sure you are. We are faced with choices everyday as to how to respond to what is happening.

Some people get angry, others eat. Some focus on political activism for an answer. Others spend the day researching the virus on the Internet. Me? I play computer games like solitaire, or Bejeweled Stars, or read science fiction and mysteries – and forget to seek the Lord, because when I pray, it all feels so overwhelming, and I hate to cry.

But when I turn my face to God

My dear friends, my dear brothers and sisters in Jesus our Savior, my dear colleagues who may have had the patience to read this far, if we will but turn to God, and take the time to consider His ways, there is comfort for us.

I’ve found these past few weeks so challenging, been feeling more and more oppressed, and found it increasingly hard to read in my Bible and to pray. But thankfully, I’ve had to do it. I have a responsibility in teaching an English class using the Bible as our textbook. I have a commitment to teach once a month in the Chinese Church. I have a choice… I can throw up my hands in despair and say I can’t do it, or throw up my hands in despair and say, GOD, if You don’t help me, I can’t do it.

And God never ceases to amaze me in His gracious meeting with me, in opening His word to me, and in enabling me find yet more reasons to praise Him, trust Him, and share His wonders with others.

This morning, when I woke up, I knew He wanted me to write a post to you. I didn’t know what He would ask me to write, but I felt so pressed by Him… and I stopped resisting and yielded… while I was writing, a friend asked me for prayer – the evil thoughts and despair that was assailing them was so great. I wonder about you. Are you too struggling with the restrictions being imposed by the authorities where you live? Do you know someone who has the virus or died of it? Or perhaps you have a loved one in a nursing home or the hospital and you can’t visit them. Or you’ve been without fellowship for too long and Zoom calls are getting old? Maybe you read the news too much and it’s overwhelming.

We are in this together. When one member of the Body of Christ hurts, we all hurt (1 Corinthians 12:26) – whether you are in the USA, the UK, China, Israel, or Russia.

I don’t usually do this, but I’d like to close this post with prayer… because I know we have a God who hears, a God who answers, and a God who is with us.

Closing prayer for all of us

Precious Heavenly Father, the God of Creation, God of our Salvation,

Thank You that You bid us to come boldly before You to the throne of grace in our hour of need. Father, your children are hurting. We hurt for ourselves, we hurt for each other, some of us don’t even know why we are hurting.

This pandemic is purging us and the fire burns. It is hard for us to believe that we will come out of this like gold or silver. It is hard to see any meaning in what is happening around us. The spirit of confusion that is in the world is affecting us. The God of this World is demanding our worship, and he is so seductive. We want to go back to the way things were. We keep saying to ourselves, “when this is over,” but deep down, when we look at what is happening in our nations, our cities, our communities, our churches, ourselves – we know that there is going to be a before and an after and the time after this pandemic will not be like life was before.

It we are honest thinking about the “after” scares us. We long for You to return and to make this world right. We want You to interfere, to DO something. Lord, we know You are with us, but is it really enough? We feel so helpless to change ourselves, let alone change our community, our city, our nation, our world. We need You to DO something – but O Lord, we realize, that something we need you to do is in us.

Please change us. Please complete the work you have begun in us. Please, help us to remain faithful to You, to keep our eyes on YOU and what YOU want us to do, and not on what is easy, or comfortable, or politically correct.

Lord Jesus, you set an example for us in love, in service, in forgiveness, in humility, in grace, and in so much more. Help us, change us, mold us, and O Lord, help us to senses Your presence with us. Lead us through this pandemic, that we may be more than victors through Him who loved us.

Through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen

Scripture to read for further encouragement

Romans 8:18-39
Proverbs 1-3
Psalm 2