In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, news headlines and social media platforms have lit up the internet with many megabytes about what is now known as COVID-19. The World Health Organization and other medical authorities around the world have urged many governments to create sanctions that for many have changed the way we live at this time. Concerns over the spread of this disease and its risk to the immunocompromised are legitimate, no matter how they compare to other infections.
Legitimacy aside, I have heard of reactions of panic by some that sound like descriptions of pandemonium. What has resulted are shortages of commonplace grocery items hoarded by shoppers preparing for an undetermined lock-down, newfound paranoia that ordinary surfaces or passersby pose communicable threats, and a general fear that the virus is worse than has been reported. Still others, seemingly stoical, have gone about their lives unabated by these goings-on. Perhaps this is a guise to mask complacency. Perhaps not. While the majority of the population does its diligence to comply with new regulations to self-isolate and practice social distancing, simultaneously there exists so-called scientific expertise that opposes the necessity of these measures. Some in the medical science field seem to suggest these are of little use to combat or eliminate the virus’ hold on us.
Alas, the proverbial pendulum swings.
Floating on Winds of Uncertainty
At the very least, the major concern arises by the fact that we won’t truly know the full impact of COVID-19 until the wave of infection has ebbed. Certainly, if medical science cannot agree whether social distancing is the right approach, the general public has no way to know. We can only wait to see how far our efforts will go and for how long we must make them. We must wait in uncertainty.
However long this uncertainty, we can be certain of the impacts we are experiencing already. Businesses, unessential services, schools, community programming, religious institutions and international travel are all disrupted as social distancing has become high priority. There are projected ripples in the global market, including a recognized economical decline (with an anticipated further decline) while the broader workforce is at least slowed at this time. Government stimulus packages have been either dispensed or being prepared in order to alleviate the economical strain. Of course, this will impact the state of any nation’s deficit. Then there is the fear that hospitals will be overrun and will be met with shortages of medical equipment. Our feelings of uncertainty surrounding these effects only make any existing fears more grave, and imagined outcomes more bleak.
But life goes on each day while this virus spreads and hoards of people adjust their lives to accommodate a new normal. By this we have become agents of uncertainty, leaning on a hope that our old normal will soon be reinstated.
Uncertainty Yields Faith
B. C. Forbes, the founder of Forbes Magazine penned,
He who has faith has… an inward reservoir of courage, hope, confidence, calmness, and assuring trust that all will come out well – even though to the world it may appear to come out most badly.
Forbes seems to agree here with Hebrews 11:1, which informs us that, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” (New Revised Standard Version).
What this means is that faith is a product of hope in the face of uncertainty, a choice despite an apparent lack of evidence.
Of course, the human spirit in its fallen state is uncomfortable with this. We like to know what is ahead of us, especially in times when our well-being is at stake. But the fact remains that we just don’t know how temporary this new norm is or how permanent this coronavirus’ effects will be.
So, we can acknowledge our uncertainty while holding onto faith in a brighter future, not giving in to panic or disillusionment. Like the writer of Hebrews, we must be sure in what we hope for, though we don’t know for how long. This isn’t foolishness or wishful thinking, but a rejuvenating source of power in the face of powerlessness. Deaf-blind American author Helen Keller once said, “faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light.” That light is the assurance that we have a Sovereign God that holds the world in place and has benevolent intentions in mind, though we cannot understand them.
The Old Testament Jeremiah wrote (NRSV),
For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart.
Faith in a Certain God
Amid all the uncertainty that seems to fill today’s news feeds, those who put their trust in the God of the Bible know Him to be a God of certainty, “never at any uncertainty within himself.” Though people are often riddled with self-doubt, or of “two minds” about some things, God’s “thoughts are all working towards the expected end, which he will give in due time,” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on Jeremiah).
Throughout the Bible, we are told that though there any many evils in this world, God’s will is to turn what is evil into good. We see this ultimately in the person of Jesus Christ and His Atoning works of salvation for humanity. Though the governing officials in Jesus’ time and region saw him as a threat and lawbreaker and sentenced him to a criminal’s death, Jesus submitted to these powers in order to fulfill God’s plan and become the sacrifice for our sins to bring us back into fellowship with Him (John 10:14-18).
In times of drought and famine, captivity, exile and suffering, persecution and disease, the Bible certainly tells us just how God’s plans yielded good in the face of evil. Although His people often doubted God’s plan for good during these times, as many do now in the face of this pandemic, those who remained faithful (“faith-full“) to God have the confidence that God certainly perceives all evils from an eternal perspective–knowing when they’ll begin and when they’ll end–and that God’s certain will is to bring about good. God never wavers from this will, otherwise He would be uncertain and therefore untrustworthy.
But God’s certainty and benevolence makes Him trustworthy in the face of a pandemic. God is the source of all power, all knowledge and all goodness for all time. In Him there is no fear because He is also the source of perfect love, and perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). In light of this, nothing in all human history can outweigh the security of those who put their faith in God. Certainly no pandemic.