As I prayed this St. Patrick’s Day morning for our nation amid the ever-expanding coronavirus precautions, I became a bit uneasy about the prohibitions against life as we’ve known it and how eagerly and passively we are embracing them.
I’m trying to balance my discomfort against the Biblical command to accept the authority God has placed over us, to put our trust always in Him, and to look out first for our fellow man.
The stated reasons for the precautions seem justified — to protect lives, to preserve our medical systems’ limited ICU capacity, to minimize the spread of the virus, and to “flatten the curve” of widespread infections.
But I also think about how radical these measures are, and would have seemed, even as recently as one week ago:
Cancellation of the NCAA Basketball Tournament
Putting the MLB, NHL and NBA seasons on indefinite hold
Postponement of The Masters and Kentucky Derby
Cancelling church services
Postponing election day
Locking down the City of San Francisco
Closing bars on St. Patrick’s Day
Limiting restaurants to take-out orders only
These are societal limitations I would have anticipated only in the aftermath of a nuclear war to avoid radiation exposure. But they have been implemented and adapted virtually without a whimper of protest or push-back.
We have willingly surrendered our freedom and our lifestyle in what seems a sensible and even sacrificial response to a major health threat across the globe.
I’m not implying that’s a wrong or unwise decision, but in the process we have also provided a blueprint for a future leader or government to take over our country or our world without opposition.
Is it fantasy to imagine this same result could be accomplished amid another pandemic scare, with the support (nefarious or unwitting) of a willing media? I don’t think that’s fantasy at all. All it would require is convincing the public that its safety is worth the surrender of freedom for sensible, necessary reasons.
Exactly what is happening now.
As I contemplated that, I prayed for God to protect our nation from such a takeover. And then I became convicted with this thought: Who am I to question or push back against God’s plan if He allows that?
As a Christian, I believe in God’s sovereignty, and so the creation of the coronavirus is not a surprise to Him. He either ordained it or allowed it, as He will whatever scenario unfolds from it or traces to it.
When I pray for protection against something sinister resulting from such circumstances, I am telling God how to order the steps that lead to the conclusion He wants to bring about.
I, and many other Christians, claim to be on board with the way Jesus taught us to pray
“….Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done…”Matthew 6:9-13
But, honestly, if the way His will is best-accomplished turns out to be painful, messy, inconvenient, costly or protracted, then we are eager to offer a much better plan.
“Do it this way, God. Do it in a way that spares us all that ugly pain and sacrifice.”
From what we know of God, is that the way He most often works?
The giants of faith who we learn the most from in the Bible…did they demonstrate their faith and provide inspiration and direction via walking an easy path or a difficult path?
David fought Goliath, escaped Saul’s murderous intent and endured great family turmoil;
Joseph was betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery, suffered unjust imprisonment and weathered an interminable wait behind bars for deliverance;
Daniel lived among pagans, suffered imprisonment, faced the lion’s den for his faith and never returned to his homeland;
Moses spent 40 years in the Midian desert before meeting God in the burning bush, then dealt with a duplicitous brother, sister and whining Israelites for 40 more years in the desert and never entered the Promised Land;
Paul endured temporary blindness, the loss of all prominence as a Pharisee and every friendship of his formative years, survived shipwrecks, beatings and imprisonment without justification;
Peter was jailed and crucified upside-down;
Stephen was stoned to death.
God brings transformation from disruption and despair far more often than he does from comfort and prosperity. He allows fear in our lives to motivate us to change.
The productive Christian life is not to be confused with a Staples commercial.
There is no, Easy Button.
God does not hide the ball or move the goal post on that. He is very clear that the cost of serving Him is great persecution, not great comfort. Being a disciple is a forsaking-all-others, sowing-and-reaping, delayed-gratification endeavor. It pays dividends in the short term, but yields comfortable security only in the long term.
This, and only this, realization explains how Christians could rejoice as they burned at the stake. It is why teenage surfer Bethany Hamilton could say, after losing her arm in a shark attack, that she could now embrace more people with one arm than she ever could have with two. It is how Chris Spielman can view the 12-year-cancer battle that claimed his wife, Stefanie, as a life event he would not change because of the impact she made and continues to make on so many lives via the grace, strength and peace she reflected throughout her fight.
That is what I must keep in the forefront of my mind if I am infected with coronavirus and I wind up gasping for breath. If that is the path God has chosen for me, for my wife, for our daughters, for people I love, He will make available the requisite strength in that moment to endure.
If that happens, I will have to exercise the discipline to focus on what I know to be true, not what I feel. Feelings are temporary. Truth is unchanging.
The truth of the Gospel is that a crown of righteousness awaits me at the finish line solely because of what Jesus did for me at the cross.
“He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?”Romans 8:32
God did not spare Jesus the agony, injustice or cruelty of the cross because that was the price required to execute the most inequitable transaction in the history of mankind — the exchange of my sin and unworthiness for Christ’s perfection, holiness and acceptability in God’s sight.
That is not a transaction I should expect to execute at the 99-cent store of life. It requires me to view the exchange as did the widow who put everything she owned into the offering plate (Luke 21:1-4) or the merchant who sold everything to acquire the field where he found a precious pearl (Mathew 13:45-46).
It is worth whatever I am called to experience or endure to express my gratitude for, as martyred missionary Jim Elliott said, “giving up what I cannot keep to gain what I cannot lose.”