By: Dr. Susan Booth
With crisis comes clarity. The diagnosis of cancer. The loss of a loved one. A declaration of war. The reality of a global pandemic. Suddenly, in a matter of days, hours, or even minutes, the crisis illuminates our hearts and exposes the things we value most and where we place our trust or hang our hopes. Intriguingly, the restrictions of this present crisis seem to strike right at the core of those things to which our culture has lately assigned increasing value. In addition to the more traditional categories of success, work, money, and community, we’ve placed high value on travel, sports, entertainment, restaurants, and exercise. The Coronavirus has also knocked out from under us the props we tend to lean on: government, industry, education, and science; a bull market and a strong economy; our personal RSPs, 401Ks, and plans for retirement. Overnight these seemingly sturdy buttresses are collapsing around us.
Our functional idols have been unmasked as fakes, and our functional saviors have proven to be illusions. The clue as to what they are comes from where we feel the biggest pinch or fight the greatest panic. Perhaps, most telling of all is our sense of shock, dismay, and unbridled anxiety at the startling revelation that we are not in control. What also becomes clear is that these things are not worthy of ultimate value; ultimately they cannot save.
Crises also present hard truths that we’d rather deny. Health officials are scrambling to keep track of the percentages of infection and mortality as the Coronavirus rapidly spreads. Have you noticed how the virus charts have changed in a very brief time? For a few days the charts reported the numbers of cases and deaths by a list of countries. Then, as the virus went global, the lists shifted to provinces/states, and then to larger cities. The first case in our small town has surfaced just this week. It’s hard to ignore the threat when the virus approaches your own backyard.
An even harder truth to admit is that we’re already infected with a much deadlier virus than Covid-19, one that surfaced soon after the world began. Ground zero was a place called Eden. In a way, this ancient virus could also be labeled a “corona” virus because it focused on a crown. As Creator, God reigned as King over everything that exists. He graciously designed humans in his own image and shared his dominion with them. He gave them the responsibility of governing and caring for his creation. But the first humans weren’t content with their assigned role. They wanted to be like God; they wanted to usurp his rightful place. In essence, they wanted his “crown.” Can you imagine the hubris? By rejecting God’s authority, a “Coronavirus” of sin and brokenness entered the world, and the borders between God and humanity sealed tight.
Since then, the same ancient Coronavirus—rejection of God and his right to rule—has infected every person in every generation. The Bible says that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s standard; the wages of sin is physical death and spiritual death—separation from God for all eternity. Both the infection rate and the mortality rate stand at a jaw-dropping 100%. In other words, this virus chart lists every single one of our names. What’s worse, we cannot develop a cure for ourselves. This is news so bad we may not be willing to admit it.
Thankfully, there is good news. God has demonstrated his great love for us by providing the only cure—at an unfathomable cost. Jesus—fully divine, fully human—set aside his crown to take up our cross. The sinless Son of God bore our sins, died in our place, and rose again from the dead so that we might have eternal life. Jesus also promised his followers that one day he will return and set everything right. He will wipe away every tear. There will be no more suffering, no more death. At the same time, he will judge all who reject his right to rule, those who still cling to the illusion of wearing their own “crowns.” There will be no more Coronavirus in his presence—neither the physical nor the spiritual malady. All will be restored, and he will reign as King over a new heaven and earth. As the rightful ruler of the universe, Christ alone deserves the crown. Jesus has demonstrated the ultimate sacrifice of love. He alone can save us; he alone is worthy of our worship.
The God of the Universe created us to recognize and acknowledge his ultimate glory. He designed us to walk with him and to worship him. By nature we are worshipers, and our hearts will worship someone or something. But nothing can satisfy that compulsion to worship other than the One who created it. As seventeenth-century physicist and philosopher Blaise Pascal once observed, within the heart of every human there is a God-shaped vacuum that only an infinite God can fill. He is from everlasting to everlasting. God is always holy, always good. In his own words, he is “the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished” (Exodus 34:6-7). Astoundingly, this Almighty God invites each of us into an intimate relationship with him.
With crisis comes choice. What will we lean on to weather this global pandemic? When the sweeping consequences of Covid-19 have deconstructed our functional idols and saviors, what will we do? Some may choose to numb their loss by bingeing on chips, chocolate, and alcohol, or mindless marathons of Netflix, video games, and pornography. Others will double down and polish old values, longing for the day to set them back in place. Still others may attempt to replace them with more noble values like spending time with family, seeking peace in nature, or serving neighbors in this crisis. Hopefully, we’ll all have time for more of these activities. Good gifts from God, however, are still poor substitutes for God. They’re not big enough to satisfy us; they’re not strong enough to save us.
The jarring disruption of Covid-19 affords us a unique opportunity. This plague of biblical proportions serves as a wake-up call. Not only do we need to “bend the curve” by social distancing. We also need to “bend the knee” before a holy God. We now have time to reflect on the ultimate things in life. We can confess where we have awarded our highest affections to unworthy substitutes. We can repent of our sin and place our trust in the One who has loved us more than life itself. These days of isolation are a gift—time to be still and acknowledge that we are not alone. God is with us, and he promises never to leave those who trust in him. We can use this time to explore and deepen our relationship with the King of Glory, who made us for himself. He calls us to spend time in his presence, to immerse ourselves in his Word, and to plead for his mercy in this crisis. We can choose to anchor our ultimate hope in Jesus.
Sometime in the future, things will return to a new normal—whatever that may be. No doubt, life will become busy again. For now we’ve been given a treasure—a severe mercy. Don’t let it slip away.