A Christian Response to a Pandemic

by Eric Ryan, Pastor of Leadership Development
Good Morning WIldwood!

In this devotional series, we first looked at what it means to rest during this time. David, Bob, and Todd all contributed to our discussion around the topic. Alongside those, I have been revisiting passages I have preached this past year to review things that God has already been pressing into my heart in hopes of seeing how God may have been preparing me to process this very strange spring.

Back in the fall, Hurricane Dorian devastated the Bahamas. It became the worst natural disaster in the island's history. Watching videos from their experience rocked me a bit. I was scheduled to preach a week or two later and felt God wanted me to personally wrestle with what a Christian’s response should be when we see things like Dorian. Talking with others, I knew I wasn't alone in my wrestling and thought it would be a helpful topic to preach on.  

In an interview John Piper recorded with NPR in 2005, after the Tsunamis devastated Southeast Asia, he shared a summary image to his thoughts by saying the Bible does not give us the “why” but does give us rocks that we can place our feet upon.

This reminded me of previous experiences on ropes courses in camp ministry. There is one element at Camp All-American called the TEC Course. I hate it. It’s 60 ft in the air, and you are sent up all at once as a team, to make your way through various obstacles. One section has you placing your feet on pieces of wood, much like Piper’s stepping stone image.

Before you go up the TEC course, you obviously harness up and go through safety protocols. This harness represents the sovereignty and omniscience of God. Before we explore some of the stepping stones the Bible gives us in the midst of a natural disaster or a pandemic, we must sit down and rest in God’s complete and good rule of all things. We must acknowledge that He is going to know things we could never fathom and this will leave us, at times, to wrestle with “why's” that we may never have answered.

As you may be wrestling with the “why” behind the COVID-19 outbreak, here are some rocks you can place your feet upon:

Some outcries we hear have flawed logic
Removing the reality of God because bad things happen only leaves us with bad things still happening in the world. It doesn’t answer any questions. Calling disaster “meaningless” is the opposite of what we see in Scripture. That is the strength of our testimony as Christians. We know suffering is not meaningless! Think for a second about the MILLIONS of outcomes God is working from this pandemic and how few of them we get to see or experience. The cross is the ultimate example of extreme, seemingly meaningless suffering, being anything BUT meaningless!

As Rebecca McLaughlin describes in Confronting Christianity, “Suffering is not the wrecking ball that knocks Christianity down, but rather the cornerstone on which, painfully, brick by brick it has always been built.”
We don’t pray to a God who has not suffered

As you interact with God in this time, recall all the passages that speak of his heart for us and the pain he experienced to bring us into his family. Remember Jesus in the garden. Remember Jesus in John 11 and his pain for the sisters. Remember Jesus weeping over Jerusalem for her lack of repentance in Luke 19. God knows the pain of the many experiencing the worst of this pandemic. When we cannot empathize, he can.

“Suffering is not an embarrassment to the Christian faith, it is the thread with which Christ’s name is stitched into our lives.” -Rebecca McLaughlin

The evidence of the Gospel

Suffering doesn’t disprove God but is evidence that everything he said about the destruction of sin is true. The Bible’s stance on disaster is not, “Why is this happening?” but in Luke 13, “Why has God spared anyone from complete destruction?”

So what do we do as believers? Well, this pandemic presents some hurdles to typical disaster response, but here are some things we can consider:

  1. Lament- It is a right response to mourn the brokenness of our world. See John 11.
  2. Humble ourselves- Take some time to reflect on our lack of control in the midst of all this.
  3. Repent- For both our individual sin, but also our corporate sin; as a church, city, nation, and mankind.
  4. Let go of the temporal, and grab hold of the eternal- This pandemic has clarified what will last and what will not. Lean into what will last.
  5. When we can, get to work. For some of us, this has been a very hands-on season. To all of you on the frontlines, THANK YOU. For some, God has called us to wait until we see a need, and then we will act.
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