God wants us to wake up from our daydream and face reality. He wants us to cease our infatuation with the insubstantial trinkets of our fading lives and consider things of eternal value. He calls us to stop being so preoccupied with rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking ship and, instead, give serious attention to the lifeboat he has provided. In short, a healthy awareness of our own mortality should cause any reasonable person to consider what lies beyond the grave and to seek a relationship with their Creator.
A sincere Christian recently asked me, “What lesson is God trying to teach us through COVID?” Your own answer to that question depends on your ontological viewpoint. My own view is that God’s sovereignty does not mean that everything that happens in this world is a deliberate, intentional act of God flowing from his divine perfect will. Many things happen CONTRARY to his will (human sin, for example!) but he allows them to happen, he forbears them, as part of his PERMISSIVE will.
If you’re looking for someone to blame for COVID, don’t point your finger at God. The ontological antecedent of COVID, along with every other instance of suffering and misery in our world, is the rejection of God’s sovereign rule by mankind at the beginning of creation. It is a rebellion that has introduced a profound sickness to the natural world, the consequences of which we continue to experience to this present day.
But that is a side issue to the question that was asked. The questioner was not seeking an ontological explanation for the origin of COVID. Her concern was much less esoteric. “What lesson is God trying to teach us through COVID?” Regardless of one’s view of God’s sovereignty, Christians are unanimous in their belief that God uses “all things”, including suffering, to bring about his eternal purposes (Romans 8:28). So, what might God be trying to teach us in this pandemic?
That we are kites dancing in a hurricane.
If the current pandemic has done nothing else, it has confronted us with our own mortality and shone a spotlight on the extremely tenuous nature of life. The current death toll from COVID stands at over five million. That’s five million people who were going about life, many of them thinking that they had years left to live, but who were snuffed out by a tiny microbe that can’t be seen with the naked eye. I know of strong, healthy people who were in the prime of life who are now no longer with us, because of COVID.
Of course, there is nothing unusual about this state of affairs. Millions of people die of the flu every year. Millions die of malaria, pneumonia, cancer, heart disease and stroke. Millions more die from accidents, often involving weird and unlikely alignments of contributing factors. Yes, death is happening all around us, every day. About 60 million people die every year: that’s two people every second. The one thing that the universe is really good at, is killing us!
But the current pandemic has confronted us, afresh, with our own mortality. Even though it is just one more among a plethora of means by which the natural world is removing people from the gene pool, COVID has highlighted afresh the extremely tenuous nature of our existence. Even though we have lived our lives up to this point in “the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4), we had somehow become complacent, inured to the myriad of ways in which the universe could suddenly, and without warning, call, “time’s up!”