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Learning experience during the COVID-19 epidemic

BY RICHARD FORD – Well, to start it has one pause and think about one’s own vulnerability during these times, when death or sickness can be seen lurking outside our door if one does not listen to good health advice. As it says in HEBREWS 12.11“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” The COVID-19 Pandemic is wreaking havoc across our world. It’s an uncertain time. I will give you what I have learnt and want to share with you.

And yet for all the pain, the Bible teaches that for Christians, these trials are not wasted or futile. God is at work through it all, teaching us things that we might not otherwise learn at all. So at times this is for us now a wake-up call.

Life in a fallen world is not meant to be comfortable. It’s because we aren’t good at being ‘uncomfortable’.

And so, we’ve grown used to comfort. We expect it. Indeed, we demand it. And when God throws a spanner into our lives – such as a pandemic that disrupts everything – we don’t do so well. We get frustrated. We get scared. We grow anxious, and even panic. We modern people – even Christians – aren’t that good at ‘uncomfortable’. Yes it is true.

Yet it means we can delude ourselves into thinking life is meant to be comfortable. This broken world is not heaven. And never can be. No government, no leader, no technology can ever usher in the new heavens and the new earth. Only God can do that.

Alongside an expectation of comfort, we are under the delusion that life is under our control. And that’s why so many are panic buying: it’s a way to try and get back control over a life that is out of control. People think if they can control their groceries, then they’ll have more control over their life.

While this pandemic is part of the cursed world we’re living in, it can and is being used by God to achieve His redemptive purposes. This pandemic heightens our ‘death awareness’: we become painfully aware of our mortality. Yes, it’s a confronting thought. One that for many of us is indeed scary, especially if we are sick and vulnerable.

When that happens, our demand for worldly comfort is loosened. We then realise – in a fresh way – that true life, meaning and hope isn’t found in a successful career or well-decorated house, but at the foot of the Cross. It’s a hope that will sustain us, whatever this pandemic brings.

So there’s a key difference between the (typical) secular response to suffering and uncertainty, and the Biblical response:

1) In the modern secular worldview, suffering (especially life threatening suffering) is to be avoided at all costs. It serves no purpose. On the contrary, such suffering takes away from our life’s purpose, which is to be happy and comfortable.

2) But in the Bible’s view, a Christian’s suffering serves a higher purpose. Yes, suffering is painful (the Bible doesn’t deny that). But it’s a key way God achieves His purposes, namely, to make us more like Christ. That goal gives meaning and purpose to our suffering.

And so, we all can and especially Christians can learn into suffering. We don’t have to fear it. We don’t have to avoid it. Instead, we can use it for the opportunity that it is: to glorify God, and serve others.

PHILIPPIANS 2.4 “not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

So to me that is a much better way to respond to the unfolding pandemic around us.

Richard J Ford, an independent journalist with Filpresssyd