In describing the ongoing fight against Covid 19, German Chancellor Angela Merkel described it as Germany’s ( and in fact, the world’s ) greatest challenge since WW II. This virus, spreading faster than wildfire and baffling the greatest medical and scientific minds of the day, has singlehandedly dominated not only news headlines, but also people’s consciousness, both at the public and personal levels. A virus so small that it is invisible to the naked eye, and yet so potent and relentless that it has thrown the whole world out of gear and affected almost every sphere of life, right from politics, economics, religion, social life and leisure. Sadly, many have died by the onslaught of the virus, and we the living, are thoroughly confused, afraid and absolutely helpless in the face of a threat we just can’t seem to combat or put our finger on. The only thing that has been our anchor and comfort throughout these dark, distressful days is prayer – prayer for those who are in the forefront dealing headlong with this disease; prayer for the recovery of those who have been infected; and prayer for those who have lost their loved ones to this deadly enemy.
And as my mind tries to grapple with the sheer magnitude of this unprecedented crisis, three thoughts come to mind: the first is human limitation – If there’s one message that’s driven home to us by this crisis, it’s that humans are limited. With all our advancement and progress, it took just a single virus to bring the whole world to its knees and put a halt to almost all human activity. It’s almost unbelievable and reads more like a horror sci-fi movie than real life. Though humankind has displayed marked achievement and progress in almost every sphere of life and living, yet, history repeatedly shows us that there are limits to what we can do and accomplish. Yes, human beings have a special ability to achieve much, because we are created in the image of a creative God, but we also need to realize our limitations. On our own, we are not only limited but destructive and that is why, King Solomon with all his wisdom, achievements and years of experience behind him reminds his people, “remember your Creator . . . ”. Life, apart from the Creator will be nothing but a royal mess.
Secondly, this crisis is a reminder that we are living in a flawed world – this world that we are living in is a broken, corrupt, sick and fallen world. Even as we’re constantly mesmerised by the beauties of this world such as a glorious sunset, or a flower in bloom, or the smile and laughter of a child, yet we are not blind to the fact that it is far from perfect. We just have to look at the reality around us to see this truth. That is why, as believers, it is so reassuring to remember that this world as it is now, is not our final home. Jesus promises another place for us, a perfect one where there is no more sickness, sorrow, or imperfection of any sort or any kind, and where Jesus himself in all His healing and restoring sufficiency, will be a constant presence.
Thirdly, if there’s one good thing that has emerged from this present crisis, it is the humbling recognition that we need one another. For the first time in human history perhaps, we are fighting not against one another, but by the side of and for, each other. It’s not humanity versus humanity, but humanity versus this common enemy. What is even more heartening is seeing people, cutting across all community and religious lines, going out of their way to help and take care of the needs of the poor. This spirit of solidarity is indeed heartening and fills one with a renewed sense of hope in humanity as we see people right from politicians to business houses, doctors and medical personnel and even the ordinary citizens, all across the world rallying around the various affected nations and people to fight together against this virus in a battle that threatens human existence itself.
As people who believe in the Bible, I would like to share some reflections from the Word of God even as I pray that God will strengthen and give us a sense of direction at such a time as this. In the Bible, we are told of many instances where the people of God faced crises in their lives and in the nation. One such instance was during the reign of King Jehoshaphat recorded in 2 Chronicles 20. Faced with an enemy beyond their power to withstand, the king called upon the whole nation to seek God’s face and to pray. There are many lessons we can draw from this chapter but let me bring out a few: The King himself led the people in prayer: Jehoshaphat prayed “for we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” As we fight out this crisis, perhaps, we feel the same way that Jehoshaphat felt – an overwhelming sense of helplessness. Recently, in a similar scene reminiscent of Jehoshaphat, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, with tears in his eyes, admitted to the same sense of powerlessness. “We have lost control . . . we can’t understand what more we can do. All solutions are exhausted on the ground. Our only hope remains up in the Sky. God rescue your people.” However, what is striking about this prayer is that not only does Jehoshaphat acknowledge his helplessness, but much more importantly, it teaches us to turn our eyes to the Lord for help – “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you … If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us”, he prayed. His confidence was in the Lord, the living God who is not only transcendent but immanent; The God who hears and sees us. Time and time again we read in the scriptures that when his people cried out to God, He intervened and reached out to them. He hears, He sees and He is able.
The Prophet prophesied: As the king led in a time of prayer seeking God, the word of the Lord came through his Prophet, Jahaziel the son of Zechariah. Through His prophet, God exhorts his people not to be afraid or discouraged and promised them His presence at this time of crisis. The God of the Bible is not only a God who answers prayers but a God who communicates and speaks to us. Perhaps, God is trying to tell us something through this crisis. In the midst of all the ‘noise’ and information overload that bombards us daily, if not hourly, in the wake of Covid 19, let us also learn to quieten our hearts in God’s presence and listen to what He may be trying to tell us.
God’s priests, the Levites, led in Worship: “Then some Levites from the Kohathites and Korahites stood up and praised the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice”. In their worship, they proclaimed God’s sovereignty and His love for his people. In these uncertain times, worship reminds us that the God we worship is unchanging and eternal. He is the same yesterday, today and forever.
We serve a God who hears and answers our prayers.
A God who speaks
And a God who is worthy of our Worship because He is above all.
What a privilege to know this God! He is trustworthy and in these trying times, we know that we can trust Him because of who He is and what He has done in history and in our lives. Thus, we need to live in hope, daily. Yes, the fear of the future and the unknown is a real one, but we know He holds our lives and our future is safe in his hands. We also need to live in love rather than giving in to fear. My colleague, Nathan Betts puts it well in his latest article: “Fear”, he wrote, “asks the question, “How do I get out of here?” [whereas] Love asks, “How can I be a light in this situation?”. In these trying times, we dare not think only of our own safety and wellbeing, but also of the safety and wellbeing of others too. Indeed, that is the only way to respond to the present crisis.