Unless something unprecedented happens, all indicators are that most who read this article will have their lives impacted in some way by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) within 2020. If not by contracting the virus first-hand then, at the very least, by its influence on the stock market and global economy. I have read some projections that suggest somewhere between 40-70% of the world’s population will contract The Coronavirus this year. While I am unsure if I buy such jaw-dropping percentages, it’s enough to give any sensible person moderate concerns. For others, it’s enough to induce severe anxiety and paralyzing fear. Yet, my aim is to convince you that of all people, Christians ought to look at such times with clarity, hope, and peace. The last thing we should do is panic.
A casual surveyor of history knows this is not the first time the world has been faced with a pandemic. In fact, over the course of human existence widespread illness and disease have been commonplace. In 1918, the Spanish Flu killed an estimated 50 million people. That was barely 100 years ago – not long when compared to all record human history. Although there have been some scares and some regionalized outbreaks since then, the world has not since seen anything on the scale of what happened in the early 20th century. This includes an secondary outbreak of the same flu virus in 2009, which killed an estimated 200,000 people.
Will 2020 be different? I don’t think so, but I really don’t know. What I do know is there are some facts that can ease swelling fears and overreaction. Aside from some useful scientific data about the Coronavirus (which I will provide some facts later) and its effect, Christians have the unchanging Rock of Ages to whom we can anchor our emotions and fears. Our hopes and purpose are not to be tied to anything temporal but to the person of Jesus Christ and His eternal kingdom. To calm our hearts, fears and avoid panic, we must begin here.
A wonderful text for mediation comes to us from 2 Samuel 23:5. Here King David says “Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow” (KJV). David’s statement is valuable for every Christian. He is saying that even though everything in his house is not as it should be, there remains an everlasting covenant. Therein is his source of never-ending comfort and salvation. It’s important to note that David said this before the revealing of the New Covenant in Christ. We benefit from being this side of the cross and having the Helper, the Holy Spirit, to guide our hearts. If the entire world were to wither away and all facets of human civilization were to be turned upside down, we could rest easy upon this wonderful truth.
The Puritan, Jeremiah Burroughs, in his masterpiece The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment comments on this verse and its application with a very relevant message for Christians wrestling with fear and anxiety surrounding the Coronavirus threat. He writes:
“Suppose the plague were to come into your house, and it is not so safe, and you do not enjoy such outward comfort in your house as you once did. Can you read this Scripture and say, although my house is not so blessed with health as other men’s houses are, although my house is not so, yet he has made with me an everlasting covenant? I am still one in covenant with God, the Lord has made with me an everlasting covenant. As for these things in the world, I see they are but momentary, they are not everlasting. I see a family in which all was well only a week ago, and now everything is down, the plague has swept away a great many of them, and the rest are left in sadness and mourning. We see there is no resting in the things of this world, yet the Lord has made with me an everlasting covenant ordered in all things. I find disorder in my heart, in my family; but the everlasting covenant is ordered in all things, yes, and it is sure.”
I find Burroughs’ commentary to be extraordinarily aiding. In Christ, our deepest need has been met. Sin is broken and death has been defeated. Although we may suffer at the hands of persecution, disorder, and disease, our souls can remain at rest in Christ. Our lives, though precious, are but vapors of mist in comparison to the weight of eternity. Whatever physical or financial havoc the Coronavirus might create cannot separate the Christian from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. This is our greatest hope and greatest ally in times of tribulation and tragedy. We must remember that God is sovereign over all of creation and that all things work together for the good of His people (Romans 8:28). If you are in Christ, then find respite in the promises of His deliverance. Whatever evil may befall your person, house, and community, rejoice that Christ has overcome the world.
That is not to say we should pretend as such threats and their damages (physical, emotional, financial, etc.) are not real. Christians should never be fatalists. Disease and poverty are very real, and we should soberly grieve over their consequences. Suffering is the lot for anyone living in our fallen world. Yet, in face of tragedies we grab hold of the beautiful words of our Savior in John 16:33. He says, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”Therefore, let us repent of uncontrolled fears and anxiety (Philippians 4:6) and remember that we have been purchased by the blood of the Lamb. Let’s run boldly to the throne of grace and seek to redeem such seasons of adversity. Tribulations are wonderful opportunities for the church to be the hands, feet, and voice of Jesus Christ. Those marked by the sign of the covenant of grace ought to be the most understanding, gentle, and loving people on the planet. For many progressives, the church is little more than an organization of tax-evading bigots. Yet, in a season of fear and desperation, the love of Christ, as communicated by the people of God, can penetrate even the hardest of hearts. Christians, you are a bright city on a hill in a world of darkness. We may not yet have a vaccine for the Coronavirus, but we have one infinitely more valuable: a cure for the wages of sin, death.
Because all truth is God’s truth, let’s look at some additional data and facts related to the Coronavirus that may help many reading this relax a little bit. Although the disease is relatively new, through the grace and advent of technology and science, we have already learned a great deal. Below are 3 points that are worthy to be shared and considered. Much of the data below was gathered from this helpful website.
1) The overall number of cases in China are now falling.
It was not long ago we were seeing cases about 3,000+ a day. Recently, the number has trimmed to half or less than half of that per day. See this graph. This means it’s getting under control and is manageable. We are likely a few months away from a day in Wuhan where the new cases reported at 0, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. This is encouraging.
2) The death rate is likely much lower than reported.
Most of the world’s ~90,000 cases have been in China’s Hubei Province, with the death toll around 3,000 (estimates as of March 2). These rough numbers would put the fatality rate around 3% . While 0% is certainly preferable, this is still a relatively small percentage. More than that, there is good reason to think that the total number of cases is much higher. Almost 90% of people with Coronavirus experience very mild symptoms – some without any at all. With the vast majority of cases are very mild, it stands to reason there are thousands of people with the Coronavirus that have not been reported and/or counted within the ~90,000. Perhaps their symptoms were so low they didn’t notice, or perhaps, they knew they were not severe enough and didn’t want to be a burden on the already struggling health care system in Wuhan. If this is the case (which I think it is), this dwindles the fatality rate even further. Its also worth pointing that the strained medical resources in Wuhan were a factor of an elevated death rate. As the rest of the world has time to prepare, I expect we will see the fatality rate continue to drop.
It’s also worth pointing out that that the Hubei Province has over 59 million people in it and, unlike much of the United States, they live in a relatively small geographical area. Such confined conditions have likely led to higher infection rates that may not be experienced elsewhere.
3) There have been no reported deaths in young children.
As a father of 5, this data is comforting to me. Children seem to handle this virus very well. To date, there have been exactly 0 deaths in people aged 0-9. Additionally, the death rate for those aged 10-39 is just 0.2%. This is a fraction of the overall 3%. the majority of deaths have come to the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.
In closing, I want to state clearly that my hope in writing this article is that you will be encouraged by truth. First and foremost, by remembering that while tribulations are part of this fallen world, Christ has overcome the world. Our greatest need has been cured in the cross and we can now rejoice in all things. Secondly, by looking at facts and not widespread, media hysteria. The world is not ending because of Coronavirus. It is a serious disease, especially for the elderly. However, it is manageable and, Lord willing, it will be forgotten by most in a few years. If you have been flirting with panic, then I encourage you to repent and remember the everlasting covenant.