Covid-19, spread so quickly round our little planet by the ease of modern travel, will bring thousands or millions to their grave sooner than would have happened without the new virus. We live in frightening times. Alarm and despondency now grip whole nations. Extreme and painful measures, never before known, are laid on us by our governments, in a desperate effort to combat the invisible enemy.
But let us remember Easter morning and the empty tomb. For Christians, death is merely the gateway to glory, to a place where there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things will have passed away (Revelation 21:4).
Death lost its sting when Jesus died to take away our sins. As the apostle Paul tells us, it has been swallowed up in victory (1 Corinthians 15:54).
The Lord’s trustworthiness
Rob Congdon, an American missionary doctor in Kenya, has described the strong spirituality that is sustaining many East African Christians in the midst of the coronavirus: “There is a remarkable, steadfast faith in God’s goodness, even in the midst of the shaking. People who’ve learned to trust God in the uncertainty of tropical disease, civil war, and hunger, develop an unshakeable awareness of the Lord’s trustworthiness.”
For many Kenyan Christians have lived with poverty as the norm, and all too often drought and famine. Then there is the violence of Al-Shabaab terrorists, seeking out Christians to kill them. This year has already seen swarms of locusts devouring crops, and a second generation, far more numerous than the first, is due to hatch from their eggs in late April or early May. Between one generation of locusts and the next, coronavirus arrived in Kenya. Kenyan Christians have learned to trust God for survival every day. They already had a spiritual strength and resilience, a practical trust in their heavenly Father, which prepared them for the surprise new uncertainty and danger of Covid-19.
It is the same for poor or persecuted Christians in many other countries as well: the coronavirus adds yet one more challenge to their suffering. (Read more about this on pages 4-8.)
Those of us who are used to security and plenty must learn that same concrete faith. We now live in an age when everyone suffers, Christian and non-Christian, rich and poor, prince and pauper, for the virus does not discriminate. We are faced with definite restriction of lifestyle, likely sickness and possible death. What can we do but turn to our God and trust Him?
Divine Providence – the missing doctrine
Long ago the “tube” trains of the London Underground’s District Line used to carry the letters DV inside each carriage, meaning “God willing” (Deo volente in Latin). It was an acknowledgement of the sovereignty of God. We may make our travel plans or other plans, but it is God who is in control.
Divine Providence is the missing doctrine of the Western Church today. What is Divine Providence? It is the belief that we are in God’s hands. He determines all of our life. This does not mean we are merely mechanical automata. On the contrary, we have a very active role to play, as we decide to place our trust in Him, knowing that all things work together for good for those who love God (Romans 8:28).
As Christians, we live with the empty tomb, and the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. Therein lies our hope.
All my hope on God is founded; He doth still my trust renew, Me through change and chance He guideth, Only good and only true. God unknown, He alone Calls my heart to be His own. 1
1 Meine Hoffnung stehet feste by Joachim Neander, translated by Robert Bridges