As I reflect on lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s not over yet. Despite previously having Covid and being double vaccinated and boosted, I have just tested positive for Covid again. Fortunately, this time it is most likely the Omicron variant, which is less severe, like a “bad cold,” but more contagious. Perhaps this will finally provide herd immunity, however it is likely that Covid will continue, or another infection will take its place. We might wonder if we are seeing the stage set for the return of the Lord, with pestilence being one of the signs (Luke 21:11). Of course, we believers look forward to the blessed hope, the imminent return of the Lord, to take us home where there will be no more death, sorrow, crying, or pain. As we deal with a continuation of Covid or face another illness, here are lessons I have learned from four consequences of this pandemic: loss, control, social distancing, and contagion.
The losses associated with this pandemic have affected us all. Likely we have all lost someone close to us and not been able to attend the memorial. Many have been seriously ill yet were forced to suffer alone. Jobs have been lost. Income has suffered. Schools have been closed. Weddings have been postponed or celebrated with family only. Our reunions, conferences, and vacations have been cancelled. Churches have closed to “in person” meetings.
I recall the anxiety I experienced when I first got Covid in March 2020 when there were a high number of deaths in people over 70, my age group. Fortunately, I had a very mild case. At the time I relied on verses that I had given as prescriptions to my patients to memorize such as Philippians 4:6-7: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God and the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
We have witnessed government overreach as the state abandons its God-given role of civil restraint to extend control over families and churches. Traditionally, we have enjoyed religious freedom in North America though we have seen this eroded in the last few decades with the Bible and prayer being removed from public institutions. Now we see an attempt to remove the entire Christian influence from our culture such as Canada’s C-4 law which bans conversion therapy. We appreciate people like the men of Issachar who “understood the times” (1 Chron. 12:32) and Esther who had the courage to defend her people in “such a time as this” (Est. 4:14).
Though there are several well-qualified religious liberty firms to defend Christians, I need to be reminded that it is not as much a political warfare as it is a spiritual warfare. Our true adversary is Satan, the god of this world, who will use every opportunity to exert his fleeting control to imprison deceived people in his kingdom of darkness. Jesus Christ told us to expect to be hated (John 15:18-21).
Remember that from the formation of the Church and throughout the world there have been persecutions of Christians. Recall the guarantee of Christ “I will build My church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). Amid persecution, the church often flourished as in China today. The Word of God will never pass away (Matt. 24:35). The gospel is still the power to save (Rom. 1:16) as we dramatically see in the Middle East today. I need to humbly spend more time listening to God’s Word than I do listening to our adversary’s disasters in the ubiquitous news. Each of us is strategically placed in our society and we have unique opportunities throughout the day that will pass by if we aren’t sensitive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit in responding to the moment of need.
“Social distancing” has become a common phrase in our Covid vocabulary. From the three feet recommended by the World Health Organization to the six feet recommended by the Center for Disease Control, the concept has now come to mean banning or limiting indoor and outdoor gatherings. The great social disaster (in my opinion) of shutting everything down for two weeks morphed into two years and is ongoing with irreparable damage to childhood education and God-given work for adults. The elderly I care for in nursing homes and hospice have been isolated from their loved ones. Political and racial divisions have been inflamed. We have seen a rise in psychiatric illnesses, drug use, and suicide. I need to be reminded not to be angered by political ideology but instead have the compassion of Jesus Christ for the lost.
Social distancing caused churches to close their doors to “in person” meetings by mandate or choice. Tragically, some believers are not “coming together” again even though this can often be done safely (1 Cor. 11:18; Acts 2:1, 46). Though various ways of getting the Word out by internet are helpful, they do not provide the essential fellowship and personal use of spiritual gifts which are so much needed to build up one another. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Heb. 10:24). As an elder, visitation is needed more than ever.
The safe resumption of assembly activities is a difficult decision, with risks and benefits, but it must be done. The spread of Covid is primarily by close contact through the air and not well prevented by vaccines or by cloth masks, though N95 masks are more effective. Our own assembly meetings have restarted but not our Awana program which had been an effective way to reach children, many from broken homes in nearby neighborhoods. Our camp restarted this last summer. It was spiritually profitable, but we did have a Covid outbreak with several seriously ill.
I have a great deal of admiration for those who have restarted their outreach programs. We are not guaranteed freedom from the contagiousness of disease as was Jesus Christ whose touch healed the lepers. May I have more of the love of Damien De Veuster, missionary to Molokai Leper colony, who himself contracted and died of leprosy. May I have more of the passion of Jim Elliot, martyr in Ecuador, who prophetically wrote “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose” based on Matthew 16:26. I need to sacrificially “reach out” to the spiritually dying people around me with the ministry of reconciliation from Christ who took the penalty of our sin and imputed to us His righteousness (2 Cor. 5:19-21).
The COVID pandemic has four tragic consequences. However, for my losses I have God’s comfort. Despite government control, I still have freedom of opportunity to help others. Even with social distancing I can still show compassion. Despite disease contagion I can still spread the gospel.