I recently enjoyed the audiobook version of Piper’s recent work. I listened mainly during my regular walks – getting fresh air and fresh perspective on our current situation. It’s easy to get frustrated with the ways this current situation affects my life. As an extrovert, I miss the face-to-face interactions, solid handshakes and even the occasional hugs! Although the phone, zoom and email allow for plenty of interaction with others, it’s not quite the same. I shared with someone that it’s like I’ve been eating some brand of sweetener all day – but just don’t get the “boost” I’m used to from sugar!
But there’s something comforting in that as well. When I look at the over-arching story of God as explained through the Scriptures in the Judeo-Christian tradition, I see how God worked through good and bad, in wonderful and dire situations, providing encouragement and discipline – always working for the good of His people, always conscious of the glory of His name. It’s comforting to see Joseph’s story unfold in Genesis – the first book of the Bible. The downward spiral must have dizzied the young man – leaving his father’s home as the favourite, hurt and humiliated by his brothers, sold into slavery, shipped off to a foreign land, falsely accused of impropriety, unfairly imprisoned, and unappreciated by those he blessed. The litany of suffering staggers the mind. His suffering lasted over a period of years – not just weeks or months. Yet, in the end, God reveals the grand plan, and Joseph himself tells his brothers: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” (Genesis 50:20 ESV)
God meant this to happen to Joseph and He meant it for good! Piper challenges us to see the good that the Coronavirus spells for us all. And, in all that he writes, the point that struck me most relates to the blessing we find in the warning. The Coronavirus brings into sharp relief the brevity of life. Powerful as we are, learned as we might consider ourselves, resourced beyond the imagination of anyone 100 years ago: we can be felled by a little virus invisible to the human eye. Much of life screeched to a halt in reaction to the threat. Many feared, and continue to fear, for massive loss of life. Systems in place to contend with diseases, accidents, alcohol or drug-related crises, or any other health related complication simply couldn’t handle the wave of those afflicted with Coronavirus in Italy. All protection failed for many as they faced imminent death.
In our everyday life of busy activity, endless work, and leisurely enjoyment, the thought of death slips to the back burner. Out of sight, out of mind. We tend to push aside those thoughts, and, when confronted with the death of a loved one, rush through the formalities as quickly as possible. It’s just so much more pleasant to stroll on the beach than it is to contemplate the brevity of life. But the virus brings things back into focus. Life is brief. We applaud those who work valiantly to develop a vaccine against this virus, we pray for those on the frontlines, we reach out to comfort those most affected. Even as we do so, let us also allow the blessing of the situation sink in. Let us remember that our days are numbered – and that too is good! Do we really want those who exercise evil blatantly to continue without end? Do we really desire those who suffer incurable diseases live distressing lives eternally? Is there not a promise of return to joy, of permanent healing, and of endless glory? Are we not told in the scriptures that Jesus goes ahead to prepare a place for us – one in which no disease, heartache or accident exist?
Life is Brief
May we allow the Coronavirus to remind us of this. Life is brief. And, comfort of all comforts, the God in whom the Coronavirus finds its origins, this same God sent His Son to die, taking upon Himself the sin and suffering of the world, holding forth the promise of eternal life in purity, wholeness and joy for all who believe. He IS a God of love. And this instrument instructs us, beckons us to turn away from the temporal and focus on the eternal – for the well-being of us all. What many see as being meant for evil is actually for our good.
Read Coronavirus and Christ here: https://www.desiringgod.org/books/coronavirus-and-christ