Over the last several days, fear over the coronavirus has spiked as the number of cases and infected countries has multiplied.
panNearly 170,000 cases have now been reported across more than 100 nations. Thousands have died. The nation of Italy has been almost completely shut down, after being hit hardest after China. Major universities have moved online. Disneyland has closed its gates. The NCAA has canceled its much-anticipated March Madness tournament. The NBA, NHL, and MLB all have suspended league play, to the tune of millions of dollars. The United States has bans on travel and recommendations of how many people should gather in one place.
While we are learning more by the hour, there’s so much we still don’t know (and may not know for some time, if ever) about the virus. Which is part of its staggering power: the awful fear of the unknown.
Fear of fears
Underneath our fears about COVID-19 crawls the pervasive fear of death, which enslaves much of the world, often subtly, for their whole lives (Hebrews 2:15). For such days, C.S. Lewis’s comments on war are every bit as relevant in a pandemic:
What does war [or the coronavirus] do to death? It certainly does not make it more frequent; 100 percent of us die, and the percentage cannot be increased. It can put several deaths earlier, but I hardly suppose that that is what we fear … Yet war does do something to death. It forces us to remember it … War makes death real to us, and that would have been regarded as one of its blessings by most of the great Christians of the past. (“Learning in War-Time”)
The reality of death has not changed. What’s changed over the last several weeks, at least for some of us, is that we now are consciously considering what will inevitably happen to each and every one of us. And if we’re willing to hear and receive what God is saying through COVID-19, even an awful, deadly virus might become a strange and bitter mercy.
While Christians, as advocates for life, take the pandemic seriously and educate ourselves accordingly, and take appropriate precautions, COVID-19 serves as a warning to us all. It is a reminder and commission for all who love and follow Christ. Will those who have been freed from the fear of death take the risks many in the world will refuse to take and display our hope among the fearful, infected, and dying?