In September, I joined the growing fraternity of COVID-sufferers. It wasn’t fun. Nothing about COVID is. On the one hand, you have the arbitrary, inconsistent, and often-bizarre restrictions mandated by well-meaning (to be charitable) leaders who enjoy controlling other people’s lives. On the other, you have a man-made virus that will make you feel nauseous, listless, and useless, if it doesn’t kill you. Seems like a no-win situation.
But God. I saw those words on a T-shirt today, and I thought, exactly! We create problems we can’t solve, like weaponizing a virus so it can infect hundreds of millions. In the upheaval that ensues, the virus becomes almost incidental, as the ‘collateral damage’ caused by politicians and health institutes wreaks havoc on our culture. On a human level, it’s an “Exhibit A” of how we can kill and destroy. Amazingly, from God’s perspective, it’s an opportunity.
Remember Joseph and his brothers? They created a problem: They sold Joseph into slavery, then compounded the felony by telling his father he had been killed, sending him into a downward spiral of depression. Joseph retained his integrity, but was falsely accused and languished in prison for years. No-win situation, right? But God. At the right time, Joseph rose to prominence in Egypt, and when a famine threatened Israel, he was the solution. The summary in Gen. 50.20 is beautiful in its simplicity: You meant it for evil, God meant it for good.
COVID is not good. I hope to never feel that way again, and I got off easy. Many have lost loved ones to the virus. And don’t get me wrong: I’m not suggesting that sickness and death are good. Those are the effects of sin; when it is forever eradicated, the results are utopian:
…there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain. (Revelation 21.4)
But in this sin-sick, doomed and dying world, God shows His power by bringing good out of bad. For me, it is a fresh perspective on my life, and the value of it. We Americans tend to assess our ‘worth’ based on how many honors we can attain, or achievements we can accomplish, or how much wealth we can acquire. As a pastor (the word means ‘shepherd’), my ‘value’ is in leading, feeding, and guarding a spiritual ‘flock.’ With COVID, others were ministering to me. But in my weakness, I came to appreciate the worth of life beyond what I can produce.
Here at NBBC, our focus is on God’s grace. COVID sharpened my perspective on it. When Paul was suffering with his ‘thorn in the flesh,’ God didn’t cure him. Instead, God said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Cor. 12.9). What I can accomplish in this world is pretty small; what God can accomplish is immense. My weakness highlights Christ’s power. With John the Baptist, I say, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
COVID took me down a dark road, but God meant it for good. “Thank you, Lord.”