What lessons can we learn from the pandemic? Dr. James Anderson exhorts believers to learn lessons about God’s sovereignty and the importance of public witness during times of unrest like a pandemic.
There are probably many lessons that we can take away from the events of the last few years, some of which will only be apparent with the benefit of some distance. But here are a few lessons that we might consider at this point in time.
We Don’t Know the Future
First, I think we’ve been starkly reminded that we don’t know the future. I remember back in January 2020, I had many plans for that year, and needless to say, many of those plans did not come to pass. My plans had to radically change along with everyone else’s. James, in his epistle in the New Testament, rebukes those who are presumptuous about the future, saying, “We will go do this thing or that thing.” And James rebukes them and says, “No, if the Lord wills, we will do this or that.” And so I think, among other things, we’ve been reminded to hold our plans lightly and always to say “If the Lord wills. If the Lord wills.”
We Need to Trust God’s Sovereignty
Our ultimate assurance, peace, and hope is found in God alone and in the truth that we are his treasured possession because of what Christ has done for us.Another lesson to learn is that we need to trust God. We need to trust God. We need to trust that God is in control over events. When the pandemic first hit Europe and then came to America, I remember experiencing an acute sense of dread and even panic about what was going to happen, and found myself, I kept checking news websites and social media over and over during the day just looking for some kind of good news or some sort of reassurance about the future. I had to remind myself that, as the psalmist says, “My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” Our ultimate assurance, peace, and hope is found in God alone and in the truth that we are his treasured possession because of what Christ has done for us. Those are the things that we should put trust in and remember to do so even when disasters strike.
We Should Have a Realistic View of Science
The third lesson, perhaps, that we can learn is that we should have a realistic view of science. Early in the pandemic, I remember a big [pharmaceutical] company put out a video on YouTube. And the message of the video was “science will win.” That’s a direct quote. “Science will win. Science will win against this virus, against this pandemic.” And I think that was really hubris. It was sheer hubris. As Christians, certainly we should be very grateful for science. We should be grateful that God has given us the capacity to learn more and more about his creation and to harness its potential for technologies that can make our lives safer, healthier, and more productive. And it’s certainly true that science has really helped us, in many ways, to mitigate the harmful effects of COVID-19. But at the same time, the last few years have also shown that science is limited in what it can do, that science can’t solve all our problems. And scientists are as fallible and fallen as any other human beings. So we should certainly give thanks for science, but without resting our faith on science.
We Need to Show Grace and Patience
One more lesson that we might learn from the pandemic is this: It’s really important for Christians to extend grace and patience to one another as part of our witness to the world. When the world is in turmoil, that is an opportunity for Christians to shine, to show that the gospel really does make a difference, and an opportunity to demonstrate the surpassing love of Christ.When the world is in turmoil, that is an opportunity for Christians to shine, to show that the gospel really does make a difference, and an opportunity to demonstrate the surpassing love of Christ to one another and to the world. The pandemic was kind of a stress test for everyone, and I suspect that many of us failed that test, and I’m certainly conscious of my own shortcomings in that regard. I think many Christians, in the thick of the pandemic, lost a sense of perspective, a sense of priorities, and a sense of our obligations towards fellow believers, that we have a duty to bear with one another graciously, even in disagreement. Indeed, especially in disagreement. Some churches, sad to say, were victims of self-inflicted wounds. And it’s going to take time to heal. But all that to say: I think we need to all reflect honestly on how we responded to this global health crisis and all the social and political fallout from it. And we need to repent where appropriate and commit ourselves to do better when the next great stress test comes along.