Faith in a Coronavirus World
At the end of 2020 There was a real sense of déjà vu: Here we go again.
We had just entered Lockdown 2, or, lockdown, the “remix”. I wasn’t too keen on the first lockdown, to be honest. The sudden loss of our freedoms, alongside the challenges of dealing with a global pandemic, took us all by surprise. There was some upside. A kind of a blitz spirit swept across the nation. The roads went silent, the skies were free of the streaks of jet streams, creation breathed. Maybe it isn’t just my computer that performs better when it is shut down, unplugged, and rebooted?
Zoom was our new best friend, and hitherto unknown creativity burst onto YouTube.
The weather was kind: for those with gardens, new adventures were found. Other’s excelled in the kitchen. And Joe Wicks did his best to keep us all in shape.
We understood the seriousness of Covid-19. A highly contagious virus meant we had to distance ourselves from each other – “Hands, Face, Space” were the drumbeat of public health messages. We were glad to go on our doorsteps and “clap for the NHS”. Our Doctors and Nurses were on the frontline, and they were taking casualties.
However, even if you were fortunate enough to have a garden, to stay healthy, and to keep well during Lockdown, it was all still very uncertain, unexpected, and unsettling.
I also sense that the mood was different in Lockdown 2. It was winter, after all. Plus, we were more aware of the mental toll which lockdown takes, not to mention the deep impact on macro and micro finances.
At the beginning of 2021, hopes are running high that the vaccine will be effective, and we can begin to return to a degree of normality. But hugging, singing, and all manner of socialising, is going to be much slower to return.
And, when the world is “rebooted” and the church too is allowed to gather again, to what do we wish to return? Have we learned anything? What do we leave behind, and what do we embrace with enthusiasm?
The impact of Covid-19 is likely to be long lasting. This short book helps you to explore some of the key challenges which the virus raised, yes, personally, but also for God’s Church and his plans for time and eternity.
Stuck in the spin cycle
Speaking very personally, I have been surprised at how unsettling the whole thing has been, and I suspect I am not on my own. Beneath the surface, emotions which are barely hidden under a coping veneer, were occasionally breaking through. Panic, fear, rootlessness, and nagging doubts.
For me, the testing time is somewhere between 3.00am and 5.00am. I don’t think I am worried, but my brain seems to be stuck in a repeat cycle, like a broken washing machine. Sloshing around my mind are half finished conversations, odd slights and niggles, and unformed projects awaiting attention. I remember a dear saint, now with the Lord, who said that during the day everything in life was clearly ordered and my faith is strong, but in those wee small hours, nothing much makes sense anymore.
There are ways to break the cycle, and we will return to this later. For me, it means remembering that my core identity in Christ has not been lost; my worth is based upon the loving price Christ paid for me; and my confidence is in the everlasting arms which uphold me.
The tricky bit is stopping the whirring and breaking the spin cycle. When worrying or panicking, some friends of my mine slowly say the Lord’s Prayer, or Psalm 23. Others, like me, try to write down those things which need proper attention in daylight hours: a notepad and pen by my bed is good for that, even if reading it in the morning is tricky!
This is not just about sleep of course. Although, sleeplessness can be symptomatic. Coronavirus has raised all kinds of questions, from the mundane to the serious:
- Why am I so tired?
- Why do I find it so hard to focus?
- What about Church?
- Will I even be able to hug my friends and family again?
- Will I ever be able to travel and see the world?
- What is normality, and will it ever return?
- What is my purpose in life?
- Who am I?
Remembering my core identity in Christ
Many of these questions have to do with identity. Most of the time we do not meaningfully ask the question: “who am I?”. We get on with life.
Our typical routines have very much have been challenged by the viral illness Covid-19, but, more particularly, by the way it has changed our everyday life. Certain securities and certainties keep us focused each day, these include work, family, routine, health, and so on. When our typical patterns and routines are challenged, we start to ask ourselves, perhaps even for the first time: who am I?
Christians have a very clear, but profound, answer to the identity question.
- You are a true child of God
For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26) 
If you are believer then you are already a child of God. Your right to be in God’s family isn’t something you are working towards or try to achieve by your own effort.
We weren’t born a Christian, although growing up in a Christian family has huge privileges. Rather, God has adopted you into His family. You can sit at the family table, you take on the family name; can call God my father (so 4:6).
Paul says here – whether you are male or female – you have the rights of heirs in God’s kingdom!
I need to be reminded of this day after day.
- You are adopted into God’s family
Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. (Galatians 4:6-7)
Our human nature has not changed, nor, often, have all those emotions which churn in our minds. That is a slow process. What has changed is our status. We are adopted into God’s family. That is a huge privilege!
Jim Packer put it so well:
If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how he much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all. [Adoption] is the highest privilege the gospel offers….That justification–by which we mean God’s forgiveness of the past together with his acceptance of the future–is the primary and fundamental blessing is not in question ….But…adoption is higher, because of the richer relationship with God that it involves.
— J.I. Packer, Knowing God, chap 19
This short book primarily has Christians in mind. It is an encouragement to remember who you are in Christ Jesus, and enjoy the privilege of being in God’s family. I am sure, when we ponder deeply on these truths, we will be better equipped to give Faith, Hope and Love to our needy world.
But, if you are anything like me, I need to emerge from Coronavirus with a fresh sense of the privilege of being a Christian even in these challenging days.
The Puritan, Thomas Goodwin put it like this:
A man is walking along the road with his son holding his hand. The little boy knows that the man is his father, and that his father loves him. But suddenly the Father stops, – picks up the boy, lifts him up into his arms, embraces him and kisses him… the boy is no more a son when he is being embraced than he was before. The father’s action… has not changed the status of the boy, but oh! The difference in the enjoyment.
Maybe, just maybe, the global pandemic will unearth some key questions, and perhaps, give Christians the chance to regain their confidence in the God who made, and rescues, them? I hope so.
Here are five short looking at some of the key questions which Coronavirus has thrown up in recent months (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OpSeSF2qB_8&list=PLWCrsWvXinQ7EtwN4OYsIo2lJr-QwJ75S):
- Work and identity How does the Bible answer the question: “Who am I?” And how do I understand my identity, and my work? (particularly when these things are deeply challenged by lockdown and my working practices keep changing).
- Suffering and death How do I make sense of suffering, and respond appropriately to it? Living in through a global pandemic raises huge questions. How can I help myself and others prepare for death?
- Lockdown and rest Despite the changing patterns of work and leisure, finding real rest is tricky. How do I rest, find sabbath rhythm, and worship God faithfully?
- Loneliness and friendship We live in a “connected” by not “committed” world. Connections via zoom and social media have never been easier. But people still struggle to find real friends. What is true friendship and how can I be a good friend when socially distanced?
- Hope, Faith and Love People hunger for these core needs: hope for the future, confidence in something that is reliable, and a sense of being loved and showing love. How are today’s trials preparing me for my heavenly home, and advancing God’s kingdom now?
As I have interacted with members of my own Church family, these questions have been very real.
My hope is that we can regroup, as a Church, around some core convictions around our identity in Christ Jesus, and strength our confidence in God, knowing that He is utterly reliable, and still on the throne!
 Many translations retain “sons of God” for good reason, for only the Son was the heir to all of the Father’s assets, but, “children” gets across most of that sense for our modern, more inclusive ears.