Coronavirus has tipped the world upside down. The scale and depth of the damage caused by COVID-19 has shocked us all, its effects rippling across the globe in a matter of months.
People’s lives and livelihoods have been threatened, healthcare systems have struggled to cope, businesses and economies have collapsed, and governments have taken unprecedented action to protect lives and attempt to keep their country functioning.
In any other situation, a government seizing control of the economy, confining people to their homes, shutting down national parliaments, and briefing the nation daily would see mass protests and cries of tyranny. Yet in light of coronavirus, our society, has welcomed, and even celebrated, these measures.
In times like these, we have searched high and low for a sense of normality and security. We have desperately sought hope...
Some of us looked to the daily PM briefings for a sign of victory and hope. Some looked to the NHS and the many thousands of staff and volunteers fighting day to day to keep the virus at bay. Others hoped for increased testing and vaccinations. Others sought comfort amidst their own families. Others rushed to the supermarkets for supplies. We desperately needed, and continue to need, hope.
Are we right to look for hope in these things? Are we right to look for hope in medicine, in science, in political action, in economic support packages, in family and community? Well, yes. These are all good things given by God and each had, and continues to have, a vital role to play in protecting life and fighting the virus. Yet each ultimately falls short in providing true and certain hope.
The NHS, Government, scientific community, Bank of England, and community all have their limitations. None are ultimately able to prevent death. None can promise to protect you from harm. None can act without flaws and miscommunication.
As Christians however we trust in one who can. We trust in a God who created and sustains life. Who beat death and restores life. We trust in a King who will never makes policy errors, who will never be limited by resources, who will never err or fail. We trust in a Father who comforts and shields us (Psalm 46:1). We believe in a God who one day will wipe away every tear (Revelation 21:4).
Governments and politicians, appear to be a fine place to turn for hope amidst a pandemic. It makes plenty of sense – our government was elected to protect us and enable us to prosper. They have a job to do and we are to pray for them especially in this time of difficulty (1 Timothy 2:1-4). Yet they cannot match our expectations and longings.
So in an age of pandemic, politics is not our answer but God is. Let’s have a look at Psalm 20.
For the director of music. A psalm of David.
1 May the Lord answer you when you are in distress;
may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
2 May he send you help from the sanctuary
and grant you support from Zion.
3 May he remember all your sacrifices
and accept your burnt offerings.
4 May he give you the desire of your heart
and make all your plans succeed.
5 May we shout for joy over your victory
and lift up our banners in the name of our God.
David models prayerful politics. He calls on the Lord to protect him, support him, enable him to prosper, and remember his faith (vv1-5). He can do all this knowing that God answers prayers and has chosen him as King (v6). We do not live in the same political era as David, nor carry his annointed role as King, but God remains a God of victory. Victory not over territories and nations as with Israel, but over sin and death, seen clearly in 1 Corinthians 15.
In light of a powerful God who has beaten death, and who listens to our prayers, let us cry out to God for deliverance.
We are not promised immunity from a virus nor its consequences. Rather, we persevere knowing we may suffer (1 Peter 4:12-13) but we can have true hope knowing that ultimate death has been defeated (1 Peter 1:3-5).
On the other hand, hope in politics during a pandemic is hollow. Just look at what David says about power and rulers in verses 7 and 8; ‘some trust in chariots and some in horses… they are brought to their knees and fall’.
Never before in our lifetimes have we been given such an example of the fragility of the power and authority of our society as during this pandemic. We can see clearly that the Government, or the NHS, or society as we know it could collapse just as David suggests here.
This is why hope cannot be placed in these things. Instead, we must turn, as David does, and say ‘but we trust in the name of the Lord our God’ (v7). The one who has true authority over death, who can grant us true victory. He is the place to turn in times of trouble. Let us then pray to him and ask that he ‘answer us when we call’ (v9).
Being a Christian in a pandemic then is to remember where true hope is found, it is to submit to our Government (1 Peter 2:11-17), it is to pray for our Government (1 Timothy 2:2), and it is to love our neighbour (Mark 12:29-31).
Let us cling to these truths and let them shape our actions and our witness during this pandemic.