Would you consider giving thanks for the Coronavirus? That is insanity you say; who would thank God for such a thing. Perhaps the apostle Paul would: Rom 5:1-3, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations…..”
Paul says that he glories in tribulation. The idea of “glorying” means to add weight to something. Weight is added by expressing value, importance and usefulness. Paul sees value in tribulation because he knows that God uses it to accomplish good ends vv3-4, “…….we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4and perseverance, character; and character, hope”
Let me be clear, I am not suggesting (and neither is Paul) that we should be thankful or enjoy the fact that people are suffering, dying, or losing their jobs as a consequence of COVID-19. What I am saying is that we should be thankful that God uses all things for His glory and our good. Christians can sometimes have an outlook basically the same as that of unbelievers. Prayers extend little beyond “Lord, please take away this terrible disease so we can all feel safe and happy again” Where is the spiritual and eternal perspective?
We need to see this virus as God’s instrument intended ultimately to help us in our devotion to Him. Therefore, we can be thankful for the intended aim and also cooperate with God in that aim.
Make use of any extra time that you have – go on walks with family members; engage in family devotions and discussion– especially on the Lord’s Day; read books, give more attention to prayer; it could be an opportunity to write down what you are learning from scripture and the things you need to pray about. Don’t just allow the time to slip through your fingers without seeking to use it in a profitable way. While so many see COVID-19 as restricting them, we should see it for its opportunities.
Pray specifically that it would be a means of sanctification; that God would use it to refine you and cause you to re-focus. The reality is, we all find security in habit and familiarity; we all succumb to presumption; we all slip into complacency because life is so often tame and predictable. It is actually a blessing for our boat to be rocked. Tribulation causes us to take stock, think about our priorities and trust God afresh. It reminds us that this world is not our home. Pray for your unconverted family and friends – that God would use this situation for Gospel witness and a way to express care.
By all means let us pray that a cure would be found for the Coronavirus, but let us be mindful that disease and war and disasters and death will always be with us. More important than the end of this virus is that God’s people would grow in holiness and devotion to Him. More important than the restoration of physical health is the restoration of sinful people to God. Everything that God uses for these purposes is good and therefore we can be thankful for them. Paul says “I glory in tribulation”