2nd April 2020
The Coronavirus pandemic that is sweeping the world has brought chaotic changes not just in terms of health risk but in many other areas of life as well – stock markets are plummeting, some people have been put out of work, airlines are grounding fleets, key government workers have fallen ill with the virus not to mention the 1228 people in the UK who have already perished from the virus at the time of this writing. It’s enough to strike fear and worry in the heart of the bravest of people. So how is it possible to be free of paralyzing fear and have peace in the midst of such great a threat as coronavirus?
When we look at God’s word we see that the Bible is no stranger to fear and anxiety. It is talked about all over the place. At least ten times in the gospels alone Jesus or an angel speak the words, “Do not be afraid”. The book of Hebrews says,
The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear;
what can man do to me? (Hebrews 13:6)
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6–7)
I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. (Philippians 4:11)
And finally in the Old Testament in Psalm 23 we are reminded of the great illustration that the Lord is our shepherd with Jesus following this up in the New Testament reminding us that He is the Good Shepherd.
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
So, who is it who can have such a supernatural, God-centred peace like this? What is the basis for this? An acquaintance of mine mentioned recently that they are trying not to worry about the coronavirus. But there seemed to be no basis or reason which could be given for this statement.
On examination of Psalm 23 we see that those who are able to experience God’s protection and provision like that of a shepherd are those who see and trust in the Lord as being their shepherd – “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1). The psalmist is saying that the Lord God is his personal shepherd and is underlining the intimate, personal nature of the relationship. This is similar to Jesus, the Good Shepherd, when he calls, “Come unto me …” or “ follow me …” to the crowds. Those who have this type of relationship with God and Jesus will not lack anything. God will provide one’s needs even in coronavirus want. The shepherd who leads his sheep into green pastures is a shepherd who provides nourishment and sustenance for the sheep as God does for his little flock of believers who trust in Him. The shepherd’s rod and staff (v.4) were used in those days to protect the sheep – to pull and to prod them to go in the right, safe direction and away from danger – even danger as threatening as death. I am not saying that believers will be protected by God from getting Covid19. But what I am saying is that whatever situation a believer finds him/herself in they know that they have the many spiritual benefits of their heavenly father which includes eternal life if in fact they do suffer death from Covid. This is what the psalmist means when he says that even though he walks through the valley of the shadow of death he fears no evil – why? – because God is with him and provides comfort for him even in difficult and dark situations!
So, how do we obtain this unshakeable peace in the face of all the challenges and threats which the coronavirus presents us with? Firstly we must cling to and believe in the truth that God gives the spiritual benefits of spiritual protection and eternal life to all who believe and trust in Him (Psalm 23, 1 Jn 2:17). We must open up our lives to the Good Shepherd, Jesus, and let him shepherd us. And let Him become our personal shepherd. This involves admitting that we are dependent on Him and need him and that without him we will not know the “lovingkindness” or “mercy” (v.6) of God which can “follow us all the days of [our] life” – the expression of which reached its pinnacle in the biblical event which we will recall in about a week’s time with resurrection hope (Easter). So, the basis for calm in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic is the nature of God and the character of God as our Shepherd to those who are willing to be his sheep. And knowing that the shepherd bestows his spiritual benefits on all his sheep. So, when you put your head on the pillow at night sleep well knowing that your Shepherd watches over you with provision and protection. And when you wake in the morning acknowledge that you need the Shepherd to go with you and lead you into “paths of righteousness”.