As the COVID-19 pandemic accelerates, Christians are on the hook. We are questioned about if a good God really exists and if our prayers and hope matter in what feels like a godless situation.
Not only are people suffering and dying, but the fabric of society seems ripped apart as schools and businesses close. Workers are facing layoffs, shift cuts, and unpaid furloughs. Retirees are watching 30% of their nest egg evaporate overnight as the stock market plummets. In America, the outbreak has further exposed partisan politics and pitted families and friends against one another. As I sit in my home, living under a mandatory shelter-in-place order, these realities weigh heavily on my heart.
1. We demand for a good God to prevent all of this bad stuff, and we desire a different reality.
2. We feel that we have lost all control and security.
Why do we feel that our circumstances aren’t as they should be? After all, if God is not present and we only believe in forces like natural selection and the survival of the fittest, in the inevitability of entropy, would we not expect and resign ourselves to the world proceeding exactly this way?
Yet I see all of us fighting against this reality with every fiber of our being. Whether folks are adamantly denying the virus’ threat, or crusading for stronger social distancing — we are eager to change the course of this battle. We sense deep down that we aren’t created to live in panic and survival mode. We hate death. We crave being in community—not isolation. We sense that our lives have greater meaning than simply muddling through a happenstance existence created by a Big Bang.
I think all these things point toward the narrative we find in Christian teaching — in the Bible. God lovingly creates this world, and places mankind in it as his greatest, most-treasured creation, and endows us with the high calling to steward this planet and everything in it. He tells us frequently that we need community, whether creating woman to walk alongside man, calling people together to worship and celebrate, or reminding us that we are better together, as iron sharpens iron.
We also see a narrative of restoration, healing, and flourishing. We are called to be a blessing to each other and the world. And when we fall far short of that, God continues to intervene to put us back on that path of transformation and renewal.
Our sense of purpose and resistance to the brokenness and suffering in the world does not make sense if the world was just here by happenstance. This all points toward a tug each of us feels in our heart for a creator, and the path and story he’s carved out for us. I am grateful the Bible also points to a God that certainly does not leave us to face the brokenness of the world alone. The Bible tells us Jesus is Emmanuel, a name that means “God with us.” God came to walk alongside us and carve a path back to relationship with him, and usher in a new era where eventually all things will be redeemed.
Our deep sense that we have lost our control and our security is really hard, especially for Americans. Robert Livermore, an expert in cross-cultural communications, characterizes “typical” Americans as having a collective sense of rugged individualism. We think we can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps if we just work harder, and longer, and smarter.
COVID-19 has wiped away any illusion that our jobs, our homes, our health, or our finances were ever truly under our control. The crazy hoarding of toilet paper, dry goods, and hand sanitizer tells us that we are desperate to determine our own fate. Yet what if that desperation existed before the pandemic, and this pandemic is just exposing these flawed choices?
Scripture tells us that sin is choosing things other than God. It translates as “missing the mark.” We are created in God’s good image, for good things, and we’re all fairly well-intentioned. But then we veer off course, placing our careers, lust, wealth, power, or social media influence in the place only God should be. Then things inevitably go wrong and we are devastated, unable to cope with our sense of loss.
Yet some people seem remarkably unshaken by the pandemic. They take the 401(k) alerts in stride, albeit with disappointment. They juggle their kids on their conference calls with a laugh and recalibrate their goals, though they are tired. And they seem simply grateful and calm and have a readily available antidote for anxiety. These people are often Christians.
They do not fear death — certainly, they hate it, for it is not for which we were made — but they see it as a natural gateway to the next season, and rest assured of continuing the journey over eternity with God. They trust that they cannot lose the most valuable thing, the thing that never fades or disappoints: the certainty that God is walking alongside them every step of the way.
I invite you to consider that your deep instinct that there is something very broken about our world in this moment points to a good creator, who indeed intended something different—something better—for us and our world. And if you begin to believe that is true, what else might be true in the Bible?
Might it challenge us to give up our worldly sense of control and security that was never real?
Might God have something far more precious and steadfast to offer?
Kate Kruizenga is passionate about solving thorny problems, hiking and backpacking in God's incredible creation, and oat milk chai lattes. She and her family live in Oakland, California where she's been a part of Solano Community Church for the last decade and has served in a variety of leadership roles. Kate leads Human Capital Strategy and Operations at Dropbox, and is a part of the Propel Cohort at Wheaton College. Find and follow Kate on Instagram and connect on LinkedIn.