Millions of people are, as of this writing, being denied— for the very first time — the freedom to come and go as they please and to be physically close to other people. The alternative is to risk illness, or even death, due to a disease caused by a new virus our government and the health care industry were unprepared to control. As we watch morbidity and mortality numbers tick ever upward, education is being put on hold, and incomes are being put at risk, we tend to ask “If God is love, why is He allowing this to happen?”
During the winter of 1975-76, with limited finances, I lived alone in a small Midwestern town. Snow had melted and refrozen, creating a glaze on sidewalks and streets that lasted until spring. The sky was completely overcast for six weeks. I was a stranger with no telephone, no TV, no radio, no transportation. But, I had a Bible. With little else to occupy my spare time, I began reading Genesis and continued through the end of Revelation. I had grown up in church; but, there was so much of the Word of God I had never been exposed to before this period of isolation. I did not immediately give my life to Christ; but, it was as if sixty-six hounds of Heaven were chasing me until I surrendered.
I met a man who claimed the summer he and his wife were so sick neither of them had the energy to leave their home was the turning point in their marriage. Without the distraction of jobs, friends or social activities, they helped each other to meet their basic needs. They shared their dreams, their fears, their history. Being stuck with each other for three months without relief, they might have killed each other, or at least driven each other crazy. But, Christ was at the center of their marriage; and a three-fold cord is not easily broken.
Numerous inmates and ex-offenders have told me that they were grateful to God that they were arrested. If they had been free to stay on the street, their lives and the lives of people they touched would have become worse, or even prematurely ended. Although there are those who relapse, there are others who use this time of quarantine to allow the Lord to reshape their lives.
In recent weeks, we have added new concepts to our language: novel coronavirus, COVID-19, social distancing, self-quarantining, containment zones, etc. We make jokes about not shaking people’s hands because they may have run out of toilet paper. People are buying guns to protect their stash of hand sanitizer. No, this is not the Apocalypse. And, you cannot blame God for COVID-19. Dis-ease is the result of Adam’s sin. Like the Spanish flu of 1918, the current pandemic is a consequence of lack of preparation by governments due to short-sighted political and fiscal restraints. Whether there will or will not be a COVID-20, we as individuals and as a world community can learn infection control from this experience.
We have an opportunity to let the Holy Spirit do a new thing in us- to draw us nearer to God, to trust Him in this crisis. For the sake of people around us, we use all available resources to prevent the spread of this contagion. (Thank God for electronic communications media.) Although we may be physically isolated, we can yet show kindness to others who are under tremendous stress as we all attempt to adapt to this hitherto inconceivable paradigm.
Homer McQueen serves as assistant pastor of Mt. Carmel Church of God in Christ, secretary at In His Shadow Outreach Ministries, chaplain for the Sherman District Parole Office, ministry volunteer for the Texas Youth Commission and Texas Department of Criminal Justice, a part-time pharmacist, and a full-time husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.