by Cynthia Sundram
As of the end of June 2020, about 500,000 — half a million — people have died from COVID-19 worldwide. More than 10 million have been infected, with actual numbers likely to be higher due to the lack of diligent reporting and widespread testing in many nations.
Many people have lost jobs, with scores of businesses and national economies affected. The price of oil went negative for the first time in history underscoring the disease’s impact on the global economy. In the midst of the lockdowns, social problems have increased, suicides have increased, and domestic violence has increased.
Where is God in all this? Worse still — did this pandemic catch God by surprise?
What Do These Signs Point To?
The Bible is God’s Word that is living, that speaks to us of who God is, who we are in Him, what He desires from His people and also what is to come. There is much prophetic Scripture written about the time before Jesus’ Second Coming. The prophets and even Jesus shared in the Gospels of things that will take place specific to the time before He returns (Matt. 24, Mk. 13, Lk. 21).
Firstly, we must all be aware of the times we are living in. Many agree that we are seeing things escalate at a scale like never before. All of this points to the reality that we are currently living in a specific time and generation — the generation where Jesus will return.
In Matthew 24:3–14, Jesus gave us specific things to look out for in the time before His return. He warned of earthquakes, wars, rumors of war, pestilences, among many other things. Jesus did say “pestilences”. In fact, because He used the plural, it means that this coronavirus we are currently facing will not be the end. SARS and MERS both came and went, but now COVID-19 is here.
Jesus likened these signs to the “beginning of birth pangs” (Matt. 24:8), which in the context of giving birth, signals to a mother that her baby is about to be delivered. Birth pangs get more and more intense and frequent as the delivery of the baby draws closer. They alert the mother that her time to deliver is drawing near and to prepare her.
Similarly, COVID-19 is meant to alert us to the more intense times that are to come. We can expect diseases to come and go with greater intensity and frequency as we draw nearer to His return. So yes, while this pandemic will eventually be over, we can be sure that worse will come.
However, Jesus tells His people not to be troubled by all that we see happening (Matt 24:6). In fact, He proceeds to warn us of a more intense season of persecution that is ahead for His people (Matt. 24:15-22). This, and other signs, will intensify in magnitude and culminate with His Second Coming (Matt. 24:30-31).
As His people, the key is to know what God is alerting us to, and how to prepare ourselves for the more severe and intense things that are to come (Matt. 24:15 – 21).
Things Will Not Get Better, But We Can Grow Stronger, We Can Burn Brighter
In His grace and mercy, God always warns before judgments takes place. However, more than that, He also shows us how we should respond so that we can through His shakings, grow stronger and prepare for even more intense times to come. “Things will not get better, but we can grow stronger and we can burn brighter!”
In 2 Chronicles 7:13, God told Solomon that when He sends droughts, commands locusts to devour the land or sends pestilence among His people, He would respond with forgiveness of sins and healing of the land IF His people “humble themselves, and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways” (2 Chr. 7:14).
This is similar to Joel’s call to the ancient Israelites to rend their hearts and turn to God with wholeheartedness, and with fasting and prayer (Joel 2:12-17).
A Time To Turn To God
In a national crisis — or in our case a global crisis — God requires His people to turn back to Him!
Firstly, we need to know that we are also partly responsible for what is happening today. When His children are not walking fully in His ways or have sin in our lives, our heavenly Father does chastise and discipline us (Heb 12:6), oftentimes by sending shakings. In fact, judgment does begin in the family of the Lord (1 Pet. 4:17). Thus, shakings happen to get our attention. Shakings happen because God wants to remove sin in our lives.
We need to see our own condition and how we have fallen short of what God wants from us as His people. We need to lean in to Him and ask Him to anoint our eyes with eye salve so that we can see our living condition. Then we must repent and seek Him with all our heart (Rev. 3:18). God is using this divine “pause” to get our attention. He wants us, the people of God, to see that we have placed our security in the wrong places and then turn back to Him. Jesus is knocking on the doors of our heart (Rev. 3:20). Will we hear and let Him in?
He is so jealous for our love and so zealous for our fullness. If we hear and respond, we can be like the ones whose house is founded on the Rock so that even when the floods and the winds come, we will still stand (Matt. 7:24-25).
Secondly, how His people respond to Him can stop and even reverse the course of this pandemic. This is referred to as the “perhaps” of God, which the prophet Joel alluded to: “who knows if He will turn and relent and leave a blessing behind Him?” (Joel 2:13–14) Our God is a merciful God who desires to show mercy. In this we can be confident. If His people hear Him, turn and repent from our wicked ways, He will surely hear our cries and break in for us.
God is in this whole pandemic. If we have eyes to see, we can see that even in this disaster, He is working for the good of those who love Him, those whom He has called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28). However, there is a requirement for us. We must see and we must respond. Then, and only then, we might see God turn this crisis to a blessing.