“If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war — not missiles but microbes. We are not ready for the next epidemic” – these were the words Bill Gates said at the beginning of his speech at TED Talk conference on April 3, 2015.
People have always feared disasters, but they have not always been able to sense their nature. Microsoft Corporation’s co-founder said the prevailing fear during his childhood years was the potential triggering of nuclear warfare. Many people stocked up on food and water and were prepared to barricade themselves inside their basements or bomb shelter if a nuclear attack were to occur.
Four years after Gates’ speech, on December 12, 2019, the first news appeared about a group of people in Wuhan who had been affected by a type of pneumonia of unknown causes and immune to known treatments and vaccines. Having an extremely high transmission rate, the SARS-CoV-2 virus quickly spread all over the world in just a couple months.
On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a pandemic. And the world collapsed in a deafening silence.
Powerless in the face of the pandemic
I had initially been watching the news and feeling rather detached. It had been all about other people on the other side of the world. But then we found ourselves suddenly suffering from this virus in Europe: Italy, Spain. I realized it was right at the door when we were forced to stay inside our homes. Others, perhaps too many, were skeptical when it came to the severity of the crisis up until well-known people started getting sick — Prince Charles, Prince Albert of Monaco, Tom Hanks, Boris Johnson and others. The virus did not care who you were.
People started losing their jobs. Families that had been living paycheck to paycheck (as many of us do) were the ones worst hit. Families with young children no longer had the money to provide food. And I realized that was just the beginning.
We would hear about more and more acquaintances and friends of ours who were dying. For some of us, the tragedy may have even entered our own homes.
We have all grown to understand – now more than ever – how little control we have over many things in our lives.
We try to achieve balance, strategically stocking up on things we might need. But despite our efforts, vulnerability and insecurity are still there. They are real. They are right there — when you wait in line at the grocery store and avoid making eye contact with the man wearing a face mask in front of you; when you tremble at every cough around you; when a loved one has fever and coughs; when you think twice about whether or not to call an ambulance, even for an illness other than COVID-19.
It is a time when all of us have become aware that there are so many things that could affect our lives and that are beyond our control. We must stay locked inside our homes precisely because we are able to control only a small part of what might happen to us.
For too long we have nurtured the false impression that we have control over our lives. But this crisis has come, reminding us once again of our vulnerabilities and limitations. And this awareness can be frightening.
In many ways, how we perceive ourselves determines how we perceive a lot of other things.
Looking into the eyes of our losses
Losing everything in one day. The Holy Scripture tells the story of Job, whose life was turned upside down in only one day: he went bankrupt and lost all his children in an accident. After a while, his health deteriorated dramatically. What made Job hold on when his loved ones pushed him toward a mental breakdown?
“I have a mind like you, I am not lower than you,” said Jobe, who after analyzing his situation came to the conclusion: “But know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see Him with my own eyes — I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19: 25-27).
There are many who see those who believe in God as antiquated, weak-minded people who are poor in spirit. But this is not who we are in reality. We have a mind, like them, only we use it to contemplate factors and premises that they refuse to even consider a possibility. Ignorance is not wisdom.
What kept Job strong when his life changed dramatically? His trust in God. Because God is trustworthy, even when we do not understand why things happen to us the way they do.
On the verge of death. Hezekiah was one of Israel’s kings whose life had changed dramatically in a single day. The prophet Isaiah told him to put his house in order because he would die. It is hard to imagine what it is like to know that you are going to die. Some of those who work in the healthcare system say people die the way they lived.
So too did king Hezekiah. He turned his face toward God and prayed, as was his custom. Whenever he had problems, not insignificant at all, he turned toward God and asked for His help. He did the same when death was approaching. And God answered as always: “I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you” (2 Kings 20: 5).
Hezekiah trusted God, but unfortunately things changed later in his life. Sometimes you just trust God until you overcome your crisis. Until the problem is resolved. And not every prayer we address to God is actually working toward our good.
When things happen differently than what we expected. The life of John the Baptist radically changed in a single day. The greatest of the prophets is captured and thrown into prison. He ends up at the beck and call of a teenager, of a woman’s hatred and of the weakness and helplessness of a politician. And God does nothing. The Messiah, the One for Whom He had prepared the way, shows no sign of interest. Doubtful, with his confidence shaken, John sends his disciples to Jesus to ask Him a single question: “Are you the One who is to come, or should we expect someone else?“ (Luke 7:20). In response, He has been given a report of a day of Jesus’ life and this following thought: “Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me“ (Luke 7:23). And John understands and dies with unwavering faith in the Messiah to Whom he had prepared the way.
The solution is trust
Those who are responsible for finding solutions to this pandemic tell us that they work for our good. Consequently, they ask us to have confidence in their ability to control the pandemic and to finally find the treatment and life-saving vaccine. Whom can we trust in the midst of the crisis? Some say the military, others say the church, the president or the doctors. But how many of us trust God? Nothing humbles a person more than the awareness of his own existence before a holy and omnipotent God.
The fact that He created the world is not enough to fully reveal God’s power (although it is not easy to shape a planet and especially life), nor can the flood that destroyed the planet reveal it (although it takes quite some force to sweep the face of Earth like that). God’s power is revealed in its fullness by His presence and by His love for us.
A present God. “He changes times and seasons; He deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; He knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with Him” (Daniel 2:21-22).
Tens, hundreds and even thousands of years ago, He told us what was going to happen. Those of you reading this statement with skepticism are free to carefully read the book of Daniel and the book of Revelation. The Scriptures reveal to us something that is not known by many: God knows and tells us what He knows. It is not to calm our curiosity, but for us to remember what He said when the events will unleash before us and thus to have more confidence in what He tells us.
I believe that prophecies are one of the most categorical proofs of God’s presence in this planet’s course and in our human lives.
Many of us can talk about His presence in our lives, and in these days of isolation and silence we can talk about this reality so that others may learn about Him and come to trust Him.
A God who loves. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life“ (John 3:16). Perhaps this is the best-known verse within the Holy Scriptures. It is also called the “golden text“, and it frames an undeniable reality: there is no greater proof of love than to give everything you have for someone else. And who out there has anything more valuable than his own life?
Jesus gave us this answer: a life of self-sacrifice and an unjust but dignified death had been for Him more precious than keeping His life. Whether we are talking about children or the elderly, women or men, people who are tormented in their minds or relatives who wanted to heal their loved ones, mothers who mourned their sons or fathers who mourned their daughters, the incurable sick or the ones suffering for many years, no one would leave His presence without being helped, without being offered peace of mind.
Jesus chose to do good to those in need and He gave them a vast amount of undeniable evidence that God truly loves man, with a love that goes beyond simple words. . That is why man can trust God.
God is more than what we see. We like the image of a baby God. This makes us develop parental feelings. A baby is not a threat. There is something in Jesus as a baby that appeals to us more than the crucified Jesus. Because birth is more interesting than death, even if the death and resurrection of Jesus destroyed death itself. But the crucified Jesus does not leave us cold either — we empathize with suffering and we need hope.
However, we must not forget that Jesus is no longer a child. We are no longer dealing with a sweet baby lying in a manger. We are no longer dealing with the precocious 12-year-old child, who was talking to the rabbis at the temple, or the gentle preacher and teacher who healed people. We are dealing with the One who rose from the dead and in Whose presence John the apostle fell to the ground.
“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.“ (Psalm 27:13-14)
He is the only worthy of our trust. It all comes down to trust. In fact, this was the test that Eve and Adam failed. When the serpent deceived Eve, the question behind his question was “Do you trust God so much that you let Him decide what is best for you?“. The serpent implied that God wanted her to remain primitive, antique, incapable of being like Him. And from that day until today, humans have been choosing not to trust God. And ever since, God has done His best to regain our trust. Everyone wants to be trusted, but only a single One is absolutely trustworthy.
And he has proven it.
Marius Andrei serves as a pastor within the Seventh-day Adventist Church and he is a licensed psychotherapist.