As we know all too well, life can be hard. Even in the best of times, life can be hard. But now this, a pandemic? How are we to cope?
For starters, all it takes is a quick look through the Bible to notice something that’s pertinent, especially now. If you have a one-thousand-page Bible, then—with the exception of pages 1-2, and pages 999-1000—there is what? Page after page of happy people living in peace, prosperity, safety, comfort, and ease? Page after page, story after story, chapter after chapter of happy families in perfect health, people living in harmony with their neighbours, nations getting along with other nations, people never hurting or oppressing others, and the rich taking care of the poor?
Of course not. That is definitely not what one finds in the Bible. With the exception of the very beginning and the very end, Scripture depicts the painful reality of a fallen world, a world of sin, suffering, sickness, turmoil, loss and death. From the story of Adam and Eve, who faced the double loss of two children, one sibling killing the other (Genesis 4:8), to the book of Revelation’s depiction of end-time oppression and persecution (Revelation 14), the Bible portrays, over and over, the reality of human suffering in this world.
And yet, too, what else does it depict? It depicts over and over, the reality of God’s love. The Bible writers, many of whom suffered greatly—men who knew, as we know, the painful facts of life: war, famine, disease, pestilence, crime, hunger, natural disasters, injustice, poverty—could, nevertheless, write texts like the following:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Romans 8:35.
The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with loving kindness I have drawn you.” Jeremiah 31:3.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 138:1.
God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. 1 John 4:16.
These were men who knew suffering, trauma, and struggle—in some cases much more than what we, as individuals, might be suffering, even now, amid the pandemic. And yet they also knew God well enough to know and experience and rejoice in His love, despite the trials.
Might that be a message for us as well?
In other words, during this crisis (during any time, actually), we need to know God for ourselves, to know Him and to know, personally, the reality of His love.
Thus, we must come to Jesus, and accept that we are corrupt, fallen, selfish beings who deserve only condemnation from God. The words of Paul, written almost two thousand years ago (in which he was quoting words written almost a thousand years before him) are so appropriate today:
There is none righteous, no, not one;
There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.
Their throat is an open tomb.
But the Good News is that, despite us being like this, God loves us, and loves us so much that Jesus came and died for us. Christ came into the world, not to condemn us for our evil but to save us from it. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17).
No matter who you are, what you have done, by faith you can have salvation in Jesus, by admitting your sins, by confessing your sins, and by claiming His salvation for you.
If you feel that you don’t deserve it, you’re right. You don’t. Which is precisely why Christ died for you. And the glorious plan of the Gospel is that you can know, for yourself, the reality of God’s love for you, personally, by knowing that you are accepted in Jesus, despite your past.
There’s no better way to know and experience for yourself the reality of God’s love than living, day by day, in the light of the cross and knowing that, despite all that’s in you, despite even your struggles now, Christ died for you and offers you salvation. Dwelling on this truth, meditating on this truth, believing this truth, sharing this truth, and living this truth by ministering to others—this is how you come to know the reality of God’s love.
It’s hard to fully explain, or to fully understand, but by obeying God, by following what He has told us to do, we come to known Him better. “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments” (1 John 5:3). So much pain, so much suffering, comes from our own willful disobedience to God.
Sure, there’s enough pain and suffering that has not been caused by us, such as this present crisis. But we were originally created by God to obey God, and by obeying God, by doing His will—which includes, more than anything else, ministering to the needs of others—we can draw closer to Him and come to know Him better. This is a truth that you cannot learn from a book, nor is it a truth that you can learn from someone else. It is a truth that you can experience only for yourself.
Obeying the Lord is a powerful way to come to know His love for you, and it will kindle in you a love for Him, as well.
No matter who we are, no matter our situation in life, we surely have things to be thankful for—especially for the plan of salvation, especially for the knowledge that Christ died for you and that you can have the promise of eternal life in Him.
But there’s more, isn’t there? Surely you have other things to be thankful for. How important, then, to be thankful for them! Praise God for them. Dwell on them. Recount them.
The Bible is filled with prayers and expressions of thanksgiving, even by people who had it a lot worse than you might have now:
Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.
(1 Chronicles 16:34)
Be anxious for nothing, 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 minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7.
Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:19-20.
The Bible is packed with references like these, written by people like us—people who knew pain, suffering, crisis, and so forth—and yet, amid them, despite them, were able to be thankful to God. You have much to be thankful to God for, too. Express that thankfulness every day—express it to yourself, to others, and to God. By doing that, you will come to know Him and His love for you.
Also, be the kind of person that others can be thankful to God for.
Our world can be a place of stunning beauty; a stunning beauty that speaks not only of God’s power but of His love. Every flower, every grain of wheat, every apple tree—they all speak so loudly of the Creator’s love for humanity. Some might want to believe that the blind forces of evolution created peaches, pears, plums, strawberries, lemons, grapefruit, tomatoes, avocadoes, blueberries and bananas—and on and on and on. (The human capacity for self-deception is astonishing!)
But for those whose eyes are open to the reality around them—a reality not tainted and coloured by the great myths of the modern age (materialism, atheism, evolution)—nature speaks loudly of God’s love, and in every language too. As David wrote: “There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard” (Psalm 19:3). In other words, nature speaks to everyone about God’s power and love, even if not everyone listens or understands what it is saying.
To whatever degree possible—even if it’s just marveling at the head of cabbage on your plate—luxuriate in the marvels of creation and at the power and love of the Creator. The mere fact that we are here, that we exist, that this world exists, that the head of cabbage on your plate exists, is a miracle, the result of so many things that happened that absolutely did not have to happen, but did, anyway. From the beauty of a sunset, to the singing of birds, to the amazingly complicated process of blood clotting—everything in nature emphatically proclaims a loving God.
Of course, right now some might argue: “That’s rich—in the middle of a pandemic talking about the wonders of nature!” But the mere fact that the pandemic is deemed so bad, so out of the ordinary, speaks volumes about the ordinary and about how good it most often is.
Yes, ours is a fallen world; as we said, the Bible—with the exception of the first and last few pages—tells the story of what it’s like to live in that world. But even amid the horrors of the pandemic, above it and beyond it, is still the wonder and beauty of creation, which, even in its corruption, still speaks, loudly and powerfully and clearly, about the love of its Creator.
There is an old song with the lyrics, “No one promised you a rose garden.” No one, not even God, promised us a rose garden, at least not here and now. But something better is promised at the end of the age: “In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him” (Revelation 22:2-3).
Until then, we live in this world, which the Bible says is going to get worse before it gets better. But, when better, when redone and remade, it will be better than we can ever imagine. And it’s not that hard to believe either, not when we can know and experience the love of God now, even amid Covid-19 (or whatever other trials have come, because, as we know, even before the pandemic life was hard enough). We can know His love by 1) trusting in Him for salvation, 2) obeying Him, 3) being thankful to Him, and 4) marveling at His creation.
Then, we, along with the Bible writers—even now, amid our troubles as they had theirs—will loudly proclaim, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).
Clifford Goldstein is an American author and editor. He holds a master’s degree in Ancient Northwest Semitic languages from Johns Hopkins University.