The Christian life does not have such a thing as an “accidental cause.” God uses specific times to fulfill specific purposes which he has ordained for our lives. He puts us in places and situations that help us to be conformed unto Christlikeness and to know him more experientially. I am certainly experiencing this as I write this article from a government-assigned institutional quarantine centre in Manipur, where I have been staying for the last 34 days! The journey of being transported from a year of pastoral internship to a room of seven complete strangers has been quite an experience!
In the midst of the challenges and uncertainties, I have continued to experience God’s goodness and love. God is good and is loving towards his children in all the circumstances of our lives, because his goodness and love are embroidered in every aspect of human life. Isn’t it amazing that even a COVID-19 quarantine centre cannot prevent God from manifesting the glory of his goodness and love before our eyes? I pray that you will be encouraged as I share my reflections from my stay here.
God Loves Sinners Like You and Me
Ever since we’ve come to the quarantine centre, people look at me and my co-residents very differently. It feels very strange. Even though not all of us are infected, we are all viewed as “carriers” of the COVID-19 virus. So, people make sure to maintain a certain distance when they are talking to us. They are constantly using sanitizers, and keep spraying even the ground we stand on. It is disheartening that even my loved ones have to maintain distance to have a conversation with me. We are like untouchables!
This reminds me of Paul’s teaching in his Epistle to the Romans. Every one of us has sin in us (Rom. 3:11), which is much more deadly than the virus of COVID-19. Sin is in our DNA. And before the God who is thrice holy, we fall short in every way (Rom. 3:23). Yet, God did not leave us in our sin. For in his great love he sent his only begotten beloved Son for the atonement of our sins. Christ came to redeem us, and to fully cleanse us from our sins. While we were sinners, while we were untouchables, while we were sin-carriers, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8). He paid the price on our behalf. He justifies us by grace through faith, adopts us, sanctifies us, and will glorify us one day. Now there is no social distance between us and the love of God our Father in Christ Jesus our Lord. Praise God for such love!
Only God Does Not Change
The pandemic has brought various changes to our lives, regardless of where we are. It has changed the course of the world socially and economically. Travelling across state and national borders is not normal any longer, and parks are no longer full of children playing. The pandemic has affected our relationships too. I came across news of people refusing to take their family member’s dead body for cremation in fear of COVID-19 infection. It has also changed the way people look at each other. In fact, when we arrived at the centre, one of the officers advised us to suspect one another and to maintain strict social distancing. Life has definitely changed a lot over the last few months.
Though the changes are undeniable, and we see its reality in front of our eyes, we have a greater reality that should bind our conscience: our God never changes. His love for us never changes. His goodness towards us remains the same. He embraces us still today. In Christ, he is still our Heavenly Father today. We can still go before his throne of grace boldly without dressing ourselves with PPE and spraying ourselves with sanitizers. Our access before him is not locked down because in Christ he is still welcoming, ready to hear our supplications. His promise to not forsake us still stands today amidst the various changes the pandemic has brought about around us. So, the truth of God’s unchanging-ness should be nearest to a Christian’s heart in such a time of crisis. It is indeed a sweet comfort to our hearts.
God Gives us Certainty
There is no certain ground for us to say we are safe physically from the ongoing pandemic. We don’t know whom this uninvited guest is visiting next. The uncertainty sticks with us even if we are using numerous disinfectants, hand sanitizers, and soaps. We are bombarded through various media outlets and platforms with the news of the daily rise of cases. Even Manipur, which was once a green zone, has crossed 800 active cases in a few days. Some are paranoid and others are anxious. A healthy person today may be confirmed as positive tomorrow. No one knows what will happen next.
But we Christians stand on solid ground in the arms of our Heavenly Father. God is our unfailing ground amidst all possible uncertainties. He is our all-wise, sovereign, loving Father. Even if we get infected, He will not leave us there alone. He will be with us. And if he allows the virus to infect us and even kill us, we are certain that its end is not for our harm but our good, and ultimately his glory. His loving righteous right hand will lead us through. And because He is the ruler of the world who knows us by name, we have no cause to doubt his goodness and grace He has towards us in Christ. This goodness and love of our sovereign God is the reality that carries us through these days of uncertainty.
God’s love, unchanging-ness, and certainty have been a comfort to me during my stay at the quarantine centre. Indeed there are times when frustration knocks at the door. But in those times, the love of our sovereign God is the pillow on which I rest. Such a time is bitter-sweet—bitter while enduring but its fruit is sweet. For God uses time like this to draw us closer to Him. The temptation for us to grumble and question the goodness of God may arise but may we remember what the Psalmist says in Psalm 34:8, “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! He already is good. His goodness cannot be marred by the brokenness of the world around us. So taste Him! He is good. He is love. He is gracious. And he does not change. Taste Him today! Taste Him now!
May we not be discouraged by our brokenness but be encouraged by the extravagant goodness and love of our gracious God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and ever.
Note: The author wrote this article on June 24th, 2020 from a government-assigned institutional quarantine centre in Manipur, from where he was able to return home on June 25th 2020.