The increasing media coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic and the interruptions this virus has caused have largely taken the world by surprise.
Whole sports seasons are being put on hold, entire school and college campuses are closing, and many people around the world find themselves largely “shut in” at home for the foreseeable future – all owing to the fact that COVID-19 is steadily saturating the world.
Thankfully, our Heavenly Father is not surprised by these recent global events. Scripture is clear that He is at work – and that He is offering our families a powerful opportunity in the midst of a global crisis.
The Sovereignty of God in the COVID-19 Pandemic
“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place…” (Acts 17:24-26).
Though the Apostle Paul spoke these words to the residents of Athens nearly 2,000 years ago, the truths of Acts 17 have striking implications for us today. These verses remind us that God, in His sovereignty, has not only fearfully and wonderfully created every person on the planet, but that He has also ordained the places and the times which we inhabit. Applied to our contemporary situation, God Himself has ordained for us and for our children to be alive and to endure the realities surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. And He has done so with a gracious and guiding intent:
“[That] they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us…” (Acts 17:27).
Sanctification through Suffering
I realize that the implications of Acts 17 can be a hard pill to swallow, especially for the families who are most adversely affected by the spread of COVID-19. How can God be good if he draws people to seek him through disruption, suffering, and even death?
Scripture’s answer to that question is simple, yet profound. The foundation of God’s rescue mission to seek and save the lost has always hinged upon disruption, suffering, and death: not that which we ourselves endure, but rather that which Christ endured for us.
Consider the hope of our salvation. Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, left heaven for earth to take on human skin and to live fully as one of us:
- Experiencing disruptions, as we now experience disruptions. The account of Lazarus in John 11 reminds us that Jesus had to re-arrange His personal travel itinerary as a result of His friend’s sickness and eventual death.
- Suffering, even as we now suffer. The stunning words of Isaiah 53:4-6 remind us that Jesus, God’s suffering servant, is well acquainted with both physical affliction and emotional turmoil. Our sorrows, our griefs, our infirmities, our afflictions: Jesus knows them all, for He carried them all for us.
- Dying, even as we face now death. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), and the gospel is good news because the death that we each deserve on account of our sinfulness was laid upon Jesus on the cross. Death no longer has a claim on those who are in Christ! The price of sin is fully paid! Not only that, but in Jesus’ resurrection we find hope of new life: a New Heaven and a New Earth in which sin is no more, in which we dwell in communion with God, and in which weeping, pain, and death are banished forever (Revelation 21:1-5).
Because of these gospel-realities, Christian families have great reason for hope in these dark and uncertain days. Our present afflictions related to COVID-19 are a participation in the life-giving sufferings of our Savior (1 Peter 4:13). What’s more, our present afflictions are not disconnected from a beyond-all-comparison-reward that’s being laid up for us through these afflictions: namely God himself! (See 2 Corinthians 4:17-28).
Acts 17:27 reminds us that we don’t have to wait; we can begin to enjoy that reward here-and-now! Our Emmanuel-God is not far from any one of us. He is familiar with our sufferings; He is truly with us. He has decreed for us to live in these days of unprecedented uncertainty, in order that we might seek and find Him. And in seeking and finding, that we might understand more clearly the certainty of His presence, the limitlessness of His faithfulness, and marvels of His “All-Things-New” redemption that is coming (Revelation 21:5).
If your family is like mine or like some of the other families in our church, then you’re familiar with phrases such as:
- “Our extracurricular schedules make it hard to be together. How can I talk to my kids about the things of the Lord?”
- “With the travel sport-schedule the way that it is, how could we possibly worship together on a Sunday?”
- “I just wish there was I way I could help my child take their faith more seriously.”
For all of the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, many of our families find themselves with time like never before. This means that, as parents, we have an opportunity like never before to invite our children to take advantage of an incredible, God-ordained opportunity: the invitation to dwell with Him in the chaos. The invitation to seek Him in the time and space we now have. The invitation to realize that he is not far from any one of us. The invitation to know that He is near.
How can you go about communicating this invitation? Here are some starter-points for the journey ahead:
- Do things together that are normally difficult to manage with your family’s schedule: take walks together (as you are able), play board games together, watch movies together, etc.! Delight in your children; then point them to the delight their Heavenly Father has for them through Christ.
- As you reflect on the COVID-19-related news headlines, do so with Isaiah 53 nearby. As you grieve, thank Jesus for the grief he experienced on our behalf. As you suffer, thank Jesus for bearing our afflictions. Etc.
- The Community Bible Reading Journal (CBR Journal) is a great way to get even the most inexperienced Bible-readers listening to Scripture through a gospel-centered hermeneutic – and to do so in community. Consider getting CBR Journals into the hands of your family, and then take time to talk about your reflections, together. (Learn more about the CBR Journal here!)
- Select a book to read together as a family. You can find some excellent suggestions on the “Recommendations for Teens” tab of the Rooted Ministry website.
- Find appropriate, health-conscious ways to address COVID-19-related needs…then pray for and serve your community together as a family.
What ideas do you have for shepherding your children in the days ahead? Leave your recommendations in the comments section so that others can learn from you!