As the Coronavirus pandemic unfolds and nations take increasingly extreme measures to combat the virus, every person’s life and every sector of society has been affected. Lives have been turned upside down, industries have collapsed, plans have evaporated and the tragic loss of life continues to escalate. And through the outbreak and subsequent social and political consequences, most of the things we have traditionally looked to for life security have come crashing down. So how can we find security in the pandemic?
The Security of the World
There are many different things in which people place their life security, that have collapsed under the effects of the pandemic. Here are a few:
Personal good health is one of the most basic and simple of endowments in which many find their security. “At least I have good health” is an often-repeated positive mantra that gets people through tough times. Life expectancy is increasing, modern healthcare can accomplish feats that would have been fantastical a few decades ago, and the right to health is immutably enshrined in the UN Declaration of Human Rights. But of course, from East to West, young to old, rich to poor, healthy to co-morbid, Coronavirus is threatening the security we all place in our health.
We are brought up in the West from a young age learning that if we work hard, we will earn a good salary, and if we earn a good salary, we will be secure for life. But now, the global markets are tanking, huge swathes of the economy have closed down, and thousands have lost their jobs. And even the money we do have is now not the reliable source of sustenance we had previously relied on; due to stock-piling and panic-buying, it is now difficult to locate even basic supplies like bread and toilet roll in the supermarket.
I (perhaps because of my Asian upbringing) grew up on a diet of “education will open doors”. Many believe that excellence in education is the route to life security, and thus many parents will pay thousands to get it for their children. But the education system is now frozen in time. Schools and universities have closed, exams have been cancelled, and students’ educational futures are in limbo. Many students are now asking ‘what is going to become of my future, without my grades?’.
For lots of young people, the image of “security” conjures up thoughts of being in a settled, happy relationship, often with children who will grow up to be able to look after us in our frailty. For others, the image of security will be of having a strong and secure set of friends or colleagues who will be there for us in our hour of need. But because of social distancing and self-isolation, relationships are being tested, both through prolonged separation and prolonged co-habitual confinement. And maintaining relationships is especially challenging for those who do not have access or ability to use social media.
Arguably the most substantial area we find security as human beings is in our ability to control our future. I think we feel most secure when the decisions are in our hands, and the future is set by us. And this may be the most wide-reaching impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. We have all lost control of our diaries and plans for the next few months. Many have lost control of their financial security, or employment future, or educational attainment. And in the UK, we are all under a government-imposed lock-down, and have lost the freedom to travel and socialise as we please.
Many of the things that we as humans have traditionally found our security in have come crashing down as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. So is there something else? Is there something that we can put our security in, that will stand no matter what the pandemic throws at us?
A Greater Security?
Most readers of my blog will know that I am a Christian. Christianity makes some bold, but I think credible, claims about our deepest needs for security and where security can be found.
In the Matthew 7, as Jesus closes the so-called “Sermon on the Mount”, He tells a parable of two imaginary house-builders:
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.
The story is a simple one. It seems to me that the houses are metaphors for the lives we build for ourselves, whilst the storms symbolise the trials and tribulations that shake and batter our lives. And whether a life stands or falls in adversity depends on the foundations on which its security is built.
As we have seen above, health, money, education and control are all like the sandy foundations- they have been brought crashing down by the trials of pandemic. So what is the solid rock which gives security in life’s storm?
In v24, Jesus states unambiguously that the “rock” is obedience to Jesus’ words. As the crowds noted in v28-29, Jesus was claiming immense authority for Himself. He was not claiming to be simply a wise teacher like some atheists propose, nor a prophet like Muslims teach, nor even an angel like Jehovah’s Witnesses claim. Rather, Jesus claimed to be the King of Heaven- God Himself in human form. Here is how Jesus starts His ministry in the book of Matthew: From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matt 4:17)
Jesus taught that He was King of a Heavenly kingdom- a kingdom that was beyond this world and therefore was strong enough to withstand any trial or pandemic this world could conjure up. And Jesus offers citizenship of this secure, Heavenly kingdom through obedience to his call to repentance.
The bible teaches that pandemics, sickness, and indeed all suffering, finds its origins in mankind’s disobedience to God. God gave humanity a moral framework by which we could live in perfect harmony with God and creation, without pain, suffering, disease or death. But we, as mankind, chose to reject God’s moral framework and instead chose to be the moral arbiters of our own lives. We cut ourselves off from the source of life, and brought disease, suffering and mortality on ourselves. But God loved us enough to rescue us, by descending to Earth in the man of Jesus, who lived, taught, and then in a mysterious but beautiful way, died the death deserved by us. Three days later, He rose from the dead, proving that there truly is hope of life beyond the grave in God’s eternal Kingdom. And Jesus taught the we can have secure citizenship of this Heavenly Kingdom by repenting- which means turning our back on disobedience to God, and instead following Him as our Lord, saviour, friend and father.
Finding Security During the Pandemic
This pandemic has made me very grateful for being Christian. As the world’s securities have come crashing down, I have found myself clinging onto the security I find in Jesus and His promise of citizenship of the Kingdom of Heaven for those who repent. This does not make facing this pandemic easy. Tears still fill my eyes when I see bays of patients dying from the virus, unable to be surrounded by family. Fears for my physical health still plague me as I don my face mask and apron. Cries of “why” still leave my lips as I see lives devastated by bereavement, redundancy or illness. But my security in Jesus gives me peace beyond understanding, and I long for everyone around me to experience it too. If there really is a God, maybe now, more than ever, is the time to seek Him out?