Three lessons from COVID-19
The disease COVID-19 is spreading rapidly across the world. By 4 April 2020 over 58,900 deaths have been attributed to the virus and secondary pneumonia. Governments have introduced stringent measures to combat it, which are having negative social and economic impacts.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is a positive-sense single-stranded RNA virus. It is contagious in humans and is the cause of the ongoing pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) that was designated a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the World Health Organization (WHO) in January 2020 and a pandemic in March 2020.
Here’s three lessons we can learn from COVID-19.
We are not invincible
Each SARS-CoV-2 virion is approximately 50–200 nanometres in diameter. This means that 5-20 million of these molecules could fit into a distance of one meter. It’s amazing that a microscopic virus can have a global impact on human health. A tiny virus has brought modern civilization to its knees. Human knowledge and technology is amazing, but it struggles to control the spread of a small virus. It shows that some things are beyond our control.
When we are young we can feel as though we can do almost anything. We can plan our lives as though nothing will interrupt them. But now everyone’s plans have been interrupted and overturned by a microscopic virus! I can no longer visit an aged care facility, do gardening or bushwalk (hike) with a group, or go to church. Most social and sporting activities are cancelled. In fact, outside my family, I can only meet up with one other person at a time. So we can’t do many of the things we usually do on a regular basis. Our way of life has been disrupted. Many are confined inside houses. It’s very limiting.
So the coronavirus pandemic reminds us of our limitations and weaknesses. And sin is our ultimate weakness. We are not omnipotent (all powerful) like God. A physical weakness kept Paul humble and helped him to realize God’s awesome power (2 Cor. 12:7-10). That’s the first lesson from COVID-19, it keeps us humble by reminding us of our weakness and our need to rely on God’s strength. We pray more when we are weak. In this way COVID-19 can draw us closer to God.
We are not immune
The British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, Prince Charles, and Prince Albert II of Monaco have all tested positive for COVID-19. As have actor Tom Hanks and his wife, actress Rita Wilson. The disease is no respecter of persons! Anyone can get it because there is no vaccine for COVID-19. No one is immune to COVID-19.
There is another pandemic that has infected the whole world that is far more lethal than COVID-19. This pandemic is 100% fatal and it not only affects our physical life now but also life that follows physical death. The pandemic is caused by a “virus” called sin. Each and every person who has ever been born on this planet is born with this “spiritual virus”. For the one afflicted, there is no remedy; it will end with the person suffering the process of dying forever.
Fortunately there is a “vaccine” that gives complete immunity. There was one exception; the only person who ever lived who did not sin. This was God’s own Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He humbled Himself to become a human being and died to pay the penalty for our sins so that we could be restored back into a relationship with the holy God. When we place our trust in Christ we receive eternal life; we are cured from the curse of sin.
So the spread of the coronavirus pandemic reminds us of our sinfulness. But we can’t isolate ourselves from sin because it’s source is internal and not external. Instead we need to repent of our sin. We are not sinless like God. But we can have our sins forgiven. Faith in Jesus Christ doesn’t make us immune against the coronavirus. But it can give us peace as we trust our daily lives to His care, whatever the circumstances. The Bible says, “cast all your anxiety on Him [God] because He cares for you” (1 Pt.5:7NIV). That’s the second lesson from COVID-19; its spread reminds us of our sin and the antidote which is to put our lives into God’s hands.
We are not immortal
COVID-19 can be deadly for the elderly and those with underlying health conditions including comprised immune or respiratory systems. The elderly are at the greatest risk of dying if infected with this virus (Appendix).
When death threatens us, it makes us see our own mortality. 100% of us die! It’s a certainty (until the rapture). We all die of something (including old age). Not matter how well we look after ourselves with good diet, exercise and sleep, our bodies eventually degenerate until we die. Death comes sooner or later. Are you ready to die? That’s a hard question!
The Bible says, “Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty. But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble; soon they disappear, and we fly away ” (Ps. 90:10NLT). And, “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom” (Ps. 90:12NLT). It’s important to realize the brevity of life because we may not reach 70 or 80 years of age. So we need to be ready now.
After a person’s death, their eternal destiny is eternally fixed. We die as a punishment for our sin; it is both temporal death of the human body and eternal death as separation from God. But death is not the final end of people; after death, there is either judgment or salvation (Heb. 9:27). There is salvation for those who trust in Jesus because He took the penalty for our sin. But there is judgment for those who reject this gift.
Jesus said, “Whoever believes in the Son [Jesus Christ] has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them” (Jn. 3:36NIV). Salvation is received by believing that Jesus is the Son of God who died to take the penalty of our sin (Jn. 3:15-16). The best way to be prepared for whatever happens in the future is to trust in Jesus and follow His guidance for us in the Bible.
So the coronavirus pandemic reminds us of our mortality. That’s the third lesson from COVID-19. Life is brief and we need to prepare for life after death.
God is invincible, immune and immortal
Although we are not invincible or immune or immortal, it’s good to know that God has these characteristics. This illustrates some of the differences between the Creator and His creation. God is sovereign. Our life and destiny are His hands, not that of the coronavirus. We can depend on the Lord in any circumstances, including a crisis.
While we suffer a pandemic in this world, we can look ahead with hope for the coming eternal state for the believer when “He [God] will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev. 21:4).
As we isolate to reduce the spread of COVID-19, let’s remember our limitations and weakness, our sinfulness and the brevity of life. And let’s do something about these by trusting in the omnipotent, holy (sinless) and immortal God who conquered sin and death. Once we do this we can serve others by doing good works (Eph. 2:10).
And let’s obey our rulers by keeping a safe distance away from others. That’s a way of loving our neighbor (Jas. 2:8).
Appendix: Fatality rates
COVID-19 case-fatality rates are typically:
– About 15% for those aged at least 80 years
– 5-10% for 70-79 years
– 2-4% for 60-69 years
– 0.5-1% for 50-59 years
– 0.1-0.4% for 40-49 years
And less than this for younger people.
Clearly, the elderly are at the greatest risk of dying if infected with this virus.
Because of likely under-reporting of COVID-19 in some countries (such as China) and limited testing in most countries, the actual numbers of cases are probably greater than those reported. For example, a factor of 5-10 has been quoted because of limited testing for COVID-19. This means that the real case-fatality rates are much lower than those stated above.
The death rate (all causes) in the US for the year of 2017 were:
– 13.5% for those aged at least 85 years
– 6% for 80-84 years
– 3.6% for 75-79 years
– 2.3% for 70-74 years
– 1.5% for 65-69 years
– 1.1% for 60-64 years
– 0.74% for 55-59 years
This shows that real case-fatality rates for COVID-19 are much lower than the death rate (all causes) in the US.
The second paragraph of “We are not immune” was written by Scott Pattison of Sydney, Australia.
Written, April 2020