Much has been written on the topic of God’s sovereignty and how we approach a pandemic like COVID-19. From churches and universities refusing to close their doors because they declare, they trust God more than medicine, to social media pundits touting their faith above all things, it seems we may have lost sight of something fundamentally true about the God we serve and the faith we profess.
In the zealousness of our acknowledgment that we love God above all things, we have forgotten that Jesus has also commanded us to love one another. Believing Christian, we cannot have one without the other.
Way back in January (remember January? It seems so long ago), our son, daughter-in-law, and baby granddaughter were all set to come for dinner on a Sunday afternoon. Just hours before they had planned to arrive, our daughter-in-law Jayne texted to tell us that our son Nate (her husband), had a terrible migraine and they would have to stay home. As far as I remembered, Nate had never had a migraine, but we said how sorry we were that he felt crummy and promised to reschedule.
On Monday morning, the pain had not subsided. By that afternoon he was vomiting. On Tuesday we were headed to urgent care, and an astute doctor there immediately sent him to the nearest ER. There he was scanned and treated for pain, then sent home. On Wednesday morning he was in and out of consciousness, and by Wednesday night he’d been diagnosed with a brain tumor and was in a helicopter being flown to UC San Francisco for emergency surgery. We spent Super Bowl weekend in the Neurology Oncology ICU.
It’s a shocking tale, but it isn’t yet over. A week after Nate was released to recover at home, the extreme headaches began again. He couldn’t see properly. His neck was unspeakably sore. Again, his wife rushed him to the ER, where he was diagnosed with meningitis and put into quarantine.
And then the pandemic began to rear its vast and ugly head here in Northern California. By the time the statewide shelter-in-place mandate was enforced, Nate had already been in quarantine for seven weeks.
Practically, what that means for our family, is that we haven’t spent time with them, haven’t hugged them, haven’t celebrated both Nate’s and Jayne’s birthdays with them, and haven’t held our grandbaby in almost nine weeks. To do so would be to put our son, newly immunocompromised at just twenty-five years old, in grave danger.
To do so would be selfish. Do we trust God? Oh, yes. There are so many details in Nate’s story that would blow our limited view of a sovereign God right out of the water he so sovereignly created. He is good, the Great Physician, and the sustainer of our souls.
But he is also the God who has equipped humans to understand some key things about how the human body works, how infection wreaks havoc on our biology, and how we can prevent and stall things like worldwide plagues and pandemics. Part of that wisdom and knowledge imparted by God is the careful removal of ourselves from each other—social distancing—and the unselfish act of putting others’ needs above our own.
That’s not all. My husband is a dentist who still must help his patients in acute pain and infection. He suits up, head to toe—gloves, N95 masks, and an overkill of antiseptic—every afternoon. He then comes home. And while that means the six others of us sharing quarantine in this house are potentially exposed to COVID-19 if he is, it is an act of mercy that he knows he is called to. But did you catch the part about the rest of us in quarantine?
As of yet, there is no coronavirus in our home. Our immunocompromised son does not live here, nor do our elderly parents. But we most certainly could be a danger to those we come in contact with, and so we stay put. We trust God with every last detail of our lives, but we love our neighbor by obeying the directives of health professionals all over the world. They’ve been given their knowledge by the sovereign God who loves every single human on earth.
As the mom of one immunocompromised son and another who caught a deadly enterovirus as a baby that left him permanently brain-damaged, I cannot ignore the instruction to love God and my neighbor. Yes, God is in control. Now go wash your hands.
Lost and Found: Losing Religion, Finding Grace
Lost and Found is the gripping true story of how God used suffering to save her family from empty religion. As wave after wave of crisis hit, the Fletchers discovered that getting religion “right” wasn’t a good substitute for a living relationship with a loving God.