Written By Kim Cheung, China, originally in Simplified Chinese
Editor’s Note: The Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), an infectious virus causing illnesses in the respiratory tract, broke out on 31 December 2019 in Wuhan City, China, and has since been carried by travelers to other countries. To date, the virus has led to 360 deaths, with more than 17,390 suspected cases across the globe.
Time has passed by very slowly the past few days.
As I write this from the Jiangsu province where I live, it is the third day of Chinese New Year (27 January 2020)—a time when we ought to be rushing to and fro visiting families and friends. But instead, we’re sitting at home, constantly checking the latest updates on social media about the spread of the coronavirus. Even darting downstairs to buy snacks has become a strain on the nerves.
It has been eight days since the official media has begun reporting on the spread of the virus. When I first saw the news on 20 January, I thought that it wouldn’t be serious. In fact, I made an appointment with two friends who are back from Europe to meet up over the Chinese New Year. But today, I have canceled all my appointments. And I am prepared to not leave the house or visit anyone for the next two weeks.
The virus has spread much more quickly than anyone could have imagined. Just overnight, it was confirmed that the virus can spread from person to person. Face masks are sold out. Wuhan City is completely shut down. Supermarkets are emptied . . . Rumors are tacked on to the news, increasing people’s fear. Scrolling through social media, new updates pop up every second. Along with this is the general mistrust of official numbers, with many other numbers offered by speculators. How many people are actually diagnosed with the virus? How many have died? Nobody knows for sure.
Just a few days ago, I could still see many people out on the streets. But today, the streets are entirely empty, like a ghost town. Almost everyone has fallen into panic, and even the elderly are beginning to discuss how terrifying the virus is.
We do not really know how dangerous this new coronavirus might be. Some Hong Kong experts have speculated that the virus’ impact might be 10 times that of SARS, while other experts say that this epidemic is far less horrible. At the moment, the virus’ origin is still not confirmed. On top of all the speculation is the fact that the incubation period of the virus can last up to 14 days, and can be spread even during incubation—all these add to the fear and panic.
Two days ago, I saw a friend share about the real situation in Wuhan hospitals, and my heart was heavy. The hospitals are packed with sick people they are not equipped to take care of. Doctors and nurses do not have sufficient protection or masks, and cannot even stop for a meal throughout the day. Even food supply is short. Medical staff are worn out by their workload, and can only afford one meal a day—instant noodles at that. And nurses are breaking down in tears.
My heart felt torn. I could no longer continue watching the news reports on TV. How can one not despair in the face of this? And yet, aside from prayer, I could not think of anything else to do.
Today at noon, I learned that two Christian acquaintances in Wuhan now have a fever, and it’s possible they may be infected with the virus. My heart grew even heavier. What does the future hold? Would this become a global catastrophe? Are the end times truly here? This series of questions caused me to feel even more anxious and helpless.
And yet, right now, the last thing the world needs is panic and despair. What it needs the most is hope. When our hearts are fixated on the hope of an antidote, as if we can only begin to hope when a method of controlling and curing the epidemic is found—have we, as children of God, also fallen into the same despair? If our hope lies only in a visible cure, then are we not more to be pitied then those who do not believe? (Romans 8:24)
When we are surrounded by panic and despair, we should hold on more tightly to God and His Word. He is our only hope. May these truths strengthen our hearts:
God Is Still in Control
Although the situation appears terrifying, what is certain is this: Our God is still in control. Although the Evil One wants to accomplish the work of stealing and killing and destroying lives, God is still completely in control. Without His permission, none of this would have happened. If He does not permit it, not even a hair on our heads would fall to the ground (Luke 12:6-7). When I hold on to this truth, I can be comforted.
God Will Never Abandon Us
God has promised us that He will never abandon us. Even in the midst of these trials and illnesses, He is still always with us. And He will save us to the end (John 6:37).
Because we know He is with us, we need not worry nor fear (Matthew 10:28). Although the virus is terrifying, the Creator of all heaven and earth is with us, and we can have peace.
God Will Provide A Way Out
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
This is His promise to us. When we feel frightened or panicked at the news we see, let us repeatedly meditate on this passage. God will not let us experience what we cannot bear. He already knows this all, and will provide us a way out, so that we can persevere.
As we hold on to these truths, let us also pray continually. Although many churches have stopped meeting because of safety concerns, we can still gather with our family during these days at home, and pray together. When I studied Luke 4:17-22 this afternoon, I once again considered what the gospel is really about.
The gospel that Jesus Christ proclaimed was about the salvation of our souls. But as sinners, we are prone to pay more attention to our flesh. I have realized that since the news of the epidemic broke out, I have begun paying more attention to notifications on my phone, constantly refreshing the page for more updates. But many of the posts I had thought were real turned out to be rumors, and had no effect aside from adding to the panic. Why didn’t I spend my time praying more and meditating on God’s words instead?
Finally, we ought to pray for the souls of Wuhan and the lost souls of all in China. Finding a cure for the virus is ideal, but it only solves the physical suffering. Shouldn’t we also be concerned and pray for those who have not yet come to know the true gospel to gain true life and be spared from eternal suffering?
May God strengthen our hearts, so that we can use these few days where we are forced to stay home, to come to know Him better, to pray more for the souls on this Chinese soil. God is still in control. His promises never fail. His will will be done.
[You] through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:5)