Written By Kim Cheung, China.
Updated from this article, originally in Simplified Chinese.
74,675 diagnosed cases. 4,922 suspected cases. 2,121 deaths.
51 days have passed since the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) first broke out on 31 December 2019, and it’s been 29 days since the cities near Wuhan (including mine) have been on a lockdown.
Many like myself have been banned from leaving our homes, uncertain of when we can resume work, or have resorted to working from home.
Is the outbreak going to worsen further? Exactly how long more will our lives be affected? No one has the answer.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen many Chinese people share their experiences being in lockdown on social media. Some have lamented about their boredom. Some joked that they have finally experienced “life in jail”, and some others have said that they now understand why mothers in confinement would get depressed. Still, as the number of diagnosed cases and deaths continue to rise, no one dares to act rashly.
The past 29 days have felt like a century to me. It isn’t just about the long hours of being trapped at home. Each day, l am confronted by what I’ve often seen in movies like Contagion (and assumed would stay in movies), making me reflect on life at large.
Certainly, we see the truth more clearly in difficult times. As it says in Ecclesiastes 7:2, “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.” In the face of disaster and death, we are forced to reckon with the grim reality of life: we’re all headed for death.
And in the meantime for those of us who are still alive, we’re living in fear and feeling trapped.
Fear in the Absence of Hope
Over the past 29 days, none of us have had it easy. When faced with an epidemic outbreak, our fears are amplified. People have lost their sense of judgment—exhibited in the form of panic-buying of essential items like food and medicine, and succumbing to rumors.
I hadn’t given the news much thought until I reached the supermarket nearby and saw for myself the shopping frenzy around me. That’s when fear set in. The two packs of biscuits I intended to buy became an entire box, along with a carton of milk and other food items. What if I don’t have the chance to buy these in the future? What if I ran out of food in my own home? On top of the groceries, everyone was scrambling to stock up on cold and fever medication, hoping that these would give us a sense of security we so desperately wanted.
Rumors were rife and getting more ridiculous with each passing day. On one occasion at midnight, an official statement was released saying that a popular Chinese medicine called “Shuang Huang Lian” could stop the coronavirus. Many mistook it to be double-yolk lotus paste mooncakes because of how similar the words sounded in Chinese. When I woke up the next morning, not only had the medicine sold out, the mooncakes had too.
Fear drives people to do all kinds of absurd things. When we lack peace that comes from knowledge of the truth, it is easy for us to believe in lies, to be trapped in fear and anxiety. However, as people belonging to Christ, we have the truth, and the peace and hope that He grants us (Romans 15:13). Because of that, we don’t have to be fearful or anxious about what’s to come—but can continue to place our hope in Him as we battle the uncertainties ahead.
The Sickness That Enslaves Us
Besides fear, we have been feeling trapped. But a conversation I had with an overseas friend helped put my country’s current crisis into perspective. When I confided in her that the past 29 days of being at home was “suffocating”, as if I were locked in jail, she told me that life has always been like this—just in a different way.
Before the outbreak, we are chained to our busy schedules, caught up in the rat race. A line from the film The Shawshank Redemption sums it up: “We get busy living or get busy dying.”
Back then, we were already enslaved. But work and leisure tricks us into thinking that we are free. The world we live in is nothing more than a bigger prison. Though we seem to have the freedom to choose what we want to do, we can’t escape our responsibility to our studies, work, and family. Neither do those who lead carefree lives or travel spontaneously have true freedom.
That’s why many people are anxious and depressed. And though we fantasize about moving abroad and starting life anew, we don’t realize that we are merely repeating the same life elsewhere.
True freedom can only be found in Christ (John 14:6). When we come to Him, He sets us free from our desires and endless search for satisfaction and purpose in the things of this life.
This outbreak has also brought to light another bondage which lies beneath the surface. Over these past few days, we have seen the dark side of people. Because of the shortage in mask supplies, some sellers have marked up the prices (a single mask can cost over RMB 30, the equivalent of USD 4.30) as well as resold used masks.
Supermarkets have also increased the prices of groceries—a Chinese cabbage now sells for RMB 60 dollars (USD 8.60)! It was also reported that the Wuhan Red Cross Society had secretly withheld most of the donated masks and protective gear. These items could not reach the frontline medical staff as a result.
And then there’s the news about the armed gang in Hong Kong that stole HK$1,600 (USD 206) worth of toilet paper from a supermarket due to fears that there would be a shortage of toilet paper.
Reading news like these is even more disheartening than reading about the increasing number of cases. I believe that with the joint efforts of world health experts, we will eventually find a vaccine against the virus. But the sickness in all of us—sin—will remain. Even if we were to find a cure to all kinds of physical ailments and resume our “peaceful” lives, those who are corrupt will remain corrupt.
Our souls are sick, and this sickness is much scarier than the coronavirus. No medicine, spiritual practices, or religion can cure this sickness, but only one doctor can:
On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. (Mark 2:17)
Jesus is our great Healer. He Himself bore our sicknesses and paid the full price for our sins with His death. And this healing is completely free. He gave it to us out of love.
In times like this, we need not fear or feel like our freedom has been curbed. Instead, may this crisis point us to Christ, leading us to trust in Jesus and receive the greatest blessing—the healing that we need most.