You know the statistics. You know what it's doing to the world. Perhaps you know most keenly because you know what it's doing to you. It's threatening so many of the foundations of your life - your job, your retirement account, your social network - and reminding each of us that the day will come when we won't ever work again, when we won't have a penny to our name, when our social calendars will forever be empty. COVID-19 reminds us of death. C.S. Lewis's words on war seem as pertinent in a pandemic:
What does war [or the coronavirus] do to death? It certainly does not make it more frequent; 100 percent of us die, and the percentage cannot be increased. It can put several deaths earlier, but I hardly suppose that that is what we fear...Yet war does do something to death. It forces us to remember it...War makes death real to us...("Learning in Wartime")
Each of us who has known life has known the fear of death. And yet in Jesus Christ the fear of death is turned on its head. Consider the words of the biblical writer Paul:
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live on in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. (Philippians 1:21-23)
Times like this test whether we can say the same. It can be easy to say "to live is Christ, and to die is gain" when life costs us little and death seems far off. It is another thing to say the same when disease is spreading and we, or someone we love, might die. Is death really good news for those who love Jesus? Is life after death really better, by far, than even the best this life on earth has to offer?
With Jesus, death becomes a servant - a door into His all-satisfying presence forever. Death is gain, not because the experience of death is any less likely, or any less painful, but because of what death gives us - because of Who death gives us.
I've found myself lately cherishing anew the words of the apostle Peter:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade, kept in heaven for you...In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. (1 Peter 1:3-4,6)
In this time of uncertainty, when you're tempted to fear or despair, may you find rest in the assuredness of our living hope, Jesus Christ. Or perhaps during this Easter week you would come to know that hope for the first time.
A friend sent me this song this week and I love the truth in its lyrics
Many of you have reached out recently to see how we're doing and how the coronavirus is affecting Kenya. Thank you. It means more than you know to hear from you and know you're thinking of us.
We're doing well. The country's first case was diagnosed on March 12th and as of this morning there are 125 additional confirmed. Tenwek Hospital has yet to receive a patient with COVID-19 but we have been busy making preparations in anticipation that, if it spreads like it has in so many countries, it may soon threaten to overwhelm our systems.
Elective surgeries have been cancelled though most of what I do is urgent/emergent so my days feel mostly normal. Alisa's Side By Side women's group has stopped meeting for the time. And since homeschooling doesn't stop to social distance, the kids are enjoying being on Spring Break!
Thanks again to all of you who support us in so many ways. We couldn't continue in the work here without you.