We are living in the midst of a host of uncertainties created by the COVID-19 pandemic. People are isolating and hoarding. Schools and establishments are being closed and events cancelled. How serious is this? Well, they’ve cancelled school, college, and professional sports, which in the words of Mr. Holland, marks the “end of western civilization as we know it” (from the 1995 movie Mr. Holland’s Opus). Some are of the opinion that all of this is a massive over-reaction, while others are of the opinion that we haven’t begun to see how bad this is going to be. Both sides seem certain of their predictions.
What does living by faith look like in times like these? Faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). Faith operates in the realm of the unseen and the “not yet”, and it acts with both assurance and conviction. To live by faith is to trust God. It’s not a blind leap in the dark because it is based upon what God has said. On the one hand, faith is not reckless; it acts with proper caution that’s based on what God has said, not with presumption based on things He has not promised. On the other hand, faith is reckless. It is careless of consequences—if obeying God means risk and vulnerability, living by faith will do it.
Faith and certainty go together. But is there any room for trusting God while at the same time accepting that we will deal with uncertainties? The uncertainty I’m referring to is not about God; it’s about us and our world. God knows everything; we don’t. God has revealed ultimate events that we can know with certainty, but He has not revealed tomorrow’s events, which leaves us dealing with uncertainty. We “do not know what tomorrow will bring” (Ja. 4:14).
The CDC says that even if every single American was tested for the coronavirus it would still not be known who has it, and therefore, “an accurate death rate is literally unknowable.” How many have already died? No one really knows. A recent news article raised what it called “three unanswerable questions” about this virus: (1) How long will it last? (2) Will the efforts being made to slow its spread work? (3) What will be the new reality?
The mandates and recommendations that have been made are aimed at preventing the spread of this virus. Prevention is based on if and might, neither of which are words of certainty: if we do this then here’s what might happen. The ifs and the mights are what knowledgeable people project based on science, mathematics, and history. Predictions are not prophecies. They do not declare what will happen, but what could happen apart from some intervention. An intervention is an “if we do this,” that is aimed at “we might get this result.” And thus, the orders and recommendations. When the crisis is over, there can be an evaluation as to whether the interventions worked, but even then, there is no certainty as to what would have happened if those measures hadn’t been taken. Even for those of us who believe in God’s sovereignty and providence, who do not doubt what He can do, there is still the uncertainty created by not knowing what He will do.
So, in the meantime, we will accept the uncertainties that surround this pandemic. We will not act as if we know how everything will turn out. We will not presume upon God’s protection as if we were invincible because our trust is in Him. What we will do is try to make the best decisions we can, not just for our personal well-being, but even more for the sake of one another. By faith we will stay on mission and we will adjust our tactics, trusting God every step of the way. We may not know until eternity what those decisions accomplished.
Living by faith does not mean living without uncertainty. It means accepting uncertainty, trusting God in it, and seeking to make the best decisions you can for the greater good of all. Only time may tell whether we are over-reacting or under-reacting in this crisis. But this we are certain of: God can be trusted to keep and guide us through all the uncertainties of today.