I think many of us have rehearsed passages of Scripture like Romans 8:28-29 or Philippians 4:4-9 to ourselves and others over the last few months to bring comfort in a season of fear. No doubt you have encountered friends, family, or neighbors who have been wrestling with feelings of anxiety about the unknowns of this pandemic. Perhaps, you too have been fighting back feelings of anxiousness over the health of your family or the uncertainty of a job situation. But what if Covid-19 was an answer to our prayers?
In no way do I mean to diminish the suffering that this pandemic has caused so many people. I personally have known several people who have contracted the virus and they have recounted the experience as one of the hardest that they have ever faced physically. I have also known of several folks who have passed away from complications related to the virus. No, we cannot ignore the incredible impact that this pandemic has had globally, but I do want to look at another perspective.
Paul’s Trials Were an Answer to Prayer
As different cities are starting to relax their stay-at-home orders, my family and I have found that the families in our neighborhood have been more open to conversation than in any previous time since we moved to this house. Not only that, but many have been open to deeper discussions about things like death, sadness, loneliness, and faith. When traditionally most of our neighbors (myself included) were just comfortable to wave at one another from a distance and smile as we pulled in and out of our garages, now we are all craving deeper relationships. People are standing around for long periods to talk and get to know each other.
My wife and I had been praying for opportunities to share the gospel with our neighbors months ago but had not seen any deepening of relationships occur. So, what changed? Was it the fact that people were constantly being reminded of death? Was it that people have been relationally starved for the last two months of quarantine? The whole situation got me thinking about when Paul wrote his letter to the Colossians when he was in prison. He was going through a major trial of his own and he wrote to the Colossians asking them to,
“Pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison.” Colossians 4:3
Even while in prison, Paul wanted to be used by God to proclaim the gospel. More than that, Paul states his imprisonment did lead to the gospel spreading to the imperial guard in his letter to the Philippians.
“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.” Philippians 1:12-13
Embracing a New Perspective of Trials
While this pandemic has been one of the most unsettling experiences of our time, it has also led to a greater opportunity to share the gospel. Each one of us can relate to our neighbors in a fresh way because we are sharing the same experience. We have a natural conversation starter with our neighbors as we seek to build relational bridges in which to proclaim the gospel. And in that sense, should we not see this pandemic, albeit strange to us, as an answer to our prayers? If Paul can see his trials as an opportunity to advance the gospel, should we not see ours as the same?
As biblical counselors, we should gently and graciously encourage our counselees, who are struggling with anxiety in this season, to see that:
1. Our trials are very likely the means by which God has given us to spread the gospel.
2. We can have joy in our trials, knowing we are being used to impact people’s eternity.
3. We should continue to pray for God to open doors to proclaim the gospel while amidst this season.
4. We should look for those open doors to proclaim the gospel that God has provided and proclaim it.
Although none of us would have chosen for Covid-19 to affect the world in the way that it has physically, I think each of us would want to see God bring many more people to Himself, by any means necessary. This pandemic has been an answer to prayer for many of us and I pray that you would be able to see the open doors God has given you to proclaim the gospel and walk through them.