Everyone has been affected in some way, whether by social inconvenience, emotional fear, or financial anxiety. No one is immune. But what if the coronavirus takes my life?
It was a strange and unexpected thought for such a sunny day. On my daily afternoon walk, the sky was blue and the birds were singing. It was a perfect 72 degrees.
While few healthy adults in the prime of their lives feel their mortality like someone in the ICU, I stopped, looked up, and cried out to Jesus. To be saved. Not from Covid-19 but from my sins.
What if I become a coronavirus statistic? One of the hundred-thousand at minimum who are projected to die in the US from complications related to the disease. Am I ready?
That’s not the question some might expect me to be asking. I am a pastor. The message of God’s grace to sinners through the cross of Jesus is the epicenter of all that I teach. It is the essence of my counseling, preaching, and writing.
Why was I so concerned about knowing that I was safe in the ark of Christ?
I think there is something in many of us that struggles to believe, not only that the biblical record is historically accurate but that the meaning of the message is true for me. On that afternoon walk, I pondered both. Is the message about Jesus recorded in the Bible true? And if so, am I really saved?
Feeling my mortality has changed me. What if I only have a month to live? I want to make sure my house is in order.
So, I looked up through the cloudless heavens and talked to Jesus about it.
It didn’t take long for me to be re-convinced that the historical record is accurate. Jesus did live, die, and was raised on the third day. There is just too much evidence to deny the facts of the case.
My struggle concerns personal experience. I feel like I should be more changed than I am. My flesh still feels so strong within me. How can the flesh and Spirit co-exist? Shouldn’t I be over sinning by now? Shouldn’t I be better than this? Honestly, most days, I don’t feel very holy.
It is just so hard to believe that I can really be forgiven by pure grace. That being justified is not about getting better but about confessing my desperate condition as a sinner who needs a substitute. Someone to live for me and die for me. A sin-bearer and a righteousness provider.
In brief moments of “gospel sanity,” I believe that Jesus really is my substitute. That I am fully forgiven. That I am counted as righteous in the sight of God, “but only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to me and received by faith alone.” (Westminster Shorter Catechism)
But that is the gospel.
I am not saved by my works but by his. The record I stand upon before heaven is not mine but his. The wretchedness of my sin no longer covers me because it covered him.
Because all that is true, God the Judge is now God my Father. Rather than an object of wrath, I am an object of his eternal affection. No longer am I a slave to fear, I am a child of God — all because of mercy. Not by my merits but the merits of Jesus.
So, if I contract Covid-19 and end up on a respirator, or become one of those who need one but find them unavailable, I will be re-reading this post — or having someone else read it to me. I will be desperate to hold fast to the one whom I believe holds me with nail-scarred hands. I will look away from myself and to my Savior. I will rebuke my fears and pray for peace, seeking to live within the lines of Martin Luther’s hymn based on Psalm 130.
To wash away the crimson stain,
Grace, grace alone availeth;
Our works, alas! Are all in vain;
In much the best life faileth;
No man can glory in Thy sight,
All must alike confess Thy might,
And live alone by mercy.
Therefore my trust is in the Lord,
And not in mine own merit;
On Him my soul shall rest, His word
Upholds my fainting spirit;
His promised mercy is my fort,
My comfort and my sweet support.
I wait for it with patience.