Sunday, 12 April 2020

CORONAVIRUS: HOPE BEYOND THE PANDEMIC


                          Amid the doom and gloom, is there a glimmer of hope?

Fear, anxiety, panic and grief are just some of the reactions we see all around the globe as we grapple with a global pandemic, which drastically changes the way we live, work, play and worship. 

Some of us may have lost a friend or family member to Covid-19 and might be thinking whether we or our loved ones will be next. And that generates fear and anxiety.

For those who are grieving over someone who lost the battle to the virus, life seems harsh and unfair. They might have lost someone in the medical and healthcare team—who are often in the prime of their lives—battling the virus in the front line.

Indeed, life is so uncertain and unpredictable that we sometimes wonder about the meaning of life and whether there is any hope for us in the afterlife. Now most people are too busy to consider the fact that tomorrow may well be our last day here on earth. Nevertheless, this is an opportune time to reflect, philosophically, on these issues. 


Who am I? Why am I born into this world? Who created me? Am I merely a creature of chance or a product of a supreme being who is a designer par excellence? Am I born to accomplish a special purpose that God has set for my life? Or am I just like an animal born with needs and appetites that have to be met?

What is this meaningless cycle of life that most will have to go through? Is life meant to be something like this: Go to school, work hard, enter university, work hard, get a degree, secure a good job, buy a house and a car, get married, have children, then grandchildren, get to play with them and then watch TV on our rocking chair the rest of our lives till we die?

Abraham Maslow, a psychologist, believes that people are motivated to achieve certain needs. This hierarchy of needs is depicted as different levels within a pyramid: physiological, safety, love and sense of belonging, esteem and self-actualization. When one need is fulfilled, a person seeks to fulfill the next one. For example, once our physiological needs are being met, we shift upwards towards fulfilling our need for safety.

People are motivated by different goals in life. Some live for fame or power. Others get enamoured with money or pleasure. For some, a spin in a Ferrari gives a sense of accomplishment that they have arrived. Others set even higher goals; they can only be happy when they get to cruise on their own luxury yacht.

However, some are driven by noble objectives such as helping the poor, fighting human trafficking or preserving the environment so that they will be remembered long after they are gone. These humanitarian goals give them a sense of fulfillment in life.


But will all these things really satisfy man’s deepest longings? Blaise Pascal, a physicist and philosopher says: “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.”
We may have a string of impressive accomplishments and accumulated property but, one day, we will have to leave all these things behind. We will all age and finally die.

In order to appreciate the futility of worldly success, let us consider the last wishes of Alexander the Great. On his death bed, he summoned his generals and shared his three ultimate wishes:
  • The best doctors should carry his coffin.
  •  The wealth he has accumulated (money, gold, precious stones) should be scattered along the procession to the cemetery.
  • His hands should be let loose so they hang outside the coffin for all to see.
Surprised by his unusual request, his generals asked Alexander to explain. Here is what the great man had to say:
  • I want the best doctors to carry my coffin to demonstrate that, in the face of death, even the best doctors in the world have no power to heal.
  • I want the road to be covered with my treasures so that all can see that the material wealth we acquire stays behind when we die.
  • I want my hands to be exposed so that people will understand that we come into this world empty-handed and we leave this world in a similar state. We cannot take any material wealth with us to the grave.
When we are young, we tend to think we are immortal. We put away depressing thoughts about growing old and dying. But we have to face reality. Life is unpredictable and short. The Chinese have this saying that coffins come in various sizes: Some are so small they are meant to fit infants while others are full size to fit grown-up adults.

Ecclesiastes reminds us that life on earth is all in vain if we do not have a higher purpose. Its writer, King Solomon, had everything a man could possibly ask but he still felt empty inside. He built beautiful gardens and palaces and had great herds and flocks. He had many singers, slaves and concubines to cheer him up. He had unimaginable wisdom, pleasures and riches but he still felt that everything is in vain. What does man gain by all his toil, riches and pleasures on earth? Like animals, he will have to die one day.

For a man who seemingly had everything in life, what was Solomon’s conclusion about life? Here is his answer: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

As I write this post on Easter Sunday 12th April 2020, I am reminded of Jesus’ comforting words to Martha who was grieving over the death of her brother, Lazarus: 

I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
(John 11:25-26)

                                                                 
Upon her confession of faith in the Master, Jesus authenticated His words by raising Lazarus from the dead. 

As much as Christ defied death and resurrected to life, those who believe in Him will also experience the same resurrection one day. Life, as we usually know it, does not just end when our physical bodies die. There is a living hope if we place our trust in Jesus.
  • “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:14-18).
  • “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27).
  • “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
In this season of doom and gloom, there is a ray of hope for all who believe in Christ … that, no matter what happens—even if they should succumb to the virus—they can rest in the blessed assurance that there is life beyond the grave. 

What a blessed hope of eternal security that diminishes the fear of death during this viral pandemic.
“O death, where is your victory?
  O death, where is your sting?”
(1 Corinthians 15:55)

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CORONAVIRUS: HOPE BEYOND THE PANDEMIC
Amid the doom and gloom, is there a glimmer of hope?







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