I can’t think of anything that has produced more fear in recent years than the coronavirus. It dominates the headlines and has brought panic to supermarket aisles, as we fight over the remaining rolls of toilet paper.
The way we as a society respond when we are afraid reveals something powerful about ourselves.
In ancient times, when calamity struck, men would turn en masse to the gods or the priests. The gods, they believed, were in control; catastrophe meant they were unhappy and needed to be appeased.
As humanity entered the Enlightenment, men became less inclined to beseech the gods during crises. Instead, they turned to themselves. Especially in America, this was the age of self-reliance. If a flood, disease or fire hit, they would stoically accept the losses, rebuild and move on.
Times have again changed. Facing crisis, most men today are again quick to turn to the gods. Not Zeus or Jupiter. Today, we turn to the government and experts.
We saw this in the United Kingdom in February, when we were hit with unusually heavy flooding. News broadcasts continually insinuated that this was the government’s fault, without explaining exactly how. Locals affected by flooding appeared on television, explaining that the government wasn’t doing enough to help them.
In the past, flood victims may have tried to appease the river gods, or waited for the waters to recede and then dug in trying to repair the damage. Today, people look to London, expecting the government to step in and fix it.
In our modern worship, we believe our governments can solve anything. Therefore, when things go wrong, the government could have solved it but didn’t. It’s their fault. To stop the flooding, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson should have banned plastic bottles, or something.
The same thing is happening with coronavirus. In country after country, men blame the government. The media is full of accusations. Why didn’t we do more here or there? Why did you make this or that cut? Some of this, no doubt, is media bias against certain governments. But I think there’s more going on. The media can only use this tactic because the public accepts the basic assumption that governments can and should fix every problem.
They should fix it by looking to “the experts”—another priestly caste in modern worship. Experts have the solution to every problem, if only people would listen. But on coronavirus, the experts can’t give clear answers. Will this get worse? How much worse? How can I guarantee I won’t get it? Experts don’t know.
Aside from taking common-sense steps of quarantine and advocating good hygiene and hand washing, governments and experts can’t do much to change where the coronavirus goes from here. As China and Iran show, there are things governments can do to make it worse. But they can’t make it better.
The government can’t fix it, and experts are limited. The panic unfolding in our headlines is society experiencing a crisis of faith. It is as if the ancients asked their priests, “How can we appease the gods and stop the plague?” only to be told, “No idea; hopefully it will go away soon.” The foundations we trust in are exposed as sand, and people are panicking.
Last month’s Trumpet cover headlined, “Coronavirus in Prophecy.” Even those who know little about the Bible know it speaks of plagues and pestilence. But the question of whom we trust gets to the heart of why the Bible makes those prophecies. Jeremiah 17:5 states, “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man ….” If we look to men to solve our problems—whether in the form of man-made religion (as almost all are) or governments, experts or even our own selves—we are under a curse. Mankind cannot solve the biggest problems facing it. Only God can.
This is why God sends plagues. “It pains God to know that the suffering is about to get much, much worse,” Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote in that cover story. “It grieves Him to consider the diseases and other horrors soon to be visited upon Earth. But it is all part of His plan to teach man the absolute necessity of obeying His law.”
God can solve disease pandemics—and all our problems. Mr. Flurry wrote that soon “Jesus Christ will accomplish what the most brilliant doctors, scientists and other experts have utterly failed to do: He will bring lasting peace and perfect health to all men, women and children.” But to do that, we must invest our trust in Him. When He says, This action is causing you to be miserable—stop doing it, we must trust and obey Him.
The Bible says disease pandemics will get worse in order to stop our looking to men—to teach us that only God has the solutions.
“God is teaching men even as they rebel,” writes Mr. Flurry in his free booklet Daniel Unlocks Revelation. “They are learning that man cannot rule himself—only God can bring men peace, prosperity, happiness and joy.” God rules, and man cannot, which Mr. Flurry says is “the greatest lesson mankind could possibly learn.” And God is teaching us that lesson, right now, through the coronavirus.