How Christian Hope Speaks to COVID-19
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” –1 Peter 1:3
It’s quite impossible these days to talk about anything but the coronavirus and the chaos that has overtaken our world. The landscape of human life has been overwhelmingly disrupted by the invisible battle against the coronavirus. Uncertainty grips everyone in one way or another, often growing into a monster of fear, anxiety and isolation. I don’t know about you, but our family walked into this year’s Easter laden with a truckload of raw and heart-wrenching emotions—disruption, fear of the unknown, exhaustion, anxiety, brokenness, agony, defeat… The list goes on and on.
I needed this year’s Easter like never before. Easter has always been a sweet and celebratory time where I love to pause and think more deeply about Jesus’s defeat of sin and death. It reminds me to thank God for the sacrifice of Jesus that made salvation available to all who believe in His name. It reminds me that the resurrected hope should breathe life into all aspects of my life, especially during this tumultuous time. It reminds me to pray and rest from all my racing thoughts and to anchor my soul in the assurance of the living hope. This year, the Spirit again reminded me of His timeless truths coupled with a very timely comfort. Yes, our whole world is covered by the news of COVID-19, but in 2,000 years, I doubt many people will even remember it. And yet here we are, 2000 years after the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and we are still very much talking about it.
Some of you are championing alongside me for our resurrected hope, but others of you might be scratching your head with questions like what does that mean? What does the Bible actually say about hope? How does Christian hope speak to COVID-19?
Worldly hope vs. biblical hope
More often than not, hope is defined as a wealth of wishful and tentative thinking: “I hope to get an A in this class,” “I hope I can get into the Big 4,” “I hope the Cowboys win the Super Bowl this year” or “I hope the cure of the coronavirus will be developed soon so everything will be back to normal.” People find themselves baffled or panicked in securing their hope in false sources, such as human methods of success (Ps. 33:17), personal strength (Prov. 11:7), riches (1 Tim. 6:17) or false vision (Ezek. 13:6). This is certainly not what the Bible means by hope because the outcome is not guaranteed. Hope is not a feeling, a wish, an emotion or waiting aimlessly to see whether things will turn out well.
Christian author J.I. Packer once said, “Optimism is a wish without warrant; Christian hope is a certainty, guaranteed by God himself. Optimism reflects ignorance as to whether good things will ever actually come. Christian hope expresses knowledge that every day of his life, and every moment beyond it, the believer can say with truth, on the basis of God’s own commitment, that the best is yet to come.”
Unlike the false hope defined by the world, the definition of biblical hope is “confident expectation on what is certain.” Christian faith roots its hope deeply and solely in Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1:3). The resurrected hope is the recognition of Christ to be fulfilled in the Old Testament promise (Matt. 12:21; 1 Pet. 1:3). Hope is a firm assurance through the indwelling of the Spirit even when things are unclear and unknown (Rom. 8:23-25; Heb.11:1). Biblical hope assures a solid and concrete evidence because it is grounded in the true source—the Word of God that entails the content of hope in the promise of the resurrection (1 Thes. 4:13), the kingdom (Acts 28:20-31), righteousness (Gal 5:5), glory (Col 1:27), eternal life (Tit. 1:2) and the promise of Christ’s return (Tit. 2:13). Biblical hope is expecting a sure thing, purchased on the resurrection of Jesus Christ, accomplished and promised by an all-knowing God.
What biblical hope means for us
The resurrection of Jesus certainly and unfortunately does not make our afflictions just go away. As a matter of fact, we don’t know when COVID-19 will pass or when things will return to normal—if ever. But fortunately, the resurrection puts our sufferings into perspective to drive us to a deeper conviction that this world needs a Savior who brings the true hope to wake us from our false contentment with the perishing hope of this world, refocus our eyes on the glorious eternal life in Jesus Christ, and believe with enduring faith that He died and rose from the dead 2,000 years ago and that He will come back again (Rev. 3:11, 22:20).
In the midst of COVID-19, let us respond to this ever-changing and trying time by holding fast to the unchanging hope in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. May the resurrected hope of Jesus fuel our action to remember to pray, reach out to others, restore our hope in affliction and return to the heart of God.