Is There Life after the Plague?

As COVID-19 continues colonizing the globe, it is not clear how long this will go on and what the ultimate impact will be in terms of lives and economic cost.  Towards the beginning of the outbreak, I had the privilege of watching a webcast with Andy Crouch who encouraged us to stop thinking of this like a snowstorm and instead to start thinking of it as a longer season like winter and perhaps a miniature ice age.  While I was just beginning to accept the reality of what 2 weeks of school closures meant for family life, I realized then and there this would be a long haul.  It looks more and more like a mini ice age with each new day.

At some point, whether through the discovery of a vaccine, the build up of immunity, or some other set of factors, the world will emerge from the pandemic.  When we do, things will be different.  Many will have lost jobs.  While some will be there, others will be permanently lost or altered.  Like a series of dominoes, this will trigger other losses like foreclosures, bankruptcies, and the like.  For as hard as the financial loss will be, though, the most difficult and permanent losses will be the amount of lives lost to COVID-19.  Some of the people who are near and dear to us will not be with us in the world after the plague.

What will life be like when COVID-19 no longer dominates the daily headlines?  We don’t yet know because we are not there.  However, our ignorance of the future should not keep us from living in the present with the unwavering assurance that God is at work.  He may, in fact, have surprising things in store for life after the plague that seem unlikely to us now.

Some of you might be wondering if this is just wishful thinking.  Perhaps it is.  However, this is not the first time that disease or plague has struck the world, nor is it the first time that God has allowed his people to suffer.  In the book of Joel, the prophet describes wave upon wave of locust swarms that gobble up every green thing in the land.  He writes:  “What the cutting locust left, the swarming locust has eaten.  What the swarming locust left, the hopping locust has eaten, and what the hopping locust left, the destroying locust has eaten” (Joel 1:4, ESV).  The incessant waves of locusts leave a wake of desolation behind them:  “The fields are destroyed, the ground mourns, because the grain is destroyed, the wine dries up, the oil languishes” (Joel 1:10, ESV).  Everything green is gone. 

We might have a hard time connecting with what this meant, but imagine that you live in a world without a freezer (yes, that thing that most Americans filled as soon as they heard the meat processing plants were closing down).  You have no ability to store fresh food long term.  Now, add to that picture the fact that your daily bread does not come sliced in a plastic bag at the store but from the fields in front of your house, which you have cultivated and planted by hand.  In the past few months, as those little green shoots have emerged from the earth and stretched their wavy fingers toward the sun, you have had a swelling satisfaction that there will be food in a few short months.  The dwindling supplies in the grain bin—the pantry of sorts—have not concerned you. 

This verdant vision is shattered one morning.  Instead of the usual morning glow, the sun seems unusually dim as you rise from your bed.  You wonder initially if some storm clouds have rolled in.  As you emerge from the door, you realize that these are not storm clouds.  No, these are grasshoppers, millions of grasshoppers.  As you look over at what was once a lush field of barley, you see bare stems like scrawny fingers pointing to the sky and clinging to them are ravenous grasshoppers munching any last bit of green they can find.  Horror sinks deep.  You run to the granaries to check.  There’s not much there now, and you’ll have to keep enough to sow for next year.  Fear strikes a little deeper.  Will there be food to eat when it all runs out? 

A locust plague would have wiped out their economy and brought many of them to the brink of starvation.  There was no government safety net, no unemployment to file, nor was there any hope that some scientist in a lab could concoct a pesticide to stem the locust hordes.  Their only recourse was God.  In the book of Joel, God calls his people to “return to me with all your heart… and rend your hearts and not your garments (Joel 2:12b-13a, ESV).  Turn to God they did. 

Because God is a gracious God, he heard their cries.  In response, he delivered an astonishing promise through Joel:  “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyers, and the cutter…” (Joel 2:25a).  Imagine that!  God promises there will be bumper crops that will more than compensate for the losses of those lean years.  If God can restore the years of the locusts, then he can also restore the years that COVID-19 has taken.  Furthermore, if God can restore what is lost, then we can live in the present with hope that God can surprise us innumerable ways, even if the present road is hard and full of pain.

Still, even with the hope that God can restore the years the locusts have eaten, I have found myself praying a simple prayer: “Why?”  Why would God allow his people to go through such a devastating time?  Why might he allow us to go through such a time?  After all, many non-profits will face a setback.  Many people badly in need of food, water, medical supplies, and the Gospel will go without.  What good could possibly come from this?

Just a few verses after delivering the promise that he would restore the years devoured by the locusts, God reveals the ultimate result and goal of the locust plague:  “You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God and there is none else” (Joel 2:27a).  In other words, through the locust plague, God was revealing himself to a new generation who would come to know that he is Israel’s covenant God.  He is the one who responds to their pleas for help.  He is the one who watches over them and supplies their need.

I wonder if God is not doing something similar now.  What if those of us who have claimed this God as our own are being invited into a deeper way of knowing him?  What if we are being invited to trust him and him alone in a whole new way and the only way to get there is to watch our 401k’s shrink precipitously or to get that sinking feeling as our boss hands us a pink slip?  Even as someone who follows this God, I sometimes find myself operating from a form pragmatic deism where God seems to be up there doing his thing and I just need to make wise, moral decisions down here.  Folks, this is not the God of the Bible who is living and engaged with human life.  Perhaps our plague is also an invitation to watch God chisel through these apathetic layers of our hearts to discover that God is already at work and closer than we currently imagine.

If God is doing this, if he is inviting us into deeper ways of knowing him, how does that change your heart’s posture to the pandemic?  Where have you already seen him at work in this way?  What new ways of trusting God and knowing him have already begun to take root?  God may restore to us what we have lost financially in a few years.  For as great as that sounds, I think it would be far better if we enter that future with a fuller knowledge of who God is and a deeper trust and awareness that he is God.  God seems to have wanted that for the Israelites after the locust plague.  I imagine he wants that for us after this plague as well.

Is the Bible accurate?

According to Barna research, ( half of Americans believe that the Bible is accurate in what it teaches.  This number improves to 79% of Christians who believe that the Bible is accurate.  This does not include that the miracles performed in the Bible are literal or that the Bible is 100% historically accurate, only that the principles taught in the Bible are accurate.

One of the best known verses regarding the Bible itself is 2 Timothy 3:16.  “All scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”  Many look at the Bible as being a collection of books written by many diverse men over the span of centuries.  This is absolutely correct.  But what many people don’t recognize is the amazing continuity between the books of the Bible.  The message is the same from book to book because God was behind the writing of it all.  God used the individual personalities and writing styles of many different people but He inspired the message.  Because of this every word can be accepted as not just the opinion of some well intentioned people but as the very words of God penned by those people.

If such a large number of people believe that the Bible is accurate, a bigger question remans – why don’t people live according to Biblical principles if they believe them to be accurate?  It goes back to the idea of absolute standards. People believe that the principles may be correct but they don’t apply to this day and age as they were written to a group of people thousands of years ago. 

Or the answer may be even simpler.  People believe that the Bible is accurate but they haven’t taken the time to read it so they can’t actually live according to what the Bible says. It doesn’t matter how accurate the Bible is if we are unfamiliar with its teachings.

I have a cell phone that can probably do a lot more things than send text messages and make phone calls.  But I have no desire to do anything more with it than that.  I have an instruction book that will tell me how to do everything else with my phone and I trust its accuracy.  But I’ve never read the book.  And I have no desire to make my cell phone do more because I’m happy with it as it is.  This is the way many people treat their Christianity as well.

Many people are happy with their Christian life as it is and don’t bother to read the Bible because they don’t want any more out of their life.  They fear that it will change them and cause them to do things that they don’t want to do.  In truth, knowing the Bible only makes you more fulfilled in your Christian life and will never detract from your life.

People may believe that the Bible is accurate but it takes more than just belief to make a difference.  People need to act on this belief.  If the Bible is accurate in its teachings, then we need a desire to learn its teachings.  Only then will it make an impact on our lives.

What is a Biblical Worldview?

For starters, we should define a worldview.  A worldview is the filter through which we see everything.  It doesn’t have to be sophisticated or formal.  Everyone has one whether they know it or not from the most sophisticated people in a big city to the most uncultured people who do nothing but live for the weekend.  A worldview is what sets our priorities.  Someone who has a worldview that wealth and power are the most important things in life are going to spend most of their time attempting to possess these things.  Someone who holds that drinking beer and having a good time is most important will spend most of their time attempting to do this.

Having a Biblical worldview is not the same as being a Christian.  Ideally all Christians would have a Biblical worldview but the numbers don’t reflect that.  Many people in America consider themselves a Christian.  Depending on the survey anywhere from 75-90% of Americans consider themselves Christian when asked.  When asked about details of their faith, less than half meet the standard of evangelical Christianity however.

For our purposes a Christian is someone who has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and believes that they will go to heaven on the basis that they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus as their savior.  Even among this very generic and simple definition of a Christian, few Christians have a Biblical worldview.

So what is a Biblical worldview then?  Researcher George Barna ( has done a lot of research in this area and I will use his definition and research findings.  A Biblical worldview is defined as believing that absolute moral truth exists, believing that the Bible is accurate in all of its teachings, believing that Satan is a real being or force and not just symbolic, believing that a person can’t earn their way into heaven through a good life or good deeds, believing that Jesus lived a sinless life, and believing that God is the all knowing, all powerful creator who still rules the universe.

When those standards are applied, only 9% of America has a Biblical worldview – that’s Christian and non-Christian combined.  This is pretty lousy when we consider that so many consider themselves a Christian but not completely shocking because we shouldn’t expect non-Christians to have a Biblical worldview.  What is more shocking is how few have a Biblical worldview who meet the evangelical definition of Christianity.  The numbers only double to 19% of Christians who have a biblical worldview.  While this is certainly troubling, there may be more problems in the future.  Young adults aged 18-23 had an extremely poor showing of a Biblical worldview.  Only 0.5% of this age group can be classified as having a Biblical world view.

So what does the Bible really say and why should we hold to these beliefs?  Here are posts addressing each of these parts of a Christian worldview: