As the world continues to find itself in the grip of an outbreak that’s spreading globally at alarming rates, the numbers (running in the tens of thousands now) are scary.
We reached out to a believer based in Chengdu, a Chinese city roughly 700 miles from Wuhan, who, at the time of publishing, had spent the last 38 days confined at home — as part of restrictions enforced by the government to help curb the spread of COVID-19. Due to increased persecution of Christians in the city over the last couple of years, the person requested anonymity, but was more than happy to share what God has been teaching them during this trying time.
The last couple of months have been quite eventful with the coronavirus outbreak. Could you give us an idea of how regular life has been affected where you live?
Sure. Today is Day 38 of staying at home all day. The lockdown in Chengdu is not as severe as it is in Wuhan. We are allowed to walk about in masks here, but almost everything is closed. The vegetable markets are still operating, so we stock up for a week at a time. If you live in an apartment complex that houses an infected patient, however, no one is allowed out till that patient is cured.
We are not allowed to travel, even to nearby cities; if we do, we’ll need to be quarantined for two weeks. People come twice a week to check our temperatures and ask a lot of questions. Guests are not allowed at home, and all public gatherings — including church services — have been suspended; so we’ve taken to having our services online. It’s been difficult, but we’re hoping things will get better soon.
People come twice a week to check our temperatures and ask a lot of questions
The impact of COVID-19 has been colossal. World governments are in overdrive, trying to contain the spread of the disease. More than 85,000 people have been affected and over 2,500 have died. It’s exactly the kind of situation that unbelievers point to, to question the existence of God. How would you respond to that?
Whether virus or earthquake or any kind of tragedy, my answer is always the same: God is a loving God, and He always works for good. When He created the world, it was good — free from any sickness or suffering. All the pain we see in the world today is because of The Fall. We live in a world that’s corrupted by sin, and that embraces sin. But God is working to restore all things. He is preparing a place where there will be no fear, no tears, no death — and yes, no viruses. That is His ultimate plan, and that gives us hope.
I would never blame God for anything — because even Jesus suffered. He’s not laughing at our pain; He’s not that kind of God. On the contrary, He became one of us and suffered unimaginably more — for our sakes. That’s not the kind of God you question and blame for your pain; it’s the kind of God you trust.
There’s a lot of fear in the air. Has the situation been trying your faith too?
Yes, but, in other ways, it’s also been increasing my faith. When this situation first began, it completely turned the city upside down. During our first Chinese New Year, the city was like a ghost town. In those days, my family and I were really afraid — not of getting sick, but of how long this situation would go on.
I believe fear, not unbelief, is the opposite of faith. And because I was afraid, it was really challenging my faith. But then we prayed about the situation, and it really helped us to focus on God and trust in Him. My fear has gone now. I’m not afraid anymore.
Jesus became one of us and suffered unimaginably more — for our sakes. That’s not the kind of God you blame for your pain; it’s the kind of God you trust
Is there any particular verse or passage that you’ve been really leaning on at this time?
Genesis 50:20 records a statement Joseph made to his brothers. He said, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” I keep returning to this.
What’s happening right now in China and across the world, I know the devil is using this time to bring about fear and confusion and doubt — but I know God is accomplishing something else; as this verse says, “the saving of many lives”. We cannot see it with our physical eyes, but I believe He is doing something awesome in the spiritual world — even though we may not be able to see beyond this present outbreak to what that might be. A lot of people are coming face-to-face with the frailty of life, how a small virus can kill you; we’re also hearing of people turning to the Lord. So, I definitely believe God is using this situation to work in people’s hearts.
What are some things God has been teaching you personally through this experience?
Patience. I’m quite tired of staying at home, to be honest, and I miss seeing people. So, I think he’s teaching me a lot about being patient and trusting in Him. I don’t know if all this will end up delaying my graduation, which is a bit of a concern. But it’s all part of learning to lean on Him.
In a recent open letter, a pastor in Wuhan mentioned that all trials are a chance for Christians to grow closer to God, and to proclaim the gospel. Would you agree with him?
I do. That’s a theme we see throughout the Bible — that suffering has a purpose. Romans 5:3-5 says suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope — a hope that will not put us to shame. The Bible reiterates this message constantly: that suffering is never in vain, that it all adds up to glory.
The Bible reiterates this message constantly: our suffering is never in vain; it always has a purpose
There’s a second way I believe suffering benefits the Christian. It helps us comfort others who are suffering. It’s extremely difficult for anyone to comfort the bereaved unless they’ve also been through that pain — just like it would be to comfort someone ill if you’ve never been sick.
As Christians, when we share life together with those around us — regardless of their faith — and when we become a blessing to those around us, whether in the workplace or the classroom, we are living out the gospel. People will not be able to help asking us what is the secret behind our ability to be joyful in times of difficulty, and to react with hope to terrible things. That right there is the opportunity to share the love of God.
How can we be praying for you and everyone affected by the outbreak at this time?
I know everyone is praying for healing, as we must. But pray also for the Christians in Wuhan and every other place that they would be active in this season to encourage, rather than to spread fear.
Pray that we would be givers, and that we would share our resources. A simple example is that masks in China have become like gold now. They used to cost 2 kuai (that’s like Rs20 or Dh1) each. One mask now costs 35 RMB (Rs360 or Dh18). So, pray that Christians would have the heart to share what we have with those who don’t.
Finally, pray that God would take away fear and give us peace. As I said, I see fear as the opposite of faith — and both are equally contagious. Those are the things I’ve been praying for and I’d be grateful if everyone did so too.
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