Faith, Wisdom, and Coronavirus

Barrett DukeAll Enews

I don’t know what to think about the coronavirus situation. On one hand, I’ve seen plenty of instances in the past when both social and corporate media have blown things way out of proportion and created overreactions. I also deeply believe that some in media are happily using this moment to destroy the president. On the other hand, there is clearly something there that I need to respond to. Last year, I caught a virus of some sort that made me sicker than I have ever been in my entire life. To be honest, I’m wondering if I contracted the coronavirus before anyone even realized it was around. I don’t know, but what I do know is that if what I experienced was the coronavirus or if the coronavirus is worse than that, I want to do all I can to help prevent people from contracting it.

So, how do I as a committed believer in the sovereignty of God respond to this extraordinary moment? First, I acknowledge that my life and my future are in the hands of God. As long as I am trying to do the best I can to serve Him and live faithfully before Him, I will not die before I have accomplished with my life all that He wants me to do. God is quite capable of seeing me through this and any other threat to my life. I draw great confidence in my present and future from this certainty.

What this confidence doesn’t do for me though is tell me what kind of condition I might be in by the time I have finished the race He has set before me. There is no guarantee that I won’t be very worn and spent by the time I have completed my journey. For example, as I drive across our vast state, I don’t fear being killed in an accident. If I die on some Montana highway, it will be because God has decided that is how He will bring me home. It isn’t death that concerns me, but quite honestly, I admit that I’m concerned about being mangled in a car accident. Perhaps I can fulfill my calling from a wheel chair as well. So, I exercise great caution as I get in my car and drive for hours on end because if I take the potential for something to go wrong too flippantly, God may very well let me be reminded that the world is still a fallen place, filled with dangers and uncertainties around every corner. I’ll still fulfill His will for my life, but I may find it much harder to do.

That brings me to the current coronavirus whatever it is. Is it a pandemic? I don’t know. In the absence of absolute certainty, do I respond with fear like some are doing and prepare for the end of the world as I know it? Or, do I laugh at the panic and shake my fist in the face of the fear mongers as though it’s all just a hoax? Sometimes, it’s not so easy to discern between the voices competing for my response. 

Solomon understood the challenge of making the right decision. He presents me with a similar dilemma in Proverbs chapter nine. Here the dilemma is choosing between the calls of wisdom and folly. Wisdom speaks first, vv. 1-6. Solomon says wisdom calls out, “Whoever is naïve, let him turn in here,” (v.4). Then folly speaks and imitates the voice of wisdom, vv. 13-18, saying, “Whoever is naïve, let him turn in here” (v. 16). Both issue the same call, but the call of one leads to “understanding,” v. 6. While the call of the other leads to “Sheol,” v. 18. My dilemma, which voice today is the voice of wisdom and which is the voice of folly?

How do I discern the voice of one from the other? Solomon tells me that, too. Before I even get to the two competing voices of wisdom and folly, he tells me in Proverbs chapter eight that wisdom calls, “O naïve ones, understand prudence. And O fools, understand wisdom,” v. 5. Prudence is part of wisdom. The Hebrew word translated “prudence” means to be crafty, shrewd, or sensible. In other words, God says He gave me a brain and I should use it. When danger threatens, I should take appropriate precaution, not out of fear but in response to the real danger.

So, what do I know that I should consider in my response to the moment? I know that many hospitals around the country are already starting to get overwhelmed. I also know that some people are sick now, that others are going to get very sick, and that some are going to die. Indeed, some are already dying. Since I’ve experienced a very nasty virus and would hate for anyone else to have to go through that or worse because of some careless action on my part, prudence dictates that I take reasonable measures to protect others. That’s the wise choice. So, when I elbow bump instead of shaking hands and when I limit my exposure to others during this most contagious period, I am being crafty, shrewd, prudent, in my response to a very real danger to others, as well as to myself.

Prudence and wisdom go hand-in-hand as recklessness and folly go hand-in-hand. I understand that responding to this threat with some basic social distancing carries a price. The inconveniences are real. The costs are real. But the stakes for some are higher. The Apostle Paul reminds me, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4).

At this present time, after I acknowledge that my life is in the hands of my sovereign God, prudence dictates that the wise decision is to take reasonable precautions for myself and for others. Then, having done all that seems reasonable, I can rest in the confidence that the God who holds me safely in His all-powerful hand will keep me in His all-encompassing will. Others may come to a different conclusion about how they should respond to this present situation. That is for them to decide. What faith and wisdom will not let us do is to live in fear or folly. May the Lord keep us all safe and healthy. May He empower His people to reach out with help and hope to those living around them in fear. May He have mercy on those who are sick. And may He make this time short.

About the Author

Barrett Duke

Barrett Duke is the Executive Director and Treasurer for the Montana Southern Baptist Convention.