It is believed that a person with 20-20 vision has perfect eyesight. Such a person can see things clearly even from a distance of 20 feet.
At the beginning of the year 2020 most of us thought that it was going to be a good year. We had a 20-20 vision for the year. Though COVID-19 was first identified in December 2019 in China, it was only a month later that it surfaced in India. By the end of 2020, as many as 1,465,144 people died due to the virus, of whom 137,621 were from India.
The deadliest pandemic recorded in human history, however, was the Black Death plague that ravaged Europe and Asia (1347–53). According to one estimate, it killed about 200 million people, though the conservative estimate is 50 million. Almost 50% of the population of Europe is believed to have died due to the disease.
Similarly, AIDS has killed about 36 million, but over a period of 40 years, from 1980 to the present.
The worst pandemic of the last century was the Spanish Flu, which broke out as the First World War was ending. Almost a third of the global population was affected. An estimated 50–100 million people died. India was one of the worst affected, losing about 17 to 18 million people, approximately 6% of its population.
That was almost a hundred years ago and we had almost forgotten what a pandemic could unleash on mankind.
Our 20-20 Experience
As 2020 ends, vaccines have been developed against Covid-19 and, so, we think 2021 is going to be better. At least, we hope so. But didn’t we feel that 2020 would be better than 2019, and don’t we, at the beginning of every year, wish that it will be better than the previous year?
In 2020, life changed unimaginably for most of us as we tried to cope with the fear of contracting a deadly infection, the daily challenges that pandemic-induced lockdown kept throwing at us, the psychological trauma of isolation from friends and family, pressure of working in home and from home, the added burden of online schooling for not only students and teachers but also parents (especially those with limited or no digital means) and the physical distancing from festive occasions and places of worship among a host of other things that became the ‘new normal’.
Believers have not been able to attend worship services in person. Some have adjusted to online services. Who knows, some may even demand that online services be continued so that they can lounge at home in their pyjamas while viewing church service without further involvement? The habit of church attendance has been broken. Can it be repaired—completely? Maybe, but first the habit of not attending will have to be broken, and then it will take time and multiple repetitions for the habit of attending church to be reconstructed.
Backward or Forward?
We always want to go forward. But now we want to go to the pre-2020 times. Some folks have declared that the year 2021 will be the “Year of Healing” but everybody won’t get healed. However, it is a good thing to focus on the promises of God and pray for grace and mercy in the light of His promises.
It is not the year that will heal us. As God told the Israelites, “I am the Lord, who heals you” (Ex 15:26). Note that conditions apply: “If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.” If we are in covenant with God we can ask God for healing, but if we are not in covenant with God, we can’t even pray for healing.
Who can tell whether this pandemic will end soon and life will go back to what it was? The Bible teaches that the world is in a “fallen state”. That means that things are not as they were created and not as they were meant to be. When God looked around at the world after each phase of creation He observed that it was all good (Gen 1: 4, 9, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). But when humans, the only creatures made in God’s likeness (vv.27–28), broke fellowship with Him by departing from His mandate for living, they reaped the consequences of that rebellion. The world began to malfunction (3:17–19), just like any gadget malfunctions when we don’t follow the manufacturer’s advice. Paradise was lost, and humankind has never been able to regain the lost paradise.
Waiting for Redemption
Scripture describes the present fallen state of the world as one of groaning, waiting for redemption (Rom 8:19–22). This is what God promised to the waiting world:
“See, I will create new heavens and a new earth; the former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice for ever in what I will create…” (Isa 65:17–18).
This promise of God is based on His covenant with His people. In the context of that covenant, God said further: “I will rejoice… and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more. ‘Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years…They will not labour in vain, nor will they bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the Lord, they and their descendants with them. Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,’ says the Lord” (vv.19–25).
The day when wolves will lie down with lambs has not yet arrived and will come only when the Lord’s kingdom will be established on earth. However, we can still live in that hope.
Let’s Get Married
Redemption that will save us from our fallen world is a matter of covenant. A covenant is not like a legal contract. It’s a two-way relationship of intimacy, involvement and interaction. That is why the Old Testament affirms that God is married to His people (54:5), and when they break the covenant with Him, it is equated with committing adultery (Ezek 16:15–34).
The New Testament reaffirms that by saying that Christ is married to His people gathered (ecclesia) in His Name (Eph 5:22–32).
That was in biblical times. What about today? Are we in this kind of intimate relationship with God? Marriage is a two-way relationship. Traditionally, when people get married, they say to each other, “I, ___, take thee, ___, to be my wedded husband/wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I pledge thee my faith [or] pledge myself to you.” That is what total commitment is like.
Changing circumstances don’t destroy such commitment. Thus, when Daniel’s three friends faced trial by fire, they told the king that they would indeed put their lives in God’s hands. They said that they knew that God had the power to save them, but went on to say that even if He sovereignly chooses not to save them from the fire, they would not give in to the king’s threats, and bow to his will, because they had already chosen God’s will for their lives (Dan 3:16–18).
God loved us first (1 Jn 4:10, 19). For His part, God has already affirmed that He is in an intimate relationship with those who belong to Him. What God has affirmed needs to be affirmed by us in return.
Better with Jesus
Like everyone else, I too would like things to return to pre-2020 conditions. I want to be able to dine out, holiday with family and friends, and, most of all, worship in fellowship with believers. On the other hand, I see that the groaning of the world is a precursor to the coming redemption—the Second Coming of Christ. Dare I say, “Not now, Lord”?
The year 2021 may or may not be better than 2020. We need to look beyond all this and seek a closer relationship with the Lord. Let’s manifest the courage manifested by Daniel’s friends and say: Who cares what happens? I don’t care. That is just not the point of my life. Mine is to belong to God and to put my life in His powerful, caring, kind hands.
As Paul said, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” The Apostle Paul was one who experienced many troubles. Through all of them, he learnt precious lessons that he shared with fellow believers (Rom 8:28–39):
· In every situation, God is working for our good
· God gave us Jesus—and so He is not going to withhold any blessing from us.
· We’re not condemned. Jesus is praying for us
· Nothing can separate us from the Lord’s love for us—that’s what is important
· We are not defeated. We are conquerors through Christ Jesus because of His love
With Jesus, 2021 will be better: just because He will be there for us.