How Can God Use the Coronavirus? He Can Make Us Stronger.
God is giving us an incredible opportunity.
By any measure, the world is struggling. Death tolls mount; our doors are shut and locked; life may never return to the way it once was. Our grief is rising and our pain demands to be dealt with.
This is one of the greatest hardships we have ever endured. And therein lies our gift.
This is our greatest opportunity.
“Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you meet trials of various kinds.”
— James 1:2
We have met our trial. COVID-19 is unleashing untold trials upon humanity, the likes of which we’ve rarely seen.
And what does God command us to do? Count it all joy.
At first this sounds cruel. Are we supposed to make light of our grief? Are we supposed to pretend we’re not filled with anxiety and pain? Are we supposed to plaster fake smiles on our faces and claim we’re happy while the world collapses?
If that’s what God commanded, it would be cruel. But He is not asking us to make light of our trials.
Rather, He wants us to face them head-on. To follow the wisdom of this verse, we have to see our trials for what they really are. We have to acknowledge the pain, feel the grief, and realize that everything is changing.
But in the midst of these trials, God gives us a new ability: we can suffer in fear or we can embrace these trials and genuinely count them all joy.
These are no empty words. “All joy” means the highest joy, the greatest happiness, the same degree of exuberance that Mary felt when she discovered the tomb to be empty and Jesus to be alive.
This is our choice.
We can count it all joy that we face the coronavirus, with all of its lockdown, economic devastation, death, and tragedy. We don’t downplay the difficulty. We embrace the hardship, pain, and grief fully — and as we do, rejoice.
It seems impossible. It feels unnerving.
But this is where God unveils His strategy:
“Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
— James 1:2–4
This hardship is testing our faith, a testing harder than we’ve ever known. But the hardship is not to be resented. It’s how we access our gift.
This testing is harsh. There is no denying our pain, grief, and loss. But God knows how to use even the worst pain for good. He is a good coach.
A good coach knows his athletes. He knows how to push them so they can achieve their best. He knows how to use grueling workouts to expose their weaknesses, so they can work on every weakness and turn it into strength.
More than that, God is good coach who endures the trials with us. Jesus endured every kind of hardship, from the death of His adoptive father Joseph, to abandonment by His siblings, to the murder of his cousin John, to betrayal by a close friend, to the most intense physical suffering the human body can endure—even to death. Jesus knows what it is to suffer.
And from His intimate knowledge of suffering, Jesus leads us into strength.
The testing of your faith produces endurance. In the original language, this word means “capacity to continue to bear up under difficult circumstances — ‘endurance, being able to endure, steadfastness.’”
A non-athlete who is forced to run laps soon collapses, gasping for breath. They endured no testing. As a result, their strength never grew.
But an athlete who submits to their coach’s testing zips around the track. They endured the testing, using each hardship to grow stronger. As a result, their strength built up day after day, until they gained the ability to endure under any circumstance.
Why should we rejoice in this hardship? Why should we embrace the trial of COVID-19 with all joy?
Because this is how we grow stronger.
Look at the goal of all testing:
“that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing”
— James 1:4
The athlete who stands on the Olympic podium with gold around their neck is perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. They endured the hardship of training for years on end. It produced the desired effect. They grew strong.
That was their choice.
We are all going through hardship right now. Some of us far worse than others. But no matter what kind of life you live, there is no avoiding the trials we’re facing.
The question is whether you will embrace these trials and let them make you stronger — or whether you will resent them and miss out on the gift.
“let endurance have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
— James 1:3
It’s your decision. You must choose to let endurance have its full effect.
Two athletes can stand on the track, with the same coach encouraging them to run and grow stronger. But each athlete must choose whether they will. One may embrace the hardship of training and grow faster daily. The other may resent the training and put in the minimum effort.
Both endure the training. But only one is letting the training have its full effect. The other is wasting the hardship — still suffering, but gaining little strength.
It’s your choice.
You determine how strong you will become.
You can choose to embrace hardship with joy. You can choose to let endurance have its full effect, making you perfect and complete. Or you can choose to resent hardship, let endurance have no effect, and remain in your present state, far from complete.
Or to say it another way:
God wants you to be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. He can use this hardship to bring you there.
Athletes don’t grow stronger by sitting on the sidelines and resenting their workouts. They grow when they embrace their hardship.
This is our chance to grow.