In inventorying my blessings of the past year, I number Covid as one of my greatest blessings. I wholeheartedly concur with the psalmist who wrote: “It is good for me that I have been afflicted” (Psalm 119:71). Here are several of the blessings I found in my affliction:
Covid was a blessing for me because it reminded my forgetful brain that my brothers and sisters in Christ are the best people on the face of the earth. It is not even close. Prayers, texts, calls, cards, food, water, groceries, and even a delicious Sonic cheeseburger are all tangible proofs of how fervent brotherly love can be. My family and I were recipients of such tenderhearted compassion and concern.
Through four Wednesday nights’ absence and three straight Sundays out of the pulpit, the elders were constant in their focus upon my health and well-being, and not on how soon I would return. In forty years of preaching, I have never worked with shepherds who were as kind and thoughtful.
Covid was a blessing for me because it impressed upon me the universal truth that no one is irreplaceable. As I listened online and then in person to the men who stepped up to fill the gap of my absence, it was clear to me that there are very talented brethren who listen most Sundays. It did my heart good to see and hear that. In Christ’s church, no one is irreplaceable, except Christ.
Covid was a blessing for me because of its loneliness. Some things in life—like pregnancy, illness, and death—are lonely, personal experiences. Loved ones may be nearby to give the precious present of presence, but they are not experiencing exactly what you are.
My loneliness during Covid deeply impressed upon my heart the extraordinary blessing of being married to my best friend. “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18); therefore, “whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing and obtaineth favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22). A trustworthy, loyal, virtuous wife who fears the Lord (Proverbs 31:10, 30) is one of this life’s rare and priceless treasures. Covid blessed me with a sharper focus and greater appreciation of this truth.
Covid was a blessing for me because it has better prepared me to be a source of comfort to others. Paul makes this clear in this inspired beatitude: “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). God comforts us in our afflictions so we can be better equipped to comfort others who also must trod the path of affliction. Comforting others is only fitting for a people who have a High Priest who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities (Hebrews 4:15) and are tasked with continuing through His spiritual body, the church, all that He began to do and teach (Acts 1:1).
Covid was a blessing for me because it reminded me that death is gain (Philippians 1:21). Regardless of whether my death is from Covid or old age, natural or unnatural causes, victory is gained if I die in the Lord. Just as no two races at a track meet are the same distance, no two lives will necessarily be identical lengths. Paul’s focus was on magnifying Christ (Philippians 1:20). His example, rooted in Christ’s pristine example, is worthy of our imitation (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Covid was a blessing for me because—in its own way—it purified my soul. Just as a week of fasting is healthy for the body because it promotes the cleansing of impurities from the outer man, affliction can be healthy for the soul because it helps remove the dross of spiritual impurities from one’s faith and inner man (2 Peter 1:6-7). It was only through the affliction of Paul’s thorn in the flesh that he learned the sufficiency of Christ’s grace (2 Corinthians 12:9). My soul is lighter and my faith is purer today because of Covid.
Covid was a blessing for me because it reminded me again of God’s sovereignty and providence. Not all Covid cases end in recovery. Less than a week after my fever broke, a brother in Christ (twenty years younger than I) died.
I cannot begin to explain to his heartbroken widow why her beloved husband died and I recovered any more than I can explain why the apostle James was killed by Herod (Acts 12:1-2) and Peter was rescued from that wicked ruler (Acts 12:6ff). I firmly believe prayer was made on behalf of both men (Acts 12:5), and I firmly believe God knows best. Why James was allowed to depart this life and be with the Lord which is far better (Philippians 1:23) decades before Peter was, I do not know. God is sovereign; He knows what is best, and He loves every one of His children too much to not seek to providentially work all things together for each one’s good (Romans 8:28). If my younger brother in Christ died in the Lord, He is blessed and gets to rest from his labors (Revelation 14:13) sooner than I do.
It has been observed that people can easily miss their opportunities in life because they usually come disguised in work clothes. Much the same can be said about God’s blessings—we can easily miss them because we are not expecting to find any when the rains descend, the floods come, and the winds blow. I hope I have learned better.
It was good for me to be afflicted.