The world has seemingly come unhinged in the last few months. First, there were just rumors of some viral disease in China. Then, almost overnight, it was everywhere. Officials have urged us to practice “social distancing,” a delight for introverts but something that causes real difficulties for most people. There is an almost palpable sense of fear and anxiety, as people stream to supermarkets and “big box” stores to stock up on anything they can think of. Keith Mathison wrote a fine piece on dealing with fear and anxiety that is worth reading. But I want to step back and survey our situation with a little help from our old friend Solomon. His little essay Ecclesiastes has some wisdom that can help us deal not only with fear and anxiety but can also help us put our whole situation in a godly perspective.

First, Solomon reminds us that “there is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9). Though COVID-19 may be a previously unknown disease (at least in humans), there are many viral diseases that cause significant problems, including death for many of those who suffer from them. In addition, there have been plagues that have afflicted mankind through the ages that had a much higher death rate than the current indications are regarding COVID-19. Americans in particular have difficulty remembering that these diseases have come and gone before, since such plagues have been relatively rare over the past couple of generations. But regrettably, as Solomon reminds us, “There is no remembrance of earlier things” (Eccl. 1:11), so we tend to act as if this had never happened before. Since there is nothing new under the sun, we can find comfort knowing that this too shall pass.

In the current crisis, in light of Solomon’s wisdom, we are to walk by faith, taking the next step, doing the next thing that comes to hand, whatever our calling requires of us.

Second, Solomon reminds us that death comes to us all (Eccl. 2:16; 7:2). Sadly, some people, perhaps an exceedingly large number of people, will die as a result of this plague. But it can be helpful to remember that all of us will die as long as the Lord tarries. Heart disease, cancer, a car wreck, war—these are but a few of the death-dealing threats that we see around us every day. A pandemic might make the possibility of death more immediate, but the pandemic has not introduced death into our world. It has been here since the fall. Not that we should be callous regarding death, of course, for one death lessens us all. As John Donne put it, “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”1 But by remembering that we are not immortal, we can prepare ourselves for our deaths that were sure to come even before COVID-19 struck.

Third, in light of our mortality, we must remember our Creator, especially when we are young (Eccl. 12:1). The living should take to heart the lesson that every death teaches. We, too, will die and we, too, will answer to our Creator. God will bring every deed into judgment, even the secret deeds, and the thoughts and intents of the heart. These are not light or frivolous considerations but deal with the very core of our being. This pandemic can be used of God to renew our faith and call many people to salvation through faith in Christ.

Fourth, what are we to do in the meantime? “Fear God and keep his commandments” (Eccl. 12:13). What does it mean to fear God? It means to recognize who He is and to take Him at His word. He has not been caught off guard but is providentially working all things together for our good and His glory (Rom. 8:28). Among other things, this means that God will fulfill both His blessings and His curses. As Jesus reminded us, we are to “fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28). But such fear without obedience is an empty and soul-destroying fear. In the current crisis, in light of Solomon’s wisdom, we are to walk by faith, taking the next step, doing the next thing that comes to hand, whatever our calling requires of us. We are to remember the brevity of the life that is given to us. And we are to remember that the mystery of providence is the outworking of the good and glorious purposes of our loving heavenly Father.


  1. Meditation 17, in Devotions upon Emergent Occasions ↩︎

Advice to a Young Preacher

Arrogance of the Modern: Twenty Years Later