"And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" – Hebrews 9:27 (KJV)
When I was growing up we had two televisions in the house: one upstairs and one in the basement. Both were black and white sets and, as I recall, we received about 5 stations. My parents, at that time, were opposed to attending the movie theater but they seemed to have no qualms about watching movies (that had previously been released at the movie theaters!) on television. On occasion we would, as a family, watch a movie together and if it was a particularly old movie – say, something from the 1930s – I can recall my dad making the comment, "Everyone you see in that film is now dead." He made that comment many times through the years. It stuck with me and these many decades later I find myself having the same thought when I see an old film.
It was four weeks ago this coming week that President Trump called for the coming Sunday (March 15) to be a National Day of Prayer. It was around that same time that I heard the president comment that he believed the coronavirus would quite suddenly just disappear. He even used the word "miracle" to describe what he was expecting. Like King Darius who came, hoping, expecting even, that he might find Daniel alive in the lion's den the next morning, I genuinely believe that President Trump was hoping for exactly that: a miracle.
But did we all pray? Well, yes and no. At the time I thought it somewhat ironic that on the Sunday that he was calling for people to especially pray most of the churches around Lancaster County were closed. It is not that people didn't pray. It is, rather, that I'm not convinced people prayed with any great earnestness.
For you see, the people of God – like my dad when I was growing up – have a "matter of fact" sort of approach to living and dying. Those who are anxious about death tremor at the thought "We're all gonna die!" But believers…well, yes, we just acknowledge that death is coming. But that is okay. Death is just a matter of fact and it is not the end.
Back at the time of the bombing of the downtown Oklahoma City federal building Billy Graham made a couple of interesting comments. One was that God had nothing to do with the bombing (a statement that I have wrestled with all these years). The other was that the bombing didn't take anyone's life. Graham then went on to say that all those that died were destined to eventually die. All the bombing did was move ahead the date of their death. I still wrestle a bit with that statement as well but I get what he was saying: we all die sooner or later. On a global scale roughly 150,000 people die EVERY DAY! Since January 1st of this year approximately 14,500,000 have died. The coronavirus has merely moved the day of death up a bit for roughly 70,000 of those 14.5 million people.
So here is the catch about the whole thing: those who don't usually pray seem extremely anxious (a recent poll revealed that a good number of those who consider themselves agnostics or atheists admitted that they too have prayed for an end to the virus); while those who do pray seem far less worried. This is not because of some fatalistic attitude but rather because of a faith in a God who is over all and does all things well. At least that is how it seems to me.