I started having chills on Tuesday, December 1. Over the next couple of weeks, I had Covid-19 with just about all of its symptoms, and it developed into Covid-pneumonia. It is by far the worst illness I’ve had in decades, and I thank God that my family did not get it to the degree that I did. After a few days of losing weight (almost 10% of my body weight), getting worse, and having difficulty when I moved around (especially after going up or down stairs), my wife took me to the emergency room at a local hospital. They took me in right away, gave me a round of fluids, steroids, and antibiotics through an IV, and they sent me home after a few hours with pill forms of steroids and antibiotics to continue the healing process. That was my turnaround day, and the Lord continued to heal me over the next few days. Why this thing poisoned my system so severely and barely bit the heels of my family, I may never know.
Like anyone else on earth, I did not want to get Covid-19, especially to the degree that I did. But, now that it’s all done, I’m thankful for the lessons that I learned through this ordeal. God taught me much through suffering this virus. As you read on, you’ll find eight lessons for why I’m thankful that God allowed me to suffer Covid-19.
#1: God’s plans are always better than our plans.
I had writing plans, study plans, preaching plans, family plans, etc. for the first half of December (and after). I’m a type-A personality who enjoys planning as much as executing. But for all my planning, especially for December, God had other plans (cf. Proverbs 16:1, 3, 9, 33). And for all of the lessons I’ve learned and relearned, I’m so glad He did. His plans are better than mine.
#2: Nothing satisfies the soul more than God.
Between having cottonmouth and not wanting to eat, I could do little more than sleep in my bed or vegetate in my chair. The fevers and headaches kept me from being able to read. Whether checking the news, trying to play a game on my phone, or watching a video (sports bloopers and the like), what I enjoyed most was reading a psalm, and especially Psalm 110. Christ is my Great High Priest, He is coming again, and His people will follow Him in that day. God’s Word gave me the greatest pleasure in the midst of my great displeasure. Covid-19 parched my body and gave my soul a thirst for my God.
#3: God values personal sanctification more than our practical goals.
There was something worse than the virus in me when I was ill. There was anger for missing goals and frustration for not knowing why I got Covid-19 and why I got it so severely. I spoke like Job several times. Just ask my wife. (And she did not tell me to curse God and die, in case you were wondering.) God let me suffer so I could see that He was sovereign and that I needed sanctification. I am ashamed of some of the reactions I had. I am glad that He mercifully exposed my sin so that I can better show the fruit of His Spirit in time to come.
#4: God is merciful and compassionate to heal the sick.
Speaking of Job, not only do we learn that he was steadfast in his trials, but God was also compassionate and merciful to Him in the end (James 5:11). I wondered for a good week if God would be merciful and compassionate to me. He was. And His mercy and compassion was to do some healing to my soul along the way. If only I could have realized that better at the time.
#5: Fellow pastors are gifts from God.
My church only has about 50 people, but God has graced us with two pastors. While I was out of commission, my fellow pastor stepped into the helm and put his previous lead pastor experience to good use. It was a great comfort to me in sickness to know that my fellow shepherd was leading our flock. And I’m thankful that God was able to spotlight his gifts to our congregation during this time. He’s a good man, my church knows it, and I’m eternally thankful for him.
#6: God’s people are full of love.
The dear folks in my church called, texted, sent notes, made meals, gave us money for meals, and prayed for healing. They did all the little things I do to prepare for our services and filled in the gaps. Somebody watched our kids when my wife took me to the emergency room. They came to our house and caroled at our front door, bringing both me and my wife to tears. I’ve never seen such love, and without suffering through Covid-19, I might have never seen it. I’m overwhelmed by the privilege to serve such a wonderful church.
#7: A godly wife is the glue that keeps the family together.
I’m convinced I’d die in three days without my wife. Day 1 – I’m in the fetal position in my bed. Day 2 – I’m shriveled up like a raisin. Day 3 – I’m in heaven. Okay, that’s a bit ridiculous, but it’s probably not too far off the mark. During this time, she managed our children and me, kept the house going, and did it all with a heavy load and heart. She did it while working through her own bout of fevers and headaches as well. Her kindness and diligence overwhelm me. I know I don’t deserve her, but I’m so grateful that she said “yes.”
#8: I love Bob Jones University.
This lesson may seem out of the blue when compared to the previous seven, but I say “I love BJU” for two reasons as it relates to my time with Covid-19. First, when I was able to start reading again, I slowly worked through 172 pages of student papers I had to grade for a Doctor of Ministry class that I recently taught for BJU, “The Theology and Development of Leadership.” If I could paraphrase 3 John 4 with respect to teaching at BJU, “I have no greater joy that to read what my students are writing of the truth.” Perhaps a parallel joy, though, would be to hear of their service for the truth as well. I not only had six students, but I now have six more colleagues in ministry. Praise God for these diligent men. Second, one of my brothers told me to read a biography while I was sick, so I grabbed Dan Turner’s Standing Without Apology: The History of Bob Jones University. Until I gave this book a read, I never knew the heritage of BJU in depth, just how broad the ministry of BJU was, and the intensity of its battles over the years. Reading this book at this time motivated me all the more to conquer Covid-19 and get back to serving my church because God’s work is worth every ounce of effort we can give it, whether at a college, church, or wherever. I hope to fight for God’s work in every corner just like those who have served at BJU. I’m thankful for God’s preservation of this school and its role in my life over the years. I love BJU. (And for full disclosure—I am admittedly biased. I went to college at BJU and teach as adjunct faculty. The ministry of fellow students, my brothers, faculty, and staff made a lasting impression upon me— spiritually, culturally, and ecclesiastically. I am forever indebted to the school for what I received during my time as a student and grateful to teach in its seminary.)
Well, there you have it. I thank the Lord for giving me Covid-19, and you can see why above. If you happen to get it yourself, pray and see what the Lord might teach you as well.