Can we thank God for Covid-19?

During the Second World War, Corrie ten Boom and her family helped save Jews by providing them with a hiding place in their home in Haarlem. The Germans discovered their activities Corrie and her sister Betsie were captured and transported via Scheveningen and Vugt to the Ravensbrück concentration camp. A few weeks after the Gestapo invaded his home, Father ten Boom died in prison. Betsie passed away in the concentration camp on 16 December 1944. Corrie was lucky. Probably as a result of an administrative error she was released a few days after the death of her sister. Her story was published in 1971 in the book The Hiding Place, which became a huge bestseller.

In this book Corrie tells about daily life in the concentration camp. Together with her sister she continued to read the Bible and to pray together. An episode that is often quoted is how at a given moment Betsie wanted to convince her sister Corrie that there were many things to thank God for, even in their terrible situation. She insisted they could also thank God for the plague of lice in their barracks. Corrie thought that went too far, but Betsie saw the positive side of the lice plague in the fact that the German guards would now leave them alone and they were therefore in less danger of being raped! That was something to thank God for.

This week, when I happened to read something about Corrie ten Boom and the lice incident, I wondered: Can we also thank God for the Covid-19 pandemic? My first thought was that we could ask him to be close to the people affected by this disaster, but to thank him for this pandemic? No, I cannot do that, when I think of the people who died and all the people who are seriously ill. And when I think of all the people who are losing their jobs and the companies that are going bankrupt. And also, when I think of the sharp increase in domestic violence and the sad fact that we choose to forget, at least for the moment, what’s happening in the poorer countries and is probably going to happen there in the near future. And, of course, I am not at all happy with all the restrictions in my daily life. I miss being able to sit, once in a while, on an outside terrace with a cup of coffee. And yes, I also miss going to church.

But there are rays of light for which we can be thankful. The air around us has become cleaner. There are fewer traffic jams and therefore fewer accidents. There is also less crime. We see a lot of initiatives to help each other. And people who don’t normally do that, call and app other people to hear how things are going for them!

It would be great if the current crisis would make people think more deeply about the future. Do we really want a society in which it is especially important that the prices on the stock markets continue to rise? Do we want a society in which there must be continuous economic growth? In which we are challenged to consume more and more? A world in which a ‘good life’ is mainly measured in economic criteria? And in which the differences between rich and poor are becoming ever painful? Is the ‘new normal’ really becoming ‘new’ in the sense that it will be more humane? Or does the ‘new normal’ eventually become a somewhat polished version of the ‘old normal’? God forbid!