“A life changing event” – it’s a phrase we hear quite a lot these days, though I do not ever remember it being used when I was growing up or even when I was working as a doctor. It usually refers to a tragic event or accident that leaves a person disabled or disfigured in some way such that their life from that point on is nothing like what it used to be or what the person had always imagined it would continue to be. I don’t think I have ever heard it used about something that changes our lives for the better: I wonder why not?
I doubt if anyone would dispute that the Covid-19 pandemic has become a life-changing event or experience for many people around the globe, if not all of us in some way or other. I suspect everyone everywhere will link 2020 with the coronavirus.
- Some individuals have themselves suffered a severe form of the viral illness, leaving them physically weak and with a long and unknown period of recovery.
- Some families have been bereaved; siblings have been lost, parents have died and undoubtedly this has significantly changed the future lives of those who remain. Others have lost elderly relations but without the opportunity to see them and say a proper goodbye: a life-long hurt.
- Many have lost their jobs or fear they will do so before long. Loss of employment and income is another life-changing experience. The shame of having had to ask for universal credit or use a food bank will remain for the rest of their lives.
- Children have missed months of schooling and exams and now many feel their futures have been blighted by the way their grades have been awarded. Even before their life career has started, it has been changed.
- The virus has not only given rise to physical symptoms but to high levels of anxiety, mental illness and in a country like Nepal, deaths from suicide have exceeded those due directly to viral infection.
Yes, Covid-19 is up there as one of the most serious and disruptive life-changing events any of us will ever experience.
But not all life-changing events – not even Covid – are uniformly bad. Over the last few months, there has been more neighbourliness and kindness. Sacrificial service by NHS and other key workers. It has caused many to reconsider life priorities and think more deeply about the danger of global warming and destruction of eco-systems. I, for one, hope that some of these changes remain life-long.
All this has made me think of one other life-changing experience that is undoubtedly good: becoming a Christian, handing over the control of our lives to God, being ‘born again’ or whatever terminology or jargon you choose to use for this. During lockdown, I read a couple of books about viruses and one told me that part of the reason for the pandemic has been because we as the human race have messed up in so many ways, and specifically in our relationship with the environment. This has apparently given nasty viruses the opportunity to jump from their original animal hosts to humans and then spread among the human population. But, of course, if we’re honest, we have to admit that we’ve also messed up in our relationships with other people, and with God, who has even been left out of the equation of many peoples’ lives.
Scientists now tell us that the only way ultimately to end the pandemic is to find an effective vaccine and/or treatment that will stop the virus making life-changing effects in our bodies and society. The Bible tells us that the only way to get the other broken relationships put right is to admit them, believe that God, and he only, can forgive and heal and then for us to make the life-changing decision to commit to Jesus and serve him for the rest of our lives. And that must surely be the greatest and the best life-changing event we will ever experience for it lasts into eternity.