What the Coronavirus Removes from Us

By: William D. Shiell

For seven months, we have waited for a cure from COVID—19, a disease that has claimed over 200,000 lives. Since a vaccine will not be widely available until 2021, we have a few more months to reflect on our condition and prepare to live differently. Pandemics are times to turn our hearts toward God and ask, “What does God need to remove from our lives so that our children and grandchildren can have faith in God?”

At the heart of the book of Exodus is a story of a people who move. But in order to get the people out of Egypt, God must get Egypt out of the people. The Israelites had grown accustomed to over 400 years of “it is what it is.” Life as they knew it was hard, painful, and yet predictable. Just ask any family that enables an abuser, any church that tolerates a bully, or a friend who accompanies an addict to AA, it’s very hard to change. But God’s contest with the Pharaoh shows the people that there are some things in life worse than moving. To remain in their current condition would mean death to Israel. The pain of moving into the wilderness was survivable; the death grip of Egypt was terminal.

What have the last eight months revealed about your life? Since March, we’ve seen
  • White supremacy still holds many people in bondage
  • Communities of color disproportionately affected by the coronavirus
  • Nursing home and assisted living centers that can’t support residents and staff
  • Death by suicide on the rise
  • Loneliness and isolation increasing
  • Divorce rates, domestic violence, and family stress increasing
  • Grief compounded by separation from loved ones who have died from the virus
Simultaneously, we’ve seen fantastic signs of hope
  • Healthcare workers on the front lines of the virus
  • Pop-up food pantries caring for people in neighborhoods
  •  The return of phone calls to check on people personally
  • Evangelism spreading on college campuses
  • Bible studies available on-demand through virtual communities
  • Churches meeting outdoors on front lawns and in neighborhoods
The last eight months reveal now more than ever we need called congregations willing to follow God into innovative ministries. But in order to go, we will need to unload some cargo. We need to rid ourselves of what holds us captive in Egypt to move forward into God’s preferred future. We need the church to adapt and discover innovative new ways of walking together bravely into the wilderness. The good news is that we already have a mirror and a conversation starter. The book of Exodus provides the script and the tools to reflect, learn, and grow. Together, we can follow God’s presence to o a new place.

If you’d like to learn more, check out my new book entitled Sessions with Exodus and join a community of learners. I’ll be teaching on Exodus beginning October 15 at Northern Seminary via zoom. Register today, and let’s learn together.

October 5, 2020

William D. Shiell

President, Professor of Pastoral Theology and Preaching

ABOUT William



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