How to Talk to Children About the Coronavirus
Welcome back to the podcast. This is another special episode related to current events. We don’t plan to dedicate a lot of episodes to the coronavirus pandemic, but we will today, specifically speaking to youth. Pastor John is with me from his home office.
Just a few weeks back, I spoke to a youth group in Frisco, Texas — a hundred or so students packed together in a little room to talk about smartphones and social media habits. It was a great time. But I started by asking how many of them knew what Ask Pastor John was. And I think every hand went up. It was shocking. I wasn’t expecting it. So, I think a lot of kids and youth listen to this podcast, and I suspect that’s because so many parents listen to episodes in car rides around town. So, let’s talk directly to those youth. You have fourteen grandkids. Become Grandfather John for a moment. What do you want to say to them in this season about God and coronavirus?
I’m 74 years old. That means I’m old enough to be your granddad and maybe your great granddad. My name is John Piper. You can call me Pastor John. I want to talk to you for a few minutes about the coronavirus — that sickness that is changing how people live all over the world. And I want to talk about God, I want to talk about Jesus, and about you. What does the coronavirus have to do with you and God and Jesus? So, I hope you’ll listen for just a few minutes.
Coronavirus Is Not in Command
What makes the coronavirus so unusual and so dangerous is that you can catch it as a sickness by just being around people who have it, and you can’t tell when they have it. And that makes it really dangerous, which is why everybody is staying inside these days, trying to stop the virus. And it’s dangerous because it is ten times more serious than the ordinary flu. And the reason our leaders, like the governors and the President of the United States, are so concerned is because maybe one or two or three people out of every hundred who get this sickness will die from it.
Now, that may not sound like a lot: one or two out of every hundred. But if in my town, for example — Minneapolis — a hundred thousand people (which is not unlikely) got sick with this, that means one, two, or even three thousand are going to die of it. So, when you think of it that way, a lot of people who weren’t planning to die that quick are now going to die, if it spreads that much.
Now, the Bible is God’s very word. And the Bible teaches that God is stronger than the coronavirus. I hope you believe that. We know this because Matthew 4:24 says, “They brought [Jesus] all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains . . . and he healed them.” Jesus is more powerful than diseases — every one of them. In fact, over and over again, the Bible tells us that God commands the wind, rain, snow, lightning, plants, grass, grasshoppers, flies, frogs, gnats, worms, whales, birds, and everything else. He commands them where to go, what to do, and they do what he says. They have to; he’s God. They do what he says. God made the whole world and everything in it, and he holds the world in his hand, and he does what he wants to do with the world and in the world.
You can see that again in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, where he says that God “works all things” — that includes the coronavirus — “according to the counsel of his will” (Ephesians 1:11). That means nobody is over God telling God what to do. He’s the highest. He’s the strongest decision-maker in the world. Nobody makes God do what he doesn’t choose to do. He made the world, he holds it up, so he does what he wants with it and in it. It never falls apart. It always does what he plans for it to do all the time and all of it.
God’s Perfectly Wise Plan
I hope you’re asking — and it’s right to ask, if we ask humbly and ready to learn the answer from God — “Why is there a coronavirus, then? Why don’t you, God, Jesus, please take it away, since you could?” And that’s right; he could. He’s God. The coronavirus is not God. The coronavirus is not stronger than Jesus. Jesus could take it away just by snapping his finger. And the time will come when he has decided he will take it away. And it might happen overnight. We don’t know how it will happen.
So, why is it here? Why doesn’t he just take it away now? And the answer is this: because he has wise purposes for it. God is perfectly wise. That means he knows exactly what needs to be done to bring about what’s best for all time. That’s called wisdom. When you know what is best to do all the time, you’re a wise person. And God is perfect in wisdom. He knows what needs to be done: he knows how it needs to be done, and he knows when it needs to be done.
And since God is perfectly wise and knows everything — he knows way, way, way, way more than we know — everything he makes happen and everything he lets happen fits into a perfectly wise and good plan that he has. We can’t see all of it — all the plan. But we can see some of it. For example, let me give you some things that I can see and you can see in the Bible that God is planning to do with the coronavirus.
1. Jesus said in Luke 13:1–5 that things like the coronavirus happen so that people in the world who don’t believe in Jesus would wake up, and repent, and think about God and Jesus and heaven and hell and salvation and the need for forgiveness, and that they would turn to Jesus and be saved. That’s one thing he’s doing.
2. Paul said that things like the coronavirus happen so that people would stop trusting in themselves and trust God. Lots of people think — adults think, children think — that they’re way smarter than they are, way stronger than they are, way more in control. “I’m the captain of my soul.” Bologna! You’re not the captain of your soul; God is the captain of your soul. And that kind of pride needs to be brought down. If it needs to be brought down by coronavirus, God will do it. We have a lot of arrogant leaders in this world who need to be humbled, and if it takes the coronavirus to do it, God will do it. God wants us to know that he’s in control, and that we ought to trust him and not our own abilities or our own intelligence.
3. And the third thing that God is doing is this: the Bible says that things like the coronavirus happen to show us that we might be loving things more than we love God; we might be loving other people more than we love God. And there’s nothing in the world more important than loving Jesus more than we love ourselves or more than we love other people (Matthew 10:37–39). So, the coronavirus is showing people what they love most.
Our Savior Makes Us Brave
God is in charge of the coronavirus, and he knows what he’s doing, and he’s perfectly good and perfectly wise. And here’s the really good news we ought to want the whole world to hear. I hope you will share with your friends the news that Jesus, God’s only Son, came into the world and died so that God would never punish us if we trust him. He said that the punishment that you and I deserve because of our sin — that punishment was put on Jesus.
And if we trust Jesus — that is, if we receive Jesus, welcome Jesus as our Savior and our Guide and our Treasure, the one we really love — then we never have to be afraid of God. We never have to be afraid of God’s punishment ever. This is wonderful. That means we don’t ever have to be afraid to die — not from the coronavirus or anything else — because when Jesus died and rose from the dead, he changed death from punishment into a doorway to everlasting happiness with him.
So, what does this mean for you? What does it mean? You don’t have to be afraid of the coronavirus. God is stronger than the coronavirus, and if you trust his Son, Jesus, God will make everything turn out for your good. So, be brave. Don’t be brave because you’re strong; that’s called pride. All those TV superheroes, they’re all proud. They’re not basing their strength on God; they’re just basing it on stuff that they have inside of them. Don’t be like them because you’re not them and you’re not strong. You’re weak. Be brave because you have a great Savior. Your best friend, Jesus, your Savior and Lord, is strong — strong enough to make everything, including the coronavirus, turn out for your good (Romans 8:28).
Trust Him Always
I taught the kids in our church, when I was a pastor, a two-line poem. It’s especially for children who believe in Jesus. Hundreds of them said it over the years. Let me teach it to you, and we’ll be done. And I want to say it once, and then you say it with me the second time, okay? It goes like this:
When things don’t go the way they should,
God always makes them turn for good.
Maybe, kids, we’ll talk again later. I don’t know. But for now, trust Jesus no matter what. You’ll never be sorry.
That’s a great word, Pastor John. We do have an amazing opportunity to share the gospel with our classmates and friends in this season — if you have access to social media or texting or phone calling or video messaging, or maybe you can meet them face to face. We encourage you to reach out to your friends with the hope of Jesus. The time is right. May the Lord give you boldness and the right words to speak eternal truth into the lives of your friends during this season.