Can we handle hard times?

Is the virus about to smash the good life?

I’ve lived for 50 years. Life has been good.

My grandparents, who have all long-passed on, endured the Great Depression which was backed up by the Second World War. They didn’t get a break until the 1950s, a golden decade of sunshine, despite what the left say of it.

My Grandparents never complained, at least not to us kids.

Their parents were pioneers who carved out farms in the Queensland bush.

They lost a 21-year-old son at Gallipoli. The neighbours up the hill lost two sons in the Great War.

My own parents saw their contemporaries go off to the Vietnam “odd angry shot” War. As awful as that conflict was for those who went, life went on in an ever-prospering Australia.

The 1990 “recession we had to have” hurt the vulnerable but for the strong, life also went on.

Sure, 9/11 and Islamist terrorism shocked us. Increased airport security has been a pain, but still we have not known hardship.

Deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq have touched some of my generation but, again, most of us have continued living the dream.

Australians have gotten richer and enjoyed pleasures and luxuries my grandparents and great-grandparents could only dream of.

We think this is the new normal and if the toilet paper at the supermarket runs out there’s a fight.

I sincerely hope that the disruption caused by Covid-19 is temporary but the signs are it may not be.

No one knows how long it might take to control this virus. There are horrific scenes in Italy as thousands of old people die, gasping for breath in hospital corridors, unable to be treated. Brave doctors are dying.

Annoyingly this could all have been avoided if the Chinese practiced modern sanitation in animal slaughter and if the communists in Beijing didn’t try and cover up the outbreak before it spread to the rest of us.

Our state and federal governments are right to prioritise health by taking drastic measures to contain the coronavirus.

But this is coming at a big cost.

At this rate, it won’t be long before people lose jobs and can’t pay mortgages or rents. Small businesses are going to the wall and Qantas and Virgin may take years to recover.

Our federal government, already owing half a trillion, will see that debt soar further north for another generation to pay.

If we struggle with a toilet paper shortage, what will we be like if many of us run short of cash?

Hardship has been the norm for the vast majority of people for the vast majority of history.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful to be living in probably the most privileged generation that has walked the planet.

It’s better to be wealthy and to see global living standards rising, something my generation has witnessed on an unprecedented scale. That’s been terrific.

But if we have to endure some hardship for a period, will we have the character and fortitude to do so without the bonds of civility fraying? This could be our test.

We have become selfish and narcissistic. We are very protective of our material success.

My mind has also inevitably turned to the why question.

I don’t claim to understand God’s role or non-role in human catastrophe. What I do find clear from the Bible (an unfashionable book) is that where people walk away from serving God and living by his rules, a vacuum is created.

In my lifetime I’ve seen our nation accelerate its abandonment of God. In fact, there’s been a growing hostility towards him.

Why should we be surprised if his hand is lifted by our shunning of him and that this is replaced by evil filling the void?

Weeds always grow when no one is tending to the field.

The Bible prophet Daniel lived during a time of catastrophe for his people, the Jews. They had been conquered in war and carted off to live as slaves in Babylon, in modern day Iraq.

The reason was clear. Daniel 9:5–6 from the Bible says: "...we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.”

Yes, we should wash our hands and self-isolate and do everything we can to beat this cursed virus.

But we should also lift our eyes to the God of the universe and humbly seek his help and forgiveness. Our nation has not listened.

Our nation has sinned greatly but we are too proud to admit it. Materialism, abortion, immorality, unfaithfulness in marriage and family, selfishness and a rebelling against the idea of what it means to be male and female are just some of our pathologies more deadly in the long run than any coronavirus.

True flourishing – that of the soul as well as the material – comes from putting God first.

This is a time to humble ourselves and pray. And to practice fortitude.