Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered (Hebrews 5:8).
The COVID-19 pandemic will eventually end. All pandemics have. But what kind of people will we be on the other side of it? By God’s grace we will be those who “learned obedience” through it rather than just survived it.
The verse from Hebrews says that Jesus is our example in this. He is the son who learned obedience through suffering. You might think that is a strange thing to say about Jesus, as if it means he was disobedient (and therefore sinful) but suffering made him stop that and change. That is certainly not the case, since the same letter affirms that Jesus in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15). So what does it mean that he learned obedience through what he suffered?
It means that he learned from the sufferings that came his way just what obedience to God looks like in the real conditions of a fallen world. For example, he was committed to trusting God, but that trust had to be exercised and completed in each new trail, so that Jesus could say “ THAT is what it is like to trust God – when the Romans make you carry their gear for a mile, or your brothers mock you, or you are nailed to a cross.” In this way he is not only our example, but one who sympathizes with us as one who has been tempted as we are, yet without sin, and who achieved the perfect record of obedience by which we are saved through faith (Phi. 3:9).
Here’s how this speaks to our experience of the pandemic. You are being forced to alter your daily life, cancel your plans, and navigate ever-changing pronouncements about what things will look like going forward. You will be tempted to take out your frustrations on someone, post not-so-helpful rants on social media, or become critical of everyone who isn’t doing what you think they should, including God. But this situation has been ordained by God so you can learn obedience. You are being stretched by trials so you can become steadfast and mature and resilient (James 1:3-4), just like Jesus.
This discipline, this training regimen, comes from a Father who loves you (Heb. 12:6). And it will only last as long as it is still teaching you what you need to learn; then it will end. Let it train you so you can experience the peaceful fruit of righteousness (Heb 12:11). Know that the Father is seeking to form Christ in you (Gal. 4:19) and nothing could be a more beautiful outcome from the pandemic.