Before I answer the question I posed in the title, I should probably explain the meaning of Lent.
If you were raised Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox or Anglican, you are quite familiar with the season of Lent.
In most faith traditions, Lent is essentially 40 days of intermittent fasting, or just giving up some things in order to deny the flesh and think about the death and resurrection of Christ over a period of time and in a way that is more focused.
As recorded in all three synoptic gospels, Jesus fasted 40 days and 40 nights before His great testing in the wilderness. This of course was also the anti-type of Israel. Because of their disobedience and grumbling against God, Israel wandered 40 years in the wilderness. (See Matthew 4:2, Mark 1:13 and Luke 4:2).
Hebrews 3:16-19 tells us thus:
“16 For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.” (ESV - Emphasis Mine)
Where the old Israel failed, Christ succeeded! Instead of murmuring against God and provoking God, Christ used the very Word of God to rebuff the great tempter, the devil himself.
Early Christians recognized the powerful significance of this. In wanting to emulate Christ as his disciples, they created the season of Lent.
The following Wiki explains it well enough,
Lent is a solemn religious observance in the Christian liturgical calendar that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends approximately six weeks later, before Easter Sunday. The purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer for Easter through prayer, doing penance, mortifying the flesh, repentance of sins, almsgiving, and self-denial. This event is observed in the Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Methodist, Moravian, Presbyterian, Oriental Orthodox, Reformed, and Roman Catholic Churches. (Source)
Although some do, most Protestants and hardly any Evangelicals celebrate Lent. Most of us have heard of it, but that's about it.
Why do so few Christians celebrate Lent? Very simply put, most Christians today do not really follow the traditional Christian calendar. Most believers celebrate Christmas, Palm Sunday and Easter, but nothing beyond those.
Now it is true that Lent is not commanded in Scripture. Technically speaking then, no church has the right to DEMAND that we observe Lent, or any other part of the Christian calendar.
But in ignoring Lent, are we also ignoring the spirit of Lent? The spirit of Lent after all is...
Since this present post is not a treatise on fasting, I won't go into all of the Scriptural references, nor the implications of fasting. But the fact that the Apostles and nearly ALL early Christians practiced fasting can not be denied (unless you are in another kind of self-denial).
The question I raised in this post is regarding the Corona virus and its correspondence to Lent.
Now I know, I know, I know that what I am about to say is TOTALLY western-centrist. I know that in China and many other countries (especially in Asia) the Corona Virus was already spreading since about the 1st of the year. So to even hint at this seems just off somehow.
Nevertheless, I am raising the question, because like no other place in the world, we in the West and especially we as Americans have become very arrogant to believe, implicitly or explicitly that nothing can touch us!
Be honest. We don't deny ourselves anything. Even the threat of losing our luxuries sends us on a mad scramble to Costco JUST TO MAKE SURE that we don't lose the luxurious, 2-ply, soft tissue with which we wipe our backsides.
And so... I find it more than interesting that the CDC issued the following warning on February 25th, 2020, THE DAY BEFORE ASH WEDNESDAY!
Americans should prepare for coronavirus crisis in U.S., CDC says (source)
My question really boils down to this. Did God send the Corona Virus (Covid-19) upon us to humble us and bring us to repentance of our arrogance and our sin?
Put another way, is the Corona Virus a God-imposed Lent?
You can decide that for yourself.
But don't take too much time deciding. After all, aren't we commanded to “redeem the time, because the days are evil?” (Ephesians 5:16).
Perhaps all of us should use this time of Lent to reflect and repent. To mortify our flesh and humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God.
Instead of worrying about our cupboard and our stores, we can pray, read Scripture and serve others (also known as almsgiving). This is what Jesus wants us to do at all times. On account of this gracious gift of Lent (AKA, the Corona Virus), we now have more time than ever to serve the Living God.