What the Story of David and Goliath Teaches About Faith in the Face of COVID-19
An essay on a well-prepared faith in the shadows of giants
Whether we grew up reading from a Children’s Bible or not, ever stepped foot into a Sunday school classroom or not, we know the story of David and Goliath. It’s the lesson-loaded story of an unassuming shepherd boy’s victorious encounter with an 8-foot foe with a creepy name. It’s a children’s story made for all ages that holds lessons of faith, trust, bravery, and resilience. Take the moment to read the whole story in 1 Samuel 17. Really, walk away and dust off a Bible.
From within a war-weary and anxiety-embattled people David emerges. He is just beyond his childhood years when he faces down a formidable giant, one that his fellow Israelites were scared to death of.
A bit of background. The Israelites and the Philistines had taken up battle positions on opposite sides of the Valley of Elah; two nations have taken their battle lines and are geared up for war. Anxiety is high. For 40 days, morning and evening, these two nations stare at one another, wondering when this battle between them would start and when it might come to an end, and how. Both the Philistine and Israelite soldiers, frozen in place 2 times a day for 40 days, are at volatile levels of hostility.
Stories like these should get us thinking about what we’re up against, and the giants of all shapes and sizes that cast their long shadows over us. In our lives, there are always moments like this; ones where we find ourselves stuck in place, unable or unwilling to move from our spots out of an all-encompassing and principled unwillingness or an unprincipled fear. Often, it’s both. We, too, take our strident positions, and by doing so we become, to our own detriment, immoveable.
For more than a year and a half now, we have been standing in the long shadow of an invisible giant. COVID-19 is its own outsized presence, and it has made less of all of us. Both the virus and our reactions to it, our opinions about it, have proven this virus crippling and deadly. The virus itself does its own work to break down our bodies, lungs, and lives. But there’s no doubt that we have done the rest of the ravaging. How we have treated one another and what we have said to one another has led to broken relationships, irreconcilable differences of opinion, and a crippling and toxic spirit with and between us.
Many of the unvaccinated and unmasked among us have asserted that their faith in God protects them from this virus. Now we hear of those claiming religious exemptions to the vaccine and mask-wearing as if God protects them without need of such measures—God as divine force field, some shield of defense, some seal against germs. Because they say God protects them these ways, they see no need for vaccinations or face masks.
Back to David and his encounter with Goliath, the giant of the visible sort. David had a mighty faith in God. He was confident that God would give him victory over Goliath, but it never occurred to David to arrive in the presence of the giant empty-handed, without a weapon to protect and defend him in this fight.
Before he met Goliath, David made sure he was prepared with his shepherd’s sling, a weapon he always had with him. He used it to chase off wolves with. This time, though, he wasn’t preparing for an encounter with an animal, but with an 8-foot giant. As he approached Goliath, David knelt by a nearby stream and carefully picked from it five smooth stones, though he was sure he would only need one. He carried those stones with him as he made his way into battle.
To be sure, David, a faithful Israelite, knew that his God would be with him as he took those next steps into the giant’s shadow, but you can bet that David never imagined his faith in God meant that he could face Goliath without his familiar measure of reinforcement. It was with great faith in God that David equipped himself for this fight. It would have never occurred to David that showing up in the face of threat with no line of defense was an expression of faith. David would have called that naïveté and unpreparedness.
A lack of vaccine and mask is not an expression of faith in God. God prepares us with what we know, with what we have available to us. Faith is never a measure of immunity, never can it be understood as a reason for unpreparedness. Never is faith a blind and unequipped trust; faith is rather an eyes wide open, clear-headed, clear-hearted awareness of what we’re up against and our ability to prepare ourselves well to face it, even when we are sure of God’s goodness and victory.