It’s the early morning hours of March 4th at Fort Riley, Kansas, an Army installation known for two individuals: Gen. George Custer and Sgt. Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City Bomber. On this particular day, Private Albert Gitchell awoke with cold-like symptoms: fever, sore throat, and a headache.
Private Gitchell reported to the infirmary. Before noon of that day, 100 more soldiers reported, presenting identical symptoms. Without knowing it at the time, the medical team was seeing the start of the pandemic in the USA.
As you read this, perhaps you are thinking, “I never heard this about COVID. I thought the first cases of COVID in America happened in the state of Washington.” And you would be correct! According to the CDC, “A 35-year-old man who had returned from Wuhan, China on Jan. 15, 2020, was later confirmed to have SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, after getting tested at a medical facility in the state of Washington.”*
The illustration at the beginning was not about the COVID-19 pandemic. It was about the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918, 103 years before we ever heard of COVID-19. By the time the Spanish Flu had run its course, 645,000 Americans had died and 20-50 million worldwide had succumbed.
WWI took place from 1914-1919. American troops joining the Allied Forces are believed to have helped spread the Spanish Flu to other continents. Over one-fourth of the American population was infected with the Flu before it fizzled out.**
Solomon intuitively wrote, “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9) While I’m sure his point had nothing to do with pandemics, he could not have been more right in his observation. There really is nothing new under the sun.
Digging into the history books, you discover that COVID has been handled much the same way as the Spanish Flu: masks, social distancing, washing the hands, quarantines, and lock downs. The resistance to the restrictions has been the same. The feelings of despair, loneliness, and isolation are the same, however, those feelings were more heightened during the Spanish Flu due to the war.
There have been some unique things done as well. For instance, during the Spanish flu, people would go around with a satchel of camphor hanging around their necks. An “old wives tale” believed this warded off ANY flu, including the Spanish variety. There have also been some odd things mentioned for curing or avoiding COVID. People have tried everything and have sold their ideas as the miracle elixir.
While “there is nothing new under the sun” may seem disquieting to our soul, let’s never forget that this also applies to God. Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” The word “forever” adds a bit of special twist to Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes.
Yesterday, there were pandemics. Today, there is a pandemic. But forever?!? Who would want THAT? The things of this world are temporary. Pandemics and problems of this world will not last. The Lord is the only thing — the only One – that stays the same and lasts forever.
Hebrews 1:10-12 says, “And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: (11) They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; (12) And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.”
On this anniversary of the Spanish Flu and as we continue to deal with COVID-19, remember that those things are here for a time but they shall pass. It is the LORD who lasts forever.