"…to the praise of the glory of His grace…" Ephesians 1:6

First World County Issues with COVID-19 by Lane Frantz

I was born in a first world country. In fact, I’ve lived my entire life in first world countries (with the possible exception of a week spent in the Highlands of north-eastern Brazil). I have had to deal with what we call ‘first world problems,’ and as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic problems of all types have come to the surface. As our first world economy has ground to a near halt and as the social norm has been displaced by on-line meetings, streamed church services and the like, many ‘first world problems’ have taken a on a seemingly more prominent role in my life, and in the lives of those around me.

At the grocery store where everyone in the checkout line is spaced six feet apart, and where people take a different aisle simply because there are less people in it. At fast-food restaurants, where only drive-through services are available and dining rooms are eerily empty. Rows of antique and curio shops in small-town America shuttered. People everywhere wear cloth or paper masks – some simply pulling a scarf up over their face and nose – to protect themselves from unseen germs, and to protect others from germs they don’t even know they are carrying. As many as can are working and schooling from home – isolated in our first world homes. And even though the store aisles are mostly devoid of toilet paper, paper towels, hand sanitizer and bleach wipes, we still have indoor plumbing in those homes. We still have electricity, internet service, heating fuel. The grass still grows and we still have to mow it.

In the past two weeks, I’ve experienced what seems like an abnormally high volume of ‘first world problems’ in my life. Things like broken mower parts (and wondering if the service store or at least the parts store would be open). Things like very poor internet service that might not support my working at home while my daughter also completes her university courses at home, on top of my wife’s normal needs to support her writing, blogging, etc. Things like a broken computer, needed for my daughter’s school work (and wondering how we could get it fixed when they are not taking new repair orders at the local computer store). Things like a broken washing machine (and wondering if the repair techs would still make house calls). First world problems. And even amidst the wide-reaching impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, all those problems were resolved.

I wonder what the impact of COVID-19 is having in third world areas. Is the threat of sickness and death less because they travel less; interact with people from other parts of the world less? The published data would seem to indicate that. But if their villages, towns and communities are struck by the invisible enemy, will their lives and lifestyles be more devastated because they don’t have access to the medical resources and facilities that we have in our first world countries? Surely, even our overloaded hospitals in hard-hit areas are better than nothing.

This week is Holy Week. Christians all over the world are remembering and celebrating the last week of Jesus’ life. His final teachings. His final exhortations. His final sacrifice. His final overcoming of sin and the world. And the reconciliation and salvation He offered to all who would believe in Him. That applies to those of us who live in the first world as well as those who live in the second world or third world. I don’t know how the world Jesus lived in during his time on earth would be classified – I don’t think first, second and third world categories were defined until the last century. But I do know that this world is not our final destination. Jesus has prepared a place for those who follow Him that is empty of sickness, depression, loneliness, financial problems, broken ‘things’, and even death. So our ‘first world problems’ and the ‘third world problems’ of my friends in Brazil, are both just temporary situations. We find a way to work through them. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. And the Lord works all things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. In Christ, there is always hope. It’s important to remember that as we deal with the stress of our ‘first world problems.’

In him,

Lane Frantz