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The Thorny Crown Virus

By Dr. Tracy Jessup

Gardner Webb


“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?  O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest.”  — Psalm 22:1-2

In what ways are the coronavirus and isolation affecting you psychologically? Do you feel more resilient and focused, or do you feel an increase in anxiety, depression, or something else?  How do these issues manifest in your life? David Brooks, an opinion columnist with The Times, posed these questions to his readers in an article titled, “Mental Health in the Age of the Coronavirus: The struggle between fear and comfort” (4/2/20). He included a form at the end of the article for those willing to share their psychological state.

The Psalmist willingly shared his struggles. In fact, many scholars have noted that more Psalms are classified as laments than any other category. Laments are passionate expressions of grief, sorrow, or regret and they serve as beautiful examples of the human struggle. Psalm 22 is a lament that is familiar to many because Jesus quotes verse one from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Jesus is the best possible companion for those who are depressed and feel abandoned by God, because on the cross, Jesus felt abandoned by God. But we can look back on Jesus, the proof of God’s love, and remember that God has not abandoned us to our pain. Philip Yancey writes, “Those disciples who gazed at the cross from the shadows, soon learned what they had failed to learn in three years with their leader:  When God seems absent, he may be closest of all. When God seems dead, he may be coming back to life” (Disappointment With God, p. 211).

In a March 18, 2020 blog article, Dr. Timothy Tennent, the President of Asbury Theological Seminary, makes a fascinating connection between the coronavirus and the season of Lent. “One of the central symbols of Lent is the thorny crown. It reminds us of sacrifice and self-denial. It is a symbol of the cost Jesus paid. The term “corona” in “coronavirus” is a word meaning “crown.”  It is because the virus, under extreme magnification, actually looks like a thorny crown; therefore, it is – quite literally – the thorny crown virus. The coronavirus reminds us that as Christians we always – even when there is no virus in our midst – embody the sufferings of the world. Lent is the time when we are particularly reminded of that great truth.”

During this Holy Week in which we remember the passion of Christ, we allow ourselves space to lament. Standing at a distance and seeing Jesus on the cross, we witness darkness covering the whole land (cf. Luke 23:44). And following Joseph of Arimathea to the tomb, we wait – holding on to the hope of resurrection.

Prayer:  Lord, in the midst of the depression and pain we sometimes experience in life, help us to remember that your resurrection power ultimately triumphs over darkness and despair.


Dr. Tracy Jessup serves as vice president for Christian Life and Service and senior minister to the University. He is a graduate of Gardner-Webb with a B.A. in Music and earned his M. Div. degree at Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School. He completed his Ph.D. at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He also teaches in the undergraduate department of religious studies and enjoys the opportunity to serve the local church through interim pastorates, pulpit supply, and preaching revival services. he and his wife, Teresa, have two children, Christian and Anna.