While I’m glad to be able to write this, I’m sure you can relate when I say, “this is not how I imagined spring of 2020.” With that in mind, please hear me loud and clear (or, more accurately, read this closely): God DID NOT cause COVID-19. God is not testing us, nor is God punishing us. God is not a sadist, nor does He desire creation to suffer. God does not give death. However…
God is love (1 John 4:7-21) and He empathizes with us (John 11:35). God guides us through our struggles (Psalm 23) and can use whatever comes our way for good (Romans 8:28). God desires all of creation to return to Him (John 3:16-17) as He offers us life (1 Corinthians 1:30).
When Jesus Christ was revealed to us, we got a glimpse at the character of God. In Jesus there was not wrath, destruction, hate, or division, quite the opposite. Jesus lived and died, and was resurrected to create unity, to offer reconciliation, to be a living expression of God’s love, and to deliver the new covenant to His people.
As Christians, we read Scripture through the lens of Jesus. When we do, it is incomprehensible and incongruent with the character of God to blame Him for this pandemic. Just as a loving parent does not want to see their child struggle, suffer, or die, God does not want that for His children, let alone an entire world.
In God’s love for us, He created a natural order, as well as offering us the gift of free will: the ability to choose and make decisions. When we combine God’s natural order with humanity’s free will, as the history of all of humanity will testify, there are consequences for our decisions, sometimes good, other times bad. Additionally, there are things that occur in this natural order that just are, for example: tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, etc. These natural disasters are devastating, and heartbreaking, and while I don’t completely understand them, I accept that they “just are” and do not blame God for them.
To take it a step further, maybe in our free will we caused COVID-19, or at least exponentially increased its spread. Or maybe it’s just a part of the natural order of things and the virus adapted and mutated beyond our control or understanding. Maybe it’s some sort of combination of both, I don’t know. But when I think about these difficult questions I lean on the words of Paul and trust in God’s wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:18-31). I’m also hopeful that maybe one day I’ll get an answer from God about this… or maybe I won’t (Job 38), but still trusting God nonetheless.
While this pandemic is something new that our world is facing, death and destruction are not. Sadly, creation has always known pestilence, oppression, genocide, destruction, and war. Yet, as we look back at history and these devastating events and the lives lost, the Gospel was never hindered. In fact, when plagues ravaged villages and towns, the wealthy (including many doctors) would “head for the hills,” leaving behind the sick and the poor to fend for themselves.
While the elite may have left, God had not. God was there in those villages and towns not as the cause of the plague or destruction, but in the tender, loving care as embodied by the many Christians. Those Christians stayed behind, putting themselves in harm’s way to care for the sick and the dying – sometimes nursing them back to health, sometimes succumbing to illness themselves.
Currently, we live in a post-modern world where we think we’re invincible. Much like the elite that would “head to the hills, we’ve perpetuated a culture that believes that we can’t get sick, and if we do, we’ll just take a pill or get a shot, then we’ll be able to go about our day with minimal interruption. This is a generalization, which can be sometimes dangerous, but I am including myself in these sentiments. This pandemic has proved that we need to reevaluate and readjust this mode of thinking.
Unfortunately, I do not know when this pandemic will be over. But I do know that God is with us in form of His followers, as the Church. We see examples of God in our communities and in our church’s ministries every day. Some of our loved ones may have even looked into the eyes of God when they were being cared for by a nurse or a doctor.
God is weeping and mourning with us, but He’s also guiding us through this valley of the shadow of death caused by COVID-19. We get through it by following Jesus’ lead and bonding together as a body of believers. We get through it by finding new, creative ways to share the Good News and by engaging in meaningful ways to love our neighbor. In this time of personal and communal suffering and sacrifice, it is an opportunity unlike any other for us to grow in our faith. I encourage all of us to be the church, to embrace our responsibility to be the living witness of God’s love. There will be a day when it’ll all be over and a time when we’ll find renewal beside still waters and green pastures. Until then, until we can safely gather again as a large body in worship, my prayers are with you and your families, as we all pray for an end of this pandemic. May God be with you until we meet again.