Did God deliberately release COVID-19 on the world?
Ooh, we don’t like to think like that. After all, God is loving and compassionate.
“Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for his mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness!” (Lam. 3:23-24).
Let’s not forget the biggie: GOD IS LOVE (1 John 4:8). To think our gracious heavenly Father would willingly release a deadly pandemic makes Him sound like the worst abusive parent ever.
These biblical truths stand in tension with other biblical events, those moments when God allowed pain and suffering to come to His people. The story that stands out to me is the life of Job. Here was an incredibly upright and righteous man, yet God let Satan cause him unbelievable grief and pain.
- “Very well,” the Lord told Satan, “everything he owns is in your power” (Job 1:12).
- “Very well,” the Lord told Satan, “he is in your power; only spare his life” (Job 2:6).
Satan may have done the dirty work, but God gave him permission! Job even acknowledged God’s hand in this. “Should we accept only good from God and not adversity?” (v. 10).
Admittedly, my upbringing causes me to struggle with the idea of God causing a pandemic, but I’ll also admit there’s a very thin line between God causing something and God allowing it. Some of my faithful readers are pretty stanch in their Calvinist and reformed theology, and some of you are not. We can have a long debate on the full nature of God’s sovereignty—no one questions God’s sovereignty; the question is how much of life is fully an act of His sovereign will—but I find a more productive approach in asking: what is God’s purpose behind our pain and suffering?
To the point: what is God’s purpose in causing … er, allowing COVI-19 to hit us so hard?
God’s purpose is clear in all He does:
- His acts bring glory to Him.
- His work in our lives is to bring us ever closer to Him.
How does suffering bring glory to Him? If our response to our suffering is one of deeper faith and trust in Christ, then we bring glory to Him.
Let me begin with the verse most often quoted when difficulties arise: Romans 8:28.
“We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”
People attempt to find comfort by saying, “I can’t understand what God is doing, but He promised He’ll turn this around” … “Nothing bad happens that God will not turn into something good for me.” Such thinking assumes that one day, perhaps only in heaven, we’ll see what that good thing was.
But the answer to what exactly that good is can be seen in the next verse:
“For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (v. 29).
God desires to work all things in our lives for the good of making us more like Jesus—”conformed to the image of his Son!” If you’ve been a believer for any length of time, you can likely recall painful events in your life that deepened your faith. ” I wouldn’t want to go through that again, but I’m glad I did.”
Here are just a few passages that point to difficulties being used to move someone to repentance, to faith, to a closer walk with Jesus:
- “Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death, so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead” (2 Cor. 1:9).
- “I now rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because your grief led to repentance” (7:9).
- “A thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to torment me so that I would not exalt myself. Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times that it would leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness'” (12:7-9).
- “No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:11).
Can you see, then, how God could use this pandemic to bring us back to Him?
We’re a prosperous nation, and we’ve been prosperous for a long time. We need something? We go get it without thinking. We take our prosperity for granted, and we place an unspoken trust in it. But now that foundation has been knocked out from under us. People are dying. People are afraid. Everyone’s lifestyle has been turned upside-down. We give lip service to God, but we haven’t really had to depend on Him.
Until now. Perhaps God’s purpose is to draw our country—draw the nations—to look to Him.
Vin Scully, a retired baseball announcer recently said, “Now that I have some leisure time and we’re all locked in at home, I read an article and it was talking about what happened to Americans in World War II. It was such a terrible time. Three-quarters of Americans belonged to a house of worship.
“Today … half of Americans are involved in a house of worship, prior to this pandemic. So there’s your answer … Although they might not be able to go to a house of worship, probably more Americans will be praying since World War II.
“More people will be coming back to the faith. And now that this terrible thing is upon us, people might very well get back to the center. And it’s a better world. We’ll see … ” [Source: FoxNews]
God essentially told Solomon there would be periods when He would bring hardship and suffering on His people, but His purpose was to bring the people back to Him.
“If I shut the sky so there is no rain, or if I command the grasshopper to consume the land, or if I send pestilence on my people, and my people, who bear my name, humble themselves, pray and seek my face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land” (2 Chron. 7:13-14).
We can spend our days debating the ins and outs of the sovereignty of God, but I think in these trying days, our time would be better spent seeking the face of God and returning to dependence on Him.
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