Where is God during Corona?

Written by: Liam Doyle

I want to say that if anyone has lost loved ones or has themselves contracted Covid-19, all strength, and comfort and condolences in this time. God Himself reveals Himself as a comforter in the Bible (eg. Isaiah 40) and is explicitly called the God of all comfort in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.

It has been said (by William Lane Craig, for example) that there is the intellectual response, the emotional reasons for this type of question. This brief article will focus on the intellectual side of everything. Please don’t think this callous – the loss and pain and fear are very real. And this article won’t be able to delve into anything with any depth. But if there is any way to reconcile God with Corona, I believe that it is very comforting to know that He is real, and good, and at work in these times of crisis.

I want to say that all we need in the equation of suffering is that God is working good in that pain. If it is even remotely possible that good can come from this, then there is purpose and meaning and reason in all of this. It might even be seen as worth it, even to those who suffer and die. Even if those who pass and those who suffer don’t agree, if on a cosmic scale good has come from this, then you have to explain how the good that has come is not justified in the suffering.

In a godless universe, this is all pointless. The suffering we experience as individuals and as a species is nothing more than a blip on universally massive radar, and it’s just too bad that you don’t like it. The loss of a 2-day old child just happened, for no reason, for no point. The loss you feel is just a result of random atoms that assembled and just happened to produce the chemicals that make you feel sad. There is nothing beyond the way the atoms in your brain have lined up, and if they are making you feel sad today, that’s just too bad. There is no meaning beyond the meaning you make this existence have, and whatever meaning you derive out of this – be it inflicting pain on others, or helping others – neither is really good or bad, it just is.

I would first point out that without God, tragedy only exists in the eye of the beholder. So something is only tragic if you think it’s tragic. So if someone finds the death of a 2-day baby funny, or even hysterical, they are no more right or wrong than the person thinking it is a tragedy.

Without God, you can’t move from “is” to “ought” – the baby died, that’s it. There’s no “the baby should have lived” etc – the baby just died. People just die.

If anything, if someone gives it some real thought, the problem of evil and suffering and pain is more difficult for the a godless outlook, since everything simply IS, and personal preferences determine whether something is funny, sad or tragic. We will need to unpack the how vacuous the idea of good and evil is under a godless worldview another time.

Under Christianity we see a God Who suffered with us and entered into the suffering of his creatures, who is not only loving, all powerful and good, but is all-knowing and all-wise and has majestic purpose. There is a reason to this existence.

All of that means that even if I cannot know the purpose, there can be purpose in all this. And I think we can see good even in this suffering. How else would a technologically complacent society be reminded that they have needs that full stomachs and housing and science can’t address?  If anything, our greatest need is to be right with God.

And during this pandemic, more people searching for prayer than ever before, sales of Bibles spiking, 100 million people attending one Easter service online… These are just three examples.

Most people obviously think it is tragic that a two-day-old baby died is and it is. But that means that they believe that it shouldn’t have been that way, that something is wrong when babies die and good people get sick.

All these are pointers to the fact that something is broken in the world. Something has gone wrong. Innocents suffer. Evil can prosper.

I really think these are all indications that something is amiss, and Someone needs to fix it all. And I can tell you that He has fixed it, and everything will be set to rights, and the evil will be punished and all evil eradicated.

All suffering has at its root our estrangement from God. If we did all turn back to Him, and all truly repented, would all the suffering cease? I believe it would, and there is a Day when all suffering will cease. That will be when He returns.

But for those who have rejected Him, that time will be too late. And this is why we endure suffering, even when we don’t deserve it, because in light of what it will mean for it all to end, we preach to those who do not yet know Him. 2 Peter 3:9 says that God is not slow in keeping His promise to return and set everything right, but that He is giving everyone an opportunity to repent and turn to Him. And until that day, tragedies happen, as He gives us opportunities to respond to Him.

But one day, He will return. There will be no sickness, no heartache and no pain. All will be set to rights, and all the evil and wickedness will be punished. And this is why we need His mercy, because if we look in our heart of hearts, and we see His purity and perfection, we realise that we are not closer to His purity and perfection and goodness; we are closer the selfishness and wickedness that we see in the world. God’s return will mean the destruction of all that is evil, of all that has even a hint of evil. And that would be me.

And for this reason I need his grace and mercy revealed in Jesus. We all do. And the pandemic is a chance for us to see this need and respond to Him. One Day there will be no more pandemics. Until that day, we still have a chance to respond to the Gospel.

Christianity accounts for the meaning and purpose of life, despite the suffering in the world, far better than other worldviews, and shows us a God Who knows what it is to suffer, and is at work to redeem this world, and call people to Himself. And knowing that God feels my pain, and gives me grace in times of crisis and works eternal purposes through all this brokenness gives many, many great comfort. Far more than a godless, meaningless universe.

Feature image: unsplash.com
Liam Doyle is a high school teacher with a BA majoring in Ancient History and Classical Culture from UNISA. He has been involved in teaching ministry at his church for almost 20 years (kids, adult classes, small groups, young adults). Contact him on +27 82 569 8204 or biblicaltimeline01@gmail.com. See his blog at biblicaltimeline01.wordpress.com – feel free to send him questions

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