Is God punishing us with COVID-19? Does God even care about the death that COVID-19 is causing? Where is God during this challenging time?
Many of us have been hearing these questions over the last few months while we have been in lockdown. Many of us are asking these questions ourselves.
These questions are valid and are important to ask. They allow us to wrestle with our faith and seek a deeper understanding of God.
Our Immediate Response to Crisis
As Christians, our first response should always be to comb through the Bible. Exploring scripture is an important step in understanding God but we need to be careful how we go about it.
Right in the beginning of the South African lockdown, many people sent Isaiah 26:20 far and wide. The lockdown started on 26 April 2020, and many people marvelled at the link between the date, verse number and the verse itself. Isaiah 26:20 says, ‘Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until His wrath has passed by.’ Verse 21 goes on to speak about God punishing the earth for their sins.
The use of these verses at the beginning of lockdown imply that God set up COVID-19 as punishment for the sins of the world – that this difficult time we are going through is nothing more than a wrathful God reprimanding His children. What do you think?
Is This God’s True Response?
COVID-19 has hit the most vulnerable people in our society the hardest in the last few months. The use of these verses implies that God’s wrath for our collective sin is aimed at the weakest amongst us. My good friend David Elliott, currently studying his Honours in Theology, spoke into this: “Such a picture of God is entirely contradictory to a redemptive Christ who is central to Christian witness. The Jesus who, when a woman is caught in sin and he has full right to judge and to harm, restores dignity and refuses to cast a stone.”
Scripture is the inspired Word of God, and there is power in all scripture but we must never forget to look to Jesus and His actions and words. Jesus was the ultimate revelation of God – He is God. The best place to understand God’s heart is to look at the person of Jesus together with scripture. He himself said, “The Father and I are one.”
How did Jesus often respond?
If we comb through the Gospels, we can see that Jesus’ response to people who were struggling, or suffering was that of compassion. In Luke 7:13 Jesus comes across a widow who is grieving the loss of her son. The verse says, ‘When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”’
Jesus grieved John the Baptist. In Matthew 14:13 Jesus hears about John’s death and leaves on a boat to be alone. When Jesus arrived at Lazarus’ tomb after he had been dead for a few days, He wept.
These are only a few examples of Jesus’ responding in times of hardship, yet they show us the heart of God the Father.
A Shift in Perspective
Many of us still view God as the big guy in the sky who is distant and often disinterested in our lives. We sometimes do this without even realising and forget that God is an emotional God.
Jesus wept when He was on Earth. He felt compassion for those who were suffering. God the Father does the same. He weeps. He is moved by compassion when he sees the struggles of the world. He is not an emotionally distant God but one who feels on a deeper level than we can even comprehend.
God weeps because he sees the hurt that these situations cause. He sees the repercussions and the pain of loved ones. He has deep concern for those who are poor or suffering. Our pain, suffering and fear move Him.
Does God Just Leave Us There?
God doesn’t just sit and weep alongside us. He moves and works.
Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead after weeping for Him.
Jesus raised the widow’s son back to life after consoling her.
When Jesus was still mourning John the Baptist, people came out to find Him. He took compassion on them because He knew they had travelled far and performed one of the miracles of multiplying fish and loaves of bread.
In the same way, God works now. He works through the Health care practitioners who are risking their lives on the frontline. He is working through the leaders who inspire and help others in these tough times. He is working through the random acts of kindness performed by people all over the globe. He is also working through the Holy Spirit by comforting people who are hurting or mourning. And let us not forget the many miracles that are still taking place that we may not hear about.
Good In All Things
Romans 8:28 says, ‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him…’
This verse follows the second section of Romans, which covers the topic of suffering and hardship. It doesn’t say that God creates the bad things so that He can then make something good out of it. It doesn’t say God waits for the bad to happen and then works. It says that God works in all things.
So where is God during COVID-19?
He’s in the thick of it.
He’s weeping alongside us.
He’s guiding us.
He’s getting His hands dirty.
He’s working in everything to bring about good.