In this time of anxiety, doubt, and pain brought on by Coronavirus (or any disease, pain, or suffering), it is sensible to ask, “Where is God in all of this?” It is equally reasonable to ask, “With all of this pain and suffering, is there even a reason to think God exists?”
In this post, I’ll attempt to provide a short answer to the first question. I’ll provide a short response to the second question in a follow-up post.
- 1. We must remember that God is purposeful and unlimited in understanding.
Our perspective is drastically limited in scope. We are only able to observe the past and our present. We often don’t get the reason why certain things are happening. We may experience unfortunate events or tragedies and never be able to make sense of it. However, we must remember that God is not bound by the same constraints we are.
God is unlimited in His understanding and never acts randomly. Isaiah 46:9-11 tells us:
Remember what happened long ago,
for I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and no one is like me.
I declare the end from the beginning,
and from long ago what is not yet done,
saying: my plan will take place,
and I will do all my will.
I call a bird of prey from the east,
a man for my purpose from a far country.
Yes, I have spoken; so I will also bring it about.
I have planned it; I will also do it. (CSB)
Further, we see in Romans 8:28-30 that God works things for His purpose:
We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified.
The verses above are not referring to a specific viral outbreak. Nor, contrary to popular belief, is Romans 8:28 promising that nothing “bad” will happen to believers. What it does tell us, however, is that God is purposeful. He knows the end of all things and is guiding history for His good purpose. While that might mean we experience pain, we can also rest knowing that the author of history is ultimately in control.
- 2. God suffered and still suffers with us.
One hope found in Christianity is that we are not alone in the world. Not only is God purposeful and unlimited in understanding, He also came to live and experience our suffering in the form of Jesus. 1 Peter 4 tells us:
Therefore, since Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same understanding—because the one who suffers in the flesh is finished with sin— in order to live the remaining time in the flesh no longer for human desires, but for God’s will.
Again, this verse is not here to tell us that Jesus came to suffer alongside us, but it does tell us that he suffered as human. Something we can take away from this is that God is not distant from us. Instead, he chose, willingly, to partake in suffering for our benefit. God knows what it is like to suffer.
A professor I know whose wife was dying of a horribly debilitating condition once had an exchanged that we could paraphrase this way:
Student: “Professor, if you had God’s power, would you heal your wife?”
Professor: “Of course I would. However, if I had both God’s power and knowledge, I would leave things exactly the way they are.”
Clearly, this professor understood that despite the pain he was going through. He knew God, in His unlimited wisdom, love, and goodness, was ultimately in control of his situation. Does knowing this alleviate the pain or anxiety? No, not necessarily. But what it does do as serve as a hopeful reminder that God is still in control. And, as it is sometimes said, “If the believer has an answer to death, everything else is just an inconvenience.”