COVID-19 and God

by Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell on March 23, 2020

Where disease comes from and how COVID-19 (coronavirus) and economic shutdowns highlight our own spiritual need to bring us close to God.

Suffering often highlights the most important things. So also, the COVID-19 (coronavirus) and subsequent government shutdown measures have helped us focus on more consequential matters: basic necessities, family, and even God. How should we think about COVID-19 and God?

Should anything about the COVID-19 pandemic make us have doubts about God? His existence? His goodness? His plans for humanity?

Should anything about the COVID-19 pandemic make us have doubts about God? His existence? His goodness? His plans for humanity?

While the wisdom of scientists and doctors must, of necessity, change as new information is discovered, God gave us his unchanging word in the Bible. There, we have the record of God’s creation of a perfectly good world in which there was neither disease nor death. All the microorganisms in that perfect world would have functioned in the ways God originally created them. Humans could have enjoyed the world that God said was good forever, but our first parents instead rebelled against the Creator, having been first warned that the price of rebellion was death.

How Disease and Death Entered Creation

In the roughly 6,000 years since that time, death and suffering have plagued our world, often literally. One of the ways this has happened is through the effects of viral illnesses and other infectious diseases. Things have indeed gone horribly wrong. As we live out our lives in this sin-cursed world, we know that every one of us is already living under the sentence of death from the moment our lives begin. While we continue living and loving, caring for each other, discovering the secrets of science, creating things that improve the world, and enjoying the many blessings, activities, and relationships open to us, we all know that our days are limited. One day we will die. Death is the ultimate enemy, and it will surely snatch us away from those we love (1 Corinthians 15:26). Death will leave behind a gaping hole in the lives of those who love each of us.

Death entered the world because of mankind’s sin. God, in his perfect justice, could not just change the rules once man rebelled. Yet God in his mercy did create hope beyond death (Romans 5:19). God, in his grace, did provide a way to restore the broken relationships between sinful man and holy God, a way to demonstrate his love for every person. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, became human to bear the curse of death on a bloody cross. He then defeated death by rising from the dead. As we will soon sing in our Easter celebrations—even if we do so in live-streamed church services or small home gatherings— “Up from the grave he arose!” Anyone who trusts in the sacrifice Jesus Christ made on the cross can have confidence that after death, they too will live eternally forever in heaven.

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:56–57).

How Jesus Dealt with the Problem of Suffering

How did Jesus deal with the problem of suffering in his day? During his earthly years, Jesus was once asked by his disciples why a particular man had been born blind. Jesus acknowledged that there are lots of reasons people suffer, avoiding his disciples’ simplistic suggestions. But then Jesus told them that this particular man’s affliction would end up bringing glory to God, and he miraculously healed him.

Here's the beginning of the account in John 9:1‒3,6‒7 (ESV):

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him . . .” Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man's eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

Jesus physically healed this man. And later, as described in John 9, that man came to understand that Jesus was truly God’s Son. Jesus spiritually healed this man too.

Think about the healed man. Suffering was the way to bring him back to God. He was born blind but came to see his trial as a way to bring God glory in his life. When he encountered Jesus and was healed by him, he believed in him as his Savior through his trial. The man’s pain and suffering turned into joy at his healing and salvation.

In the same way, this COVID-19 trial can become a way that many may be healed spiritually through Jesus.

In the same way, this COVID-19 trial can become a way that many may be healed spiritually through Jesus. This trial of a global pandemic, social distancing, empty grocery shelves, and economic hardship can highlight one of the most important things: our spiritual need. And strangely, that may be the thing that we need the most.

C.S. Lewis once wrote, “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Pain gets our attention, prompting us to ask where it came from an what we can do to protect those we love. Priorities come into sharp focus and scream to be reevaluated when the things we value most are threatened. Pandemic even terrifies many into considering what awaits when we leave this world. Let’s be ready with the answers people need.

Conclusion: COVID-19, God and the Gospel

In this time of crisis, let us each do our part to share the love of Jesus Christ by helping our neighbors when we can and cheerfully cooperating with whatever measures are necessary to stem the spread of the disease. Let us also remember to live fearlessly, freely sharing the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the true hope for every person in this world and the next.

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38–39).


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