Sickness, death, natural disasters, and human tragedy—everywhere we look, we see death and suffering. It is part of the human condition. There is no escaping it. And during this current COVID-19 pandemic, we are hearing about it every day. As we watch the news or read online updates about coronavirus/COVID-19, we see that the infection numbers and the death counts are rising daily. Current numbers show almost 1.5 million reported cases and over 80,000 deaths. This situation is a tragedy.
The question often asked is obvious: If God is truly all-powerful and loving, why doesn’t he put an end to death and suffering?
The question often asked is obvious: If God is truly all-powerful and loving, why doesn’t he put an end to death and suffering? Some even ask if he is incapable, questioning his power. Others ask if he is unwilling, questioning his goodness. But both of these questions are based on a false dichotomy: goodness cannot exist apart from justice. Would we call a judge “good” if he let violent criminals go free, with no consequences? Of course not! We would call him corrupt and bad. But God is good; in fact he alone is good (Mark 10:18), and he is also just (Psalms 37:28; Psalms 111:7; Daniel 4:37).
All of us have sinned and offended our Creator, a righteous God (Romans 3:23), and the penalty for sin is death (Romans 5:12 and 6:23). But one day even death will be defeated, “the last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:26).
God has provided the way of salvation through his Son, Jesus Christ. The door of salvation is open, but only for a time. If we will walk through the door, which is Jesus Christ (John 10:9), we will be saved. In this way God’s justice is satisfied and God’s righteousness is displayed (Romans 3:24–26). The cross is where “Mercy and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed” (Psalm 85:10 NKJV).
Death, Where Is Thy Sting?
As we approach Good Friday and Easter, that is the core of the message we as Christians embrace, not just that Christ died for ungodly sinners (Romans 5:6–8) but that he also rose from the grave . . .
As we approach Good Friday and Easter, that is the core of the message we as Christians embrace, not just that Christ died for ungodly sinners (Romans 5:6–8) but that he also rose from the grave to give us hope in the future resurrection of our bodies and eternal life with him (1 Corinthians 15:20–23; 1 Thessalonians 4:14–17). And while we see suffering and death on the news and possibly within our own sphere of family and friends, we also know that Jesus suffered more at the hands of angry sinners with the cruelest death sentence ever invented. Then he suffered even more as the sins of mankind were piled on him (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 9:28) and the Father temporarily had to forsake him (Matthew 27:46).
But Jesus went to that cross for our sake, so that God would not have to forsake us. God is patient with us, and that door will remain open until the time of his choosing, ensuring that each and every one of those who have called on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ have entered in (1 Corinthians 1:2). “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 NKJV).
When that day comes and Christ returns, God will dwell with His people in a new heavens and a new earth. Pain and suffering will be no more, and the final enemy of death will be destroyed. Yet meanwhile, we see suffering and death in this present sin-cursed world and our heart goes out to those who have become sick or lost loved ones to this present COVID-19 pandemic. Just as the Apostle Paul (and seemingly the Philippian church body as well) was deeply concerned about his friend Epaphroditus’ sickness, but was thankfully spared from becoming too sorrowful since God healed him (Philippians 2:25–27), so too should we be concerned with others who are becoming sick during this COVID-19 outbreak.
As Christians we are called to be sympathetic to the plight of others (Romans 12:15; 1 Peter 3:8) and even above that to care for and minister to others’ physical needs (James 2:15–16; 1 John 3:17–18). But we should not stop there, but rather let our actions (in biblical terms, our conduct) point people to Christ (James 3:13; 1 Peter 2:12; 1 Peter 3:1–2). And above all we are not to forget the words of our Lord Jesus who commanded us to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19–20). So let us be salt and light (Matthew 5:13–14) to this dark world and let us not forget to do good to others, ministering to both physical and spiritual needs (Galatians 6:10; 1 Timothy 6:18; Hebrews 13:16).
No More Crying
But even as we live amid suffering and death, as Christians we need not fear death nor become greatly troubled by suffering. Instead we can look forward to the coming day when death, pain, sorrow, and crying will be done away with. And if we’re stuck at our homes, what better passage to meditate upon than the following one?
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3–4)