In due course, the question is going to be asked – the one as old as humanity itself. Why? Why is this pandemic upon us? Why are so many people dying? Do we deserve this? Is God there, is He cruel, does He care? Or is it anathema to even think in that way?
There are so many questions wrapped up in that, and though we will certainly not get all the answers we are looking for – our understanding will always be incomplete – maybe a bit of perspective will help.
The first thing I’d like to tackle is the Christian apologist position. The one that says that God did not cause this, but does allow it. I understand the argument and perhaps it does hold some water. But here is the thing – it seeks to remove responsibility from God at the cost of bringing up the question of impotence and indifference. And God is neither! I think we need to be very careful in using this argument, lest we inadvertently dethrone Him, trying to intercede when He needs no such ‘help’.
The ancient Hebrews probably had a better grasp when they wrestled with the problem of pain in the book of Job without seeking to dethrone the one who is the Lord of all things.
So on to perhaps the key question – how can a loving and caring God allow, or cause, such a disaster to happen?
First thing – we perhaps need to be careful not to be making God in our own image, but allow Him to remake us in His image. What we understand by love, care and goodness is very limited and warped! Spend some time in the Bible, let it read us, and we will begin to understand our limitations in comprehension.
Second thing – let’s turn the whole question around. Why would God not send this as judgment? Do we really have a good sense of the society in which we live? Can we see, or are we yet blinded? Do we understand that evil, blood and darkness dwells in the heart of our enlightened, tolerant, inclusive and diverse modern Babel?
Is it perhaps not more of a miracle that His hand has stayed thus far, in mercy and forbearance? Would it maybe be love that causes Him to act now? Remember He is also a God of Justice. Which is not opposed to love, but rather a facet of it. And, do we not see yet that this may well be the beginning of a mercy judgment?
Another question that might be asked is, Why did God allow X to die, they didn’t deserve it? I know these are potentially very emotive questions, and forgive me for not being a pastor, but let’s turn it around again. Did X deserve life in the first place? Did they do something wonderful to be awarded life as a reward? No – and conversely neither does death have to be seen as an explicit or implicit judgment upon them.
Remember, all men are appointed to die, and then the judgment. The One who gives us life, can also take it. He doesn’t actually owe us anything, and it is a conceit to think otherwise.
Maybe enough from me for a bit. Time for a word from my sponsor. Jesus faced the same, implicitly stated question.
Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.Luke 13 v4-5
Perhaps this would have been the perfect time for God Himself to answer the question that had been dogging humanity for millennia. But – He did not. Rather, He turned round the question and addressed it to us. Where do you stand? Will you stand against Me? Or repent and turn?
Let us be clear. He is not in the dock, we are. We do not have standing to judge, He does.
Sometimes we think we get to test Him, to see if he is worthy of our time, our respect, our belief. It is not that way. Rather, we are the ones who will come before Him, and who will be questioned.
And we need to submit to the reality that He chose not to answer the question. Perhaps because we are not equipped to understand the answer at the present time, perhaps for other reasons. But the question that does need answering is, in the midst of trouble, will you trust or walk away? Those are the paths open to us.
Let’s paraphrase Jesus’ response in the light of current events.
Or the thousands who died during the Covid-19 pandemic—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living throughout the world? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.
These are not kind, pastoral words. But, they are words of life, and for those that respond they cut us deeply and bleed us into salvation.