The coronavirus (COVID-19) is spreading quickly around the globe. In various countries, daily life is severely impacted and many people get ill. Even more people are afraid about what might happen to them personally, or to society in general. Many wonder: where is God in all this? How should we react as Christians?
Why does God allow the coronavirus to spread?
The coronavirus outbreak is something new, but the question as to why God allows things like this to happen is of all times. There are many illnesses, earth quakes, floods, droughts and so on that are apparently not prevented by God. Although He is almighty, He allows bad things to happen. But why?
The short answer is that all this suffering is caused by human sin. When God created the world, everything was very good. There were no natural disasters or (viral) diseases. But when sin entered the world, this came with tragic consequences. Brokenness, illnesses, futility and death became part of “normal” human life because the curse of sin corrupted God’s good creation on a massive scale.
As Paul writes in Romans 8:20-23: “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”
God allows suffering as a consequence of human sin. Even Christians who are saved from God’s wrath by believing in Jesus, do not escape this physical corruption caused by the fall. But this won’t continue forever. One day, God will create new heavens and a new earth, where “death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore” (Revelation 21:4).
For a more detailed discussion of this question, please read “Why does God allow suffering?”
A pandemic is a warning
Like every illness or natural disaster, the coronavirus is a warning of God.
In Luke 13:1-5, we read how Jesus discusses the sad example of people being slaughtered by a Roman governor, and of people being killed by a collapsing tower. Was this a special judgment of God on these particular groups of people? No, Jesus says, these people were not worse sinners than all others.
But these stories should be taken as a warning, for “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish”. Jesus thus teaches us to see natural disasters as God’s emergency warning system. Something is wrong in this world, and it has terrible consequences. It calls people to repent and to turn to God, so that they will not face the eternal consequences of their rebellion against God.
Take your responsibility
So what are we to do as Christians? First, we should listen to the medical experts and follow their instructions. If they ask us to stay home from work, to cancel a large conference, to postpone our planned holidays, or to cancel church services, we should just do so, even if it might cause inconveniences. It is our own responsibility to help prevent the spreading of the virus.
Thousands of years ago, God gave the people of Israel detailed instructions about a somewhat similar issue, namely contagious skin diseases.
See for example Leviticus 13 and 14, where we find extensive instructions about the diagnosis of the illness and the precautions that should be carried out when someone was infected indeed: this person should be put in a quarantine to prevent the illness from spreading.
Only when the illness was fully healed and the person’s healing was confirmed by a “specialist”, this person could return to his normal place within the community. (This particular group of skin diseases also had to do with ritual cleanness and uncleanness, but that’s beyond the scope of this article).
This is just an example of the motto “pray and work”: trust God in difficult circumstances, and at the same time take your own responsibility.
Do not become faint-hearted
However complicated and threatening the situation might be, we need not panic. In Proverbs 24:10, we are reminded that “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.” That’s not how Christians should react. Worrying doesn’t help at all, it just makes our hearts and heads weak.
But “not worrying” might be easier said than done. It isn’t always easy to keep your cool. As Christians, we can turn to God in prayer.
Philippians 4:6-7 exhorts us: “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
It takes the same amount of time and energy to worry as to pray, but the effects are very different!
God is in control
Ultimately, we need not worry because we know that God is in control.
“The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations” (Psalm 33:11). He knows what is happening, and what will come to us the coming months. “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).
How does this Bible teaching speak to you? Please share your thoughts below!
Also read “When will the end of the world be?”
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