Questions about God and Covid19
It is not surprising that the current pandemic, known as Covid-19 raises questions for many people about God – has God allowed it, and why? Why doesn’t God stop it – right now? Does God care when my loved one dies? Is it loving to allow such suffering? And other questions too.
We will try to look at a few of them. I do not say we will answer them, because I don’t think we have answers for all of them. But I am sure that the Bible is able to point us in the right direction to begin to understand a little about God in these days and how we can respond to this crisis.
For a pastoral response to our loss, pain, grief, please see the section on our website “Thought for the Week”.
In this section we will take a less emotional approach; we will try to think through the issues carefully, seeking understanding to some of our questions in the hope that it will prove helpful to you. Please do contact us through our website if we can be of any further assistance to you or if you would like some pastoral support and prayer.
If you would like to discuss these questions more fully and explore in more detail what Christians believe, you may be interested to know that we hope to have an online discussion group running very soon. Please email our church office and we will get back to you (email@example.com)
On this page we will attempt to look at the following questions:
- Has God brought or allowed the Covid-19 pandemic?
- How can God do such a thing? / How can God allow such a thing as Covid-19?
- Why has God allowed Covid-19?
- Why doesn’t God stop Covid-19 – right now?
- Why do bad things happen to good people?
- How can we believe that God is good when there is Covid-19?
- Does God care when my love one dies?
- Is Covid-19 a sign of the end of the world?
- What then is my response to God?
There are also a few recent sermons on our website / YouTube that may be helpful for you:
29 March Hope in troubled Times
19 May The Tragedy and the Triumph
7 June Seeking God in the darkness of grief
14 June Does God care when my loved one dies, I?
21 June Does God care when my loved one dies, II?
We may have different reasons for asking this (and other) questions about God in light of the ongoing pandemic, Covid-19:
- it may be inconvenient – we can’t live as we used to;
- it may be that we have lost our freedom, or our job and financial security;
- it may be out of curiosity, not because we have been deeply affected personally;
- it may be in grief because we have lost loved ones and wonder how God could let that happen?
- it may be because suffering on such a large scale raises questions about what God is like if he can allow so much of it
Our first question is: Has God brought or allowed the Covid-19 pandemic that is sweeping the world?
There are five (at least) ways of trying to find an answer to this question:
- No – it is just a random event:
The Covid-19 virus is a random event. It has just happened; it is one of those things that happens in this world from time to time and there is no definitive explanation for it. There is nothing to be gained by blaming a market in China, the World Health Organisation, or governments for not acting sooner, because Covid-19 does not have an explanation and there is no meaning to it.
- No – it is simply cause and effect:
The Covid-19 virus is the result of cause and effect. If we put our hand in a fire we know it will burn; if we drink to excess or smoke frequently we could end up with liver failure or cancer; our mothers taught us to wash our hands before eating so we didn’t pick up germs. The Covid-19 virus started and continues to spread as a matter of cause and effect.
- No – it is human responsibility
As human beings we make many decisions every day of our lives. We make good choices and bad choices; we make wise choices and we make foolish choices. We are responsible for the choices and the decision we make. Covid-19 is the result of millions of decisions made by millions of people around the world and this explains the start and continuation of the virus
- No – it is the work of the devil
The Covid-19 virus is the work of the devil. I understand that some of you reading this may think the devil is a make-belief creature and not real. But be careful before you write him off too quickly. The Bible speaks about the devil as a real being, and a being that is active in the world bringing pain and suffering in multiple ways.
e Yes – God has either brought it, or at the very least allowed it:
The final option is that for one reason or another, which at present at least is not known to us, God either brought the virus or allowed it to jump from animals to humans, with devastating effect all around the world. So has God allowed it or even brought it?
Let’s try to look at each of these responses in turn:
Did God bring or allow Covid-19?
- No – it is just a random event:
This is one way of looking at the world and the events that take place in it. Life is random events just and just happens. There is no ultimate cause and no meaning to be found in any event. If Bertrand Russell (Religion and Science, 1997) was right to describe man as ‘a curious accident in a backwater’, then it would seem reasonable to view every other event in this world as accidental, chance, random. Richard Dawkins (River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life 1994) suggests that we live in a universe that has no design, no purpose, no evil and no good.
This is one way to view the world and to view Covid-19 and other tragic events in this world. But it is bleak, comfortless and offers no hope. In contrast, Christians believe in the sovereignty of God, God’s right and power to do all that he decides to do (Job 42:2 I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted). But we must add to this definition, other attributes of God that the Bible teaches us, such as wisdom, righteousness, grace, and God’s plans.
Many people like to speak about free will. In ways that we cannot fully grasp we may make choices on a daily basis and yet God is still at work to fulfil his plans and purposes, although we cannot always see or understand what God is doing or why.
When it is suggested that covid-19 exists as an accident, Christians want to say that the world is not just random, but sits in the sovereignty and wisdom of God.
- No – it is simply cause and effect:
A second way of looking at the Covid-19 epidemic is to speak of cause and effect. While we need to be careful about accusing or blaming people, it is possible that the Covid-19 originated in a wet market in China, where hygiene was not the best and the virus jumped from animals to humans, where for some it causes much discomfort, pain and sometimes, even death. So Covid-19 is, in part at least, the result of cause and effect in this world.
Put simply, we learn in school about various physical laws of nature (a scientific generalization based on observation over years). This is what gives stability in the world and makes it inhabitable; without them life would fall apart. Therefore if risks are taken, if dead and live animals are kept together in a wet market, and water is thrown over produce to keep it cool and fresh, can we be surprised if a virus ‘jumps’ from animal to animal and from animal to humans? Cause and effect might be part of an explanation for the covid-19.
- No – we need to think about human responsibility
As human beings who make hundreds of decisions every day we need to accept responsibility for our choices, our actions, our words, and the effect of them upon ourselves, others and our environment. We are not robots; God has given us the tools to make good decisions in obedience to his ways, but like good parents who bring up their children well, God does not live our lives for us. Our choices have consequences. Some choices are simple and minor: we decide what to wear each day, what to eat for breakfast, what method of transport to take to work, and so on. Other decisions are more important – decisions about how we treat other people and the world in which we live. These decisions affect other people and their lives. Sometimes the consequences can be quite severe in terms of disasters. For example, the effect of deforestation on climate change; building on the world’s known fault lines, and could we/ should we have learned anything from previous virus outbreaks that could have helped us with Covid-19? When we ask about the cause of the Covid0-19 pandemic we need to include ‘human responsibility’ within our thinking.
- The devil is at work
If we are looking for someone to blame and do not want to blame ourselves, can we blame a devil? Some people would like to! Others are not sure whether or not to believe in ‘a devil’ and some people don’t. But I ask you to think twice before you dismiss it as simply cultural or out-of-date knowledge.
Those who do not have a space in their worldview for a devil may speak of several options for the way we live our lives: some will argue that concepts of right and wrong are subjective, they can be whatever you want them to be. Others will speak of the importance of living in ways that are beneficial for society; others will talk of living for God.
The devil is an evil figure – a created being who disobeyed God and ever since has been trying to lead men and women away from God in wrong ways. He has some power in relation to sickness and disease (Luke 13:16; Acts 10:38) but the Bible is clear he is most definitely not responsible for all sickness, or even for much of it. He can influence our thinking and tempt us to wrong behaviour, some of which has disastrous results. He has been allowed by God some power in the earth, but to say that the devil is responsible for Covid-19 is to give way too much power and sway to the devil. The devil is on a leash. He is powerful but can only act within limitations and by permission of almighty God (see the story of Job – Job 1:12)
- Yes – God has either brought covid-19, or at the very least allowed it:
While not all Christians would agree, I think the answer to the question has God brought or allowed Covid-19 is ‘Yes’. Ultimately God is sovereign over all things. If we ask, ‘Could God have stopped it?’, then the answer is a definite ‘yes, God could have prevented it’, but he didn’t. So I conclude that the Lord has either allowed or brought this virus. I may not be able to explain why, and I may not understand what God is doing (in future questions I will try to explore how a good loving God could do such a thing and why on earth God might do it), but I can trust that God is good and just and is in control of planet earth. There may be a purpose which we cannot see at this time.
While Christians would agree that the Lord is sovereign and is Lord of history, they would have different thoughts about the extent to which God acts in this world. Some would hesitate to say God has allowed Covid-19 because they feel it might raise questions about his character. But others would say that yes God has allowed Covid-19 and still believe that God is good and just.
It is undoubtedly true that the Covid-19 virus, which has brought so much pain, suffering and grief, and it does raise questions, but Christians believe that:
- God is just in all that he does and all that he permits
- God’s ways are beyond our understanding
- One day God will put an end to injustice and remove evil suffering and death
If we believe that God is sovereign and is in control of the universe, then the answer to the question has God brought or allowed Covid-19, is ‘yes’. It is not an easy or comfortable answer, and it raises some difficult questions for us. But at least it does not leave us at the mercy of a random meaningless world, or in a world that is limited by cause and effect and beyond the actions of almighty God. It does not make human responsibility the final decider of events in this world and it does not attribute more power to the devil than he really has.
Finally, we can say that the sovereignty of God has allowed the virus (for reasons beyond us), and it is also his sovereignty that can, and does, sustain us through it. Luther says suffering is God’s strange work, but when we know that God is control of it we can begin to trust God in it. And we will have a firm rock and foundation for our lives.
If the answer to Question 1: ‘Has God brought or allowed Covid-19 to happen?’ is ‘Yes’, that immediately raises another question: How can God allow such a thing. In particular, how can God who is good, gracious, kind, just, and holy, allow such pain and suffering in our lives?
In other words, suffering and death and grief on the scale we are witnessing around the world today raises a question about the character of God. What is God like if God can allow such tragedy?
First, let us recognise that sometimes the tragedies that take place in the world are down to human behaviour. We are responsible for our actions and the pain and suffering they bring upon others:
- chocolate is one of the world’s favourite treats, but cocoa farmers often suffer, facing gruelling conditions and don’t earn enough to cover their own basic needs – like decent food, housing and education. On average, they earn just 6% of the final value of a bar of chocolate; 
- there are thousands of sweat shops in South America and Asia – while companies make massive profits, workers are subject to extreme exploitation in working conditions not fit for an animal and wages that do not cover food and shelter for them and their families;
- think of the suffering endured by many sex workers and children who are trafficked annually;
- think of the millions of people injured and maimed, displaced, and in refugee camps because the rich and powerful fight over ideology or land.
It can be argued that so much suffering in this world is due to human actions and we are responsible for the pain they sometimes cause (see below for consideration of the question, why doesn’t God stop it?).
Second, let us realise that some of the disasters in nature (I prefer those words rather than ‘natural disasters’) are also due to our behaviour and mistreatment of the planet on which we live:
- over-fishing depletes the ocean;
- throwing away face masks and tissues dirties local parks and when some items end up in the sea they harm sea creatures;
- deforestation for mining, cattle breeding and building roads releases greenhouse gases and contributes to rising temperatures, stronger storms, more severe droughts and rising sea levels.
- the recent lockdown and huge reduction in the use of both public transport and private cars has led to cleaner air – it is polluted air that causes many respiratory diseases;
- some would even say it has partly contributed to a reduction in the size of the hole in the ozone layer.
All these examples show how out of kilter we are with the physical world, with each other and with God. So next time there is a violent storm, or there is coastal flooding, remember that some of these tragedies come as a result of human behaviour. We decide to cut down large areas of forests, which contributes to climate change and causes these disasters, and the air pollution that causes some diseases. At least let us think twice before we ask, ‘how can God do such a thing as bring Covid-19 upon the world?’
But if we believe that God still remains sovereign, then it is a question we do well to consider – how could God allow it to happen and then spread and cause so many deaths? Even if the source of the virus was a so-called ‘wet market’ in China, which sold both dead and live animals, where hygiene standards are difficult to maintain when live animals are butchered on site, couldn’t God still have stopped it knowing how many around the world would be killed by it? Why didn’t God stop it? How could God allow all this pain and grief?
The question challenges the character of God – how can God allow that if God is good; how can God bring that if God is just? I think there are a number of things we can say in response:
- God brings so many good things into this world – there is so much beauty; there is rain and sun that ripens the harvest; there is much food to enjoy; most of us enjoy good health much of the time. God has created us to be capable of love, compassion, kindness and caring, so much of which we have seen in recent weeks as people respond to the suffering of those around them. Surely this testifies to God’s goodness. So before we jump and accuse God of not being good when suffering comes, let’s remember all the good things in this life.
- Second, God’s ‘alien work’ (as Luther describes pain and suffering) does not mean that God is not good. Just because for a short period God stops giving us what we want and like (health, ease, happiness), this does not mean God is not good.
- Third, before we question whether God is good, maybe we could look at ourselves? The Lord Jesus reminded us clearly that only God is good. In contrast we are what the Bible calls ‘sinners’. Even if we have not committed what we think of as big sins, do we honour and worship God daily as he deserves? Perhaps actually that is the greatest sin. So how can we question God’s goodness?
- Fourth, often we wonder why it is that bad things happen to good people. But is that the right question? Ought we not to ask, why does the Lord bless sinners with so many good things? He gives rain and sunshine to the good and the bad; he grants a harvest in this world; he gives health and strength. We all enjoy love and the gift of friendship.
- Fifth, sometimes our troubles, such as Covid-19 with all its fear and death, may cause us think about God for the first time in a while – even if it is only because we want to know how he could allow such a thing. Somehow, God gets our attention – sadly often only while the trouble lasts and soon we are prone to forget. But what if we committed our lives to God in the trouble – so much good would come out of it! The Welcome Centre, part of the Baptist Church here in Ilford, along with the Salvation Army has worked hard during the pandemic to take food to homeless men and women who have been housed temporarily in guest houses in town. And look at the amazing compassion and care shown by nurses caring for those struggling to breathe and others coming to the end of their lives.
- Sixth, the question, ‘how could God allow Covid-19?’ implies that maybe God is not quite righteous or just to allow it to happen or to allow the suffering it has brought. We could learn much from the story of Job here. We do not have all the information and even if we did, we might not understand God’s ways. So how can we suggest they are not just? Ultimately, if God decided it was time to bring to their end the lives of every one of us, God would be just in doing so. We owe God for our health, strength, happiness, the days we have in this world and for the very air we breathe. God does not owe us – and yet still he is gracious as is seen by him sharing our suffering.
I’m not sure I have done a very good job of really answering the question how could God allow something as destructive and bad as Covid-19. Maybe that is because we are not always able to understand what God is doing. And maybe my response simply attempts to give a bit of balance and help us to pause and to think before we pose the question in a way that might imply some defect in God’s character or God’s work in the world.
I would like to draw our thoughts on this question to a close with two final comments:
God allows the outworking of the freedom that he has given us to make choices. When we make a bad choice, God does not immediately overrule it. If we support businesses that treat people badly just for the sake of cheap goods then others will suffer; if we throw away face masks or wet wipes that spread disease then others may become sick. Do we really want to suggest that God overrules those actions so that we can act irresponsibly without any consequences? Maybe then God allows things like the Covid-19 to help us think about the way we live and change the way we use our human responsibility
Finally, I want to point us to the qualities of patience and mercy in God. Sometimes God allows bad things to happen because God is being patient, giving us time to realise our mistakes and time to change. God is so amazingly patient with us. He is our creator and we owe everything to him. We owe our life to him; we owe honour and worship to him; we owe obedience to his holy standards. Yet how many of us become caught up with work, family, sport, holidays, cars and possessions that we have little time to think about God, let alone devote our whole lives to him? Yet God does not obliterate us. How patient and merciful God is. God is full of mercy: while thousands have died due to Covid-19 many have recovered and many more not been infected; during the pandemic we have seen qualities of compassion and kindness shown by many to others and sacrifices made to help others. Long may that kindness continue! If the pandemic has caused us to begin to think about God, then in great mercy God invites us to turn our whole lives back to him and begin to live lives oriented towards Him and his purposes. God waits patiently. So patiently. With such mercy.
 Fairtrade Foundation, Cocoa Farmers, https://www.fairtrade.org.uk/Farmers-and-Workers/Cocoa accessed 14/07/2020.
In one way this question is very simple to answer: why has God allowed Covid-19? Answer: I don’t know.
I think that none of us can know fully. The Bible says that God’s ways are higher than our ways and God’s ways and reasons for doing and allowing things are beyond searching out (Isaiah 55:8-9; Romans 11:33). That is not an excuse for failing to answer the question, which we will attempt to do. But Covid reminds us that we do not live in a world of our making. It is a world far more complex than we could ever imagine and in this crisis we have to admit that we cannot fathom out what the eternal, all-wise, merciful God is doing. But we can, like Job, humble ourselves before this great God and in doing so discover his help in our times of trouble.
So what can we can say in response to this question? After all, millions of us have been inconvenienced by Covid-19; many have suffered serious health consequences; many have lost their jobs; staff in hospitals have been scarred by the scale of death they have witnessed; and thousands have been bereaved and not even been able to have a ‘proper’ burial. Why? Why would God allow all of this to happen?
To begin with can we accept that this question makes several assumptions? Why might we be asking with this kind of question?
- It assumes that God should bother about us even if many of us give no thought to God most of the time and get on with our lives without God.
- It assumes we have a right to know why God is allowing so much suffering. (We must be careful before we put God in the dock and demand he explain it to us).
- It assumes that Covid-19, (and other suffering also), raises the question, ‘is God good and just?’.
- It assumes that we deserve better from God (based on what we think God is like and what we think about ourselves)
Let us look at each of those assumptions:
Do we deserve better from God? In our response to question 2 we said that God does not owe us, rather we owe God – worship, honour, our obedience, and our gratitude to the almighty God. Let us just for a moment stop and think of all that we have and enjoy in this world – should we not more often be grateful, and give thanks to God for this? Even when we do not think frequently about God as we are busy with other things, that we regard as more deserving of our attention and time, still the good God grants rain and sunshine that we may have the harvest; still the good God grants health to many of us most of the time; still the good God sees to it that many disasters that might happen do not.
Do we deserve better? I think not, rather we should be much more grateful for all the good that God graciously gives to us.
So … should God bother about us more? It is important to realise that even as we give little thought to God, God, being good, does not stop thinking about us, watching over us, providing for us. God does care about us, even when we do not deserve it.
Perhaps more important than asking why God is doing something, we might consider a different question. Do we, as created beings, created to honour God (not the other way round) have a right to know what God is doing – and why? God does not exist for our ease and happiness. Ought we not to be careful therefore before we put God in the dock and demand an explanation for his actions? Maybe we should be asking the question ‘why do we not honour him, respect him, live by his standards?’ before we ask for an explanation from him. And suppose God were to give us an explanation for his actions and his purposes – do we think we would be able to understand it?
If we feel the need to question the goodness or the justice of God in allowing Covid-19, or any other disaster in nature, or any suffering that comes our way, perhaps we should consider first why we are asking such questions. Is it because we have lost our freedom and cannot go about life the way we used to and so we feel annoyed by that? Is it because we have lost our job, and financial security? Is it that we are asking why would God allow that to happen to me? Is it because we have been bereaved and we want someone to be held responsible?
This question ‘why?’ – Why has God allowed Covid-19?, is such a difficult question to even begin to answer. We can hardly begin to grasp or understand God’s ways. But the question raises the issue of God’s goodness and justice.
Even if we accept that God does not owe us an explanation; even if we accept that we probably would not understand it if God did explain everything; we still want some help in knowing that God is good and just. We also want to know that we have a God we can trust.
One reason we ask the why question is because we sense deep within us that God is good, but suffering like the Covid-19 pandemic seems to challenge that assumption. So can we still be sure that God is good? When we say that God is good we are saying that God is by nature generous and kind towards us in so many ways. God does not depend on us, but rather in goodness God gives life and breath and all things good to us (Acts 17:25). God’s goodness to all of us is totally unmerited and undeserved. God’s goodness to us all goes way beyond anything we should expect that the holy God might give to men and women who turn their backs on him and ignore him most of the time. So when God at some point withholds what we call good (usually we mean that which is for our benefit, our ease and our happiness) this does not mean that God is not good. As the response to our previous question (question 2) shows, sometimes God gets our attention through these disasters and maybe for the first time we begin to think about God – even if it is only to question God’s character and motives. But God is good, and out of troubles, he often brings much good.
As we read the Bible we discover that when God’s people turn away and disobey him, he often sends them a warning through prophets who call them to return to God. He does this so that they might live. If they refuse to listen, the Lord eventually brings a disaster, but it is not in order to obliterate them but to make them realise their foolishness and turn to him. Is it possible that God might be wanting to achieve something similar in the world in these days through the current crisis? If so, then does it not again show us how God and gracious God is?
So if we cannot see any reason why God allows Covid-19 and other disasters, can we affirm that God is just when he allows such things and the associated pain and grief? Again I am sure the answer is ‘yes’. I am not suggesting that we say simply that God could do anything and because God is doing that thing, it makes it just and ok. It is a very different thing though to say that God always does what is just. We may not understand sometimes, but that does not mean that it is not true. The very fact that God does not demand this moment the life-breath of each and every one of us is our proof. As our creator God has every right to do so. As sinful creatures we deserve not blessing but death. Yet we live. Most of us receive many good things in life. Why? That is a good question – why does God allow us to live and why does God give so much good? The Bible says it is because God is patient with us. God does not want us to perish and be without him for ever. God longs for us to turn to him in repentance and faith and so receive his forgiveness and his gift of eternal life. God wants us to enjoy life in all its fullness now and in eternity. Now that is good. And it is more than just.
As we wrestle with this question why God allows Covid-19 and so much other suffering, there is much that we have to admit we do not know. But there is something we can know for sure. We can know that God loves us. God has given us the perfect demonstration and proof of his love. In the Lord Jesus, God came into this world and lived among us, as one of us; in so doing God suffered with us, sharing our tears, our pains, and our grief. Even more than that, at the cross He suffered for us in our place that we may be reconciled to God and one day be free from sickness, disease, death, pain and grief forever.
Why did God allow Covid-19 in the first place and why does God allow it to continue? ‘I don’t know’ is the short and simple answer. Maybe there are reasons that we will never know; perhaps if God did tell us it would be beyond our ability to grasp. But what we can know is that God is at work in this world, God is good and just and full of love, God longs patiently for us to turn to him, and even in the face of a worldwide pandemic like Covid-19 God wants to reconcile us to himself and one day he will end suffering and pain.
Like question 3, this question has a very short answer: ‘I don’t know’.
That is not an attempt to avoid the question, only to say that in the end we will not find a full complete explanation, because we cannot understand all of God’s ways. So what can we say in response to this question? After all, hundreds of thousands continue to suffer serious health consequences and many others continue to grieve and mourn the death of loved ones. Why wouldn’t God want to stop it?
Let’s begin by saying, as we have already acknowledged in a previous question, that in allowing Covid-19 God might have a purpose that we cannot see at present. This is difficult for us because we want an explanation, maybe even think we deserve one (see above, question 3)
When the question is posed. ‘why isn’t God doing anything?’ I think that we can say that God is doing something. He has given us gifts of knowledge and reason and these gifts are what enable scientists to work on a vaccine now. God is helping us to do what we need to survive. In the Bible in the book of Deuteronomy, Chapter 8 and verses 17 and 18 God warns the people not to congratulate themselves when they have a great harvest, but remember that it is God who has given them the ability to do these things and so to be grateful and humble before God. In another section of the Bible (Exodus Chapter 32) we learn that God is the one who has given us all gifts and the ability to learn. During this time of pandemic many have shown amazing compassion and care for other people as they have suffered; God is at work. God is doing something.
As we wait for scientists to come up with a vaccine, there is another way in which God is at work. I need to say this carefully: God is always speaking to us in many ways as we enjoy his goodness, trying to get our attention and turn our hearts to himself. Often this is a quiet voice. But times of trouble and suffering often cause us to wonder what is happening and ask questions about God. C.S. Lewis said, ‘God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world’. If we have suffered with the virus in some way and especially if we have been bereaved, this may be hard to accept. We have said previously that if God took back the life-breath of us all that would be just; it is only by his mercy that not more of us have died from the Covid-19. But this is hard to stomach when we are going through grief.
One of the reasons this is so difficult for us, especially in the West, is because we have so much, which we can easily take for granted and subconsciously assume that we are entitled to. In contrast, when my wife and I lived in Asia for five years we began to see how Eastern Christians cope with suffering much better (some would call it a ‘theology of suffering’). They are grateful for the good things they enjoy, in times of loss and grief they throw themselves on God’s mercy, and in it all they look forward to a better hope in eternity. They have a humility that enables them to begin to say along with Job, ‘The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord’ (The Bible: Job 1:21). This is a humility which would be helpful for all of us.
I believe that God could stop Covid-19 right now. Why God has chosen not to do so I cannot explain. But this does not mean that God is somehow unjust or not good. Please read the next statement very carefully; I do not say it lightly – although many have been affected by the virus and died or experienced bereavement, it is God’s mercy that has stopped it being more. Of course it is extremely painful for those who have been bereaved. Yet in all this God is good and God still provides so much of blessing for us in this world, even during the days of a pandemic. Please read on, because…
God’s goodness and care can be found in our tragedies when we allow him to share our pain and suffering. The life stories of men and women in the Bible show this to us over and over again. In Isaiah 43 God promises to ‘be with’ us when we pass through the water and the fire (metaphorically speaking about all difficult situations) and not leave us on our own. In Isaiah 63 we read that in all the afflictions of women and men in this world God himself is afflicted. In other words – God shares our pain. It is true that many psalms cry out for God to hear their cry, and to come and rescue them. Indeed, some of them ask how long it will be before God hears and does something. Their experience was similar to ours; their cries identify with our questions and our pain. Often the psalms manage to hold on to the hope that God will finally answer, even though it is tough when he seems to take so long.
And I believe that God is still just too, even though he does not step in and halt the Civd-19 right this minute. May I ask you to consider another question: rather than ask if God is just or why does he allow the virus to continue with the pain and grief associated with it, perhaps we should ask why God allows sin and the dishonouring of his name to continue so long. Are we not all guilty in some way of being part of that? The answer to that question is that God is patient, merciful, and just. The very fact that God allows us to continue to live is his goodness; as I have said before, if God were to demand our lives from all of us this very moment, he would be just in doing so. But God doesn’t. Why not? Because God is patient and God is giving us all time to think about our attitude and relationship to God: whether we will turn to worship him or not; whether we will honour him or not in our lives. God is giving us time to turn to him for his forgiveness, and for his gift of eternal life in Jesus Christ.
I cannot explain why God does not stop Covid-19 right now, but I can offer you genuine hope that one day God will stop not only Covid-19 but all suffering, death, pain and grief. Suffering is not the end of the story. One day God will end all injustice and suffering in the world. God will renew and restore the whole created order and all will be well. In order to do this God has done the most remarkable thing. In Jesus, God himself came to this planet and not only suffered along with us, but on the cross suffered for us to reconcile us to himself and one day to raise us up to live in a renewed heaven and earth free from pain death and tears. Today he calls us to turn to him and trust him for this.
In the Bible, in Romans Chapter eight we read that the whole earth is groaning at this present time (maybe we see this more clearly through the pain and suffering of Covid). The created order is not as it was – it experiences pain, death and decay. But one day God will bring an end to all of that. One day God will restore the heaven and the earth. One day, says Romans Chapter eight, all of creation will enter the glorious freedom of the children of God.
The children of God are all those women and men who have turned to God and trusted in Lord Jesus Christ; they have already received forgiveness of all their sins and their relationship with God has been restored. They wait for the day when the Lord Jesus will come again, raise us up, restore our bodies, and restore the whole earth. The Bible says that in the restored heaven and earth God ‘will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away’ (The Bible: Revelation 21:4).
Even in the pain and grief of a pandemic that has caused so much sickness, bereavement and grief, there is something to hold on to. There is genuine hope. I cannot tell why God does not stop Covid-19 right now. But I trust God has a reason, probably way beyond what I could understand. And I do know that God offers us a real hope for the future. I will say more about this in question 7 (Does God care?) and show how much God has done to make that possible.
I close by asking if you are willing and ready to trust God now. Will you thank God that he is patient, giving you time to think, and turn to him? Will you thank him that Lord Jesus died on cross for you so that you may be forgiven? Will you ask for that forgiveness and begin to live in a new way honouring and living in obedience to God? For further help in taking that step please contact me through our website.
Some thoughts will appear here very soon – please look again soon
This is a very important question because it concerns the character of God. For many people events such as famine and poverty, earthquakes and tsunamis, and pandemics like Covid-19 raise questions about the goodness of God.
So … how can we believe that God is good when there is Covid-19?
First let me say that really the only person who ought to have an issue here and need to ask such a question is the person who does believe in God. Facing up to suffering honestly and believing God is good is not easy. But if we do not believe in a God, then suffering is distressing, but not a question that can be asked. Richard Dawkins writes that in the universe there no design, no purpose, no evil and no good. So this question can only properly be asked by someone who believes in a good God, and who is finding the Covid-19 pandemic or other disasters in the world difficult to square with that belief. It is a believer’s question.
What then can we say?
The amount of pain and suffering in the world is a problem to us. We are prone to think that God ought not to allow the suffering and that we deserve the good. But let us not forget or minimise the amount of beauty and good we see in God’s good creation – all that it supplies for us to eat and drink and the beauty that evokes pleasure and wonder within us (a sunset, a star-lit sky; a snow-capped mountain). Add to that the many acts of kindness that women and men show to each other every day. Too often we take it all for granted and do not think about it but we must not forget the goodness within the universe that God has created for us. In these days when we see the reality of pain and suffering we need to ask might there be a purpose in God allowing suffering that we may not yet fully grasp?
Of course it is one thing to see suffering in the world from a distance, as a spectator so to speak, when it does not touch us personally but it may still raise questions for us. But when we suffer or a loved one dies – then suffering takes on a different complexion. We cannot explain why a good God would allow suffering but the life stories of men and women show how God brings good out of what looks evil to us and what causes us pain. The story of Joseph in the Bible is a case in point. His brothers were jealous of him sold him as a slave and he was taken to another country. There, despite working honestly he was accused falsely and put in prison. Only after several years was he released because he had interpreted the Pharaoh’s dream and he was given a place of great national responsibility. Through that the lives of many were saved during a time of famine, including his own brothers. When they are heartbroken at their behaviour, Joseph is not angry with them. Instead he says ‘you intended to harm me but God intended it for good’.
Another story that illustrates the goodness of God is of a young girl who had a diving accident in July 1967 and has been paralysed since. She went through many struggles with many questions about God and faith but is absolutely sure how good God really is even in our most difficult situations. Her name is Joni Erickson Tada. You can listen to her story (and that of a family who lost their four-year old daughter in a car accident; two other children suffered spinal injuries and live in wheelchairs) here: https://subspla.sh/crwdp7t
Next let us consider what we mean by good – do we mean our ease and comfort and the absence of pain or sadness? Do we mean our immediate good (our comfort right now) or our long-term good or our ultimate good? The Bible says that ultimately all things work together for good to them who love God. Yes, even troubles, which can produce in us the qualities God loves to see.
And what do we mean by saying God is good? Is God good if he only does what we want? Is God good if we have health, plenty to eat and a few of the luxuries of life? Joseph being lied about and being put in prison was not what we would usually call a ‘good’ thing and Joni’s broken neck is not what we would call a ‘good’ thing. But both say that God is in control, God is at work, and God has brought much good out of their experiences.
When we say that God is good we are saying that God is by nature generous and kind towards us in so many ways. God does not depend on us, but rather in his goodness God gives life and breath and all good things to us (Acts 17:25). God’s goodness to all of us is totally unmerited and undeserved. God’s goodness to us all goes way beyond anything we should expect that the holy God might give to men and women who turn their backs on him and ignore him most of the time. So when at some point God allows something which does not bring us ease and happiness, this does not mean that God is not good. We quoted C S Lewis previously who said that God shouts to us in our sufferings; it is like his megaphone. We should be very careful before we suggest that suffering is God’s judgment on certain people, but if we listen, we might hear a message in it. The stories used above and many more that could be added here all show us that God is good, all the time, even in our troubles, out of which he brings much good.
God’s goodness and care can be found in our tragedies when we allow him to share our pain and suffering. In Isaiah 43 God promises to ‘be with’ us when we pass through the water and the fire (metaphorically speaking about all difficult situations) and not leave us on our own. In Isaiah 63 we read that in all our afflictions God himself is afflicted. In other words – God shares our pain. God is good.
A further illustration of God’s goodness is his patience towards us. Rather than ask if God is good or why does he allow the virus to continue with the pain and grief associated with it, perhaps we should ask why God allows sin and the dishonouring of his name to continue so long. Are we not all guilty in some way of being part of that? The answer to that question is that God is patient and merciful. The very fact that God allows us to continue to live is his goodness; as I have said before, if God were to demand our lives from all of us this very moment, he would be just in doing so. But God doesn’t. Why not? Because God is patient and God is giving us all time to think about our attitude and relationship to God: whether we will turn to worship him or not; whether we will honour him or not in our lives. God is giving us time to turn to him for his forgiveness, and for his gift of eternal life in Jesus Christ. God wants us to enjoy life in all its fullness now and in eternity.
This is a more personal question perhaps than others in this series but nevertheless it is worth considering here as it a question that many people are asking in these days.
“One of my family or close circle of friends died because of Covid-19, does God care?”
“They died alone and we could not have a proper funeral service – does God care?”
One of the reasons we wonder if God cares is because we think that if God is all-powerful he would stop them dying and if God is all-loving he would want to do so. Our attempts to explore previous questions has led us to say that some troubles in the world are at least partly due to human behaviour, our choices and actions. God’s love and power do not remove those choices or change every bad choice. Every choice to hold wet markets and every choice to travel. When we say that God may have reasons we do not know for allowing Covid-19 that does not bring back our loved one. When we say that one day God will bring an end to evil and suffering and death, does not keep the life of my loved ones.
So does God care? Can I know that he cares? Can I know his care for me? I believe the answer to all three questions is ‘yes’. I write that not because of any convincing proof statements in the Bible but because of the experiences of men and women in the Bible in their times of trouble, suffering, loss and grief. Let me show you…
- God saw and cared for a woman called Hagar. She is a pregnant mum but she is treated so badly that she has little option but to run away. Out in the desert, all alone, with nowhere to go for safety, with no one to help in her need, she sits down by a spring of water. There the Lord speaks to her. She responds saying, ‘You are the God who sees me’. She is so encouraged and enabled to go on., knowing that God does care
- In the Bible God demonstrates a special concern for the widow, the orphan and the stranger – those most likely to be taken advantage of and to suffer poverty or abuse. They must not be treated badly, but with compassion and care. For example, at harvest a portion of grain and grapes are to be left for them to collect so that they might have something to eat. (see the Bible: Exodus 22:22; Deuteronomy 24:17-21
Do not both of these examples help us to see that God does care when our loved one dies. It doesn’t answer the ‘why?’ question: why did God allow it? Why didn’t God stop it? But what these verses do show us is that in it all God does care – deeply.
- Then we can add examples of women and men who found that God stood right there with them in their troubles and sufferings: God met with Moses in the burning bush; God walked with Daniel three friends in the fiery furnace in Babylon; God stood by Paul one night after he faced near riots.
Now I don’t want this to sound too simple, too easy, alright for someone who has not suffered this tragedy. I do not want to suggest that it wipes away every tear and leaves us with no sense of loss or pain. Rather, I am trying to say that in our pain and loss and grief, that we find comfort when we trust God.
- In addition to these real-life examples we can listen to the promises that God makes. Hear is one from Isaiah 43:2 – ‘I have redeemed you … you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God’. What could be more like water that threatens to sweep over us than the grief we feel at the death of a loved one? What could be more like flames that burn and cause pain, than the loss of a member of our family? Yet God’s promise if we will only accept it, is to be with us in that suffering and grief. A few chapters later in the same book of Isaiah God says something else through his prophet. He tells us, Chapter 63, Verse 9 that: ‘In all their afflictions he [God] too was afflicted’. In other words, when his people were suffering, God saw their suffering, he heard their cries of pain, he felt the darkness of their grief – and he cared. He shared their suffering.
When we experience pain, suffering, grief and tears it helps massively to have someone around who ‘really gets it’. So… when my loved one dies, does God ‘really get it’? The Bible says he does. For the Lord Jesus Christ was God in human flesh.
- Jesus Christ lived among us in this world and experienced some of its pain and suffering and grief. He shared fully our humanity. He got hungry, and thirsty and tired; he knew joy and tears; he knew discrimination for he was born a Jew. He was let down by close friends; he faced false charges, and a prejudiced jury. He experienced incredible physical pain and died in agony – alone. So he gets it. God really gets it. For he shared our humanity and now today the exalted Lord Jesus still shares our sufferings and grief. When he met the widow at Nain, he felt for her. When he sat down with a woman at the well in Samaria it was because he cared for her. When Mary was deeply upset after her brother, Lazarus, died, Jesus wept with her. God gets it.
- But we can say something more than that. Not only did the Lord Jesus suffer with us, but he also suffered for us, in order that we receive forgiveness, the sure hope of eternal life and so that one day he might end all suffering pain death and tears – and even restore the whole universe. The Bible teaches us that the sting of death is sin. But what did Jesus do at the cross? He took away our sins; he bore them in his own body. So where is the sting of death? It’s gone. Death can buzz around us but if we are trusting the Lord Jesus it cannot sting us. Jesus has defeated death because he has drawn out its sting. If we trust in him we will never die – spiritually that is; we will never be separated from God. But death still touches the body and all of us at some point will face physical death. But we can face it knowing Jesus has already beaten it: he beat it at the cross; he proved it in his resurrection and one day he will destroy it forever.
In conclusion then let us ask the question again – does God care? Does God care when my loved one dies? I have shared with you six things which the Bible says and I hope they begin to point us to some kind of answer:
- the life story of a woman named Hagar who learned that God sees her
- The concern of God for the widow, orphan and stranger
- The experience of women and men who found that God was with them in their troubles
- The promise of God to be with us and even to be afflicted in our afflictions
- In Jesus, God experienced life in this world and suffered with us and so he ‘really gets it’
- The Lord Jesus went even further – he suffered and died for us to bring us forgiveness, eternal life and the sure hope that one day he will end the suffering and grief of this world
Does God care? I think he does
The short answer is ‘no’ but it can be a pointer to the end of the world.
As soon as a disaster hits, whether it be a famine, a tsunami, the ebola outbreak or now Covid-19 some people connect it to the book of Revelation in the Bible and think that it is a sign of the imminent end of the world. While the world may not, at this stage, be coming to its imminent end, it is certainly heading that way.
Why do people ask this question at times of disasters? Is it to satisfy their curiosity? Are people afraid of what might happen on the Day of Judgement? What would be your response if Covid 19 is a sign of the end of the world?
Today some people think that Covid-19 is one of the plagues in the book of Revelation, and some think it is one of what they see as the final group of plagues in Chapters 16 and 17.
What do we know about the book of Revelation? It was written towards the end of the C1stAD by the apostle John for the church at a time when it was either about to or had started to face persecution under the Roman Empire. It was written to help them and to assure them that however strong evil becomes, ultimately God will win. He was not writing in order to give us a historical timeline on to which we can try to map C20th and C21st events and predict the end of the world.
So is coronavirus a sign of the end of the world, the last plagues that are to come? I don’t think so:
There have been many disasters before, both in the form of disease, and human killing of others. In the 14th century, people may have asked the same questions when the Black Plague killed 30-60% of the population of Europe. People asked it when millions died in the Spanish flu in 1918, during the Holocaust in World War II, when Mao Tse-Tung’s revolution killed millions, and when on 9/11 thousands died. People who lived through those days may have thought they were a sign of the end. But it was not. At present the death toll is, thankfully, much less than that of the Spanish Flu, though it may increase significantly. But still I don’t think it is the end of the world. The Bible tells us that the end of the world will be preceded by widespread pestilence and plague on earth but no one knows that day or the hour. It will come like a thief in the night – when we least expect it.
What can we learn from Jesus’ teaching? Jesus describes events of the end times in the Gospels of Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. In Matthew 24, Jesus warns us that there will be many signs that will appear to point to the end. But they are just looking forward to the end, not the end itself.
Watch out that no one deceives you.
For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many.
You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed.
Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.
Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.
All these are the beginning of birth pains (Matthew 24:4-8’ bold is mine)
Jesus does not mention viruses specifically, but they can be as devastating as wars famines or earthquakes. But note what Jesus says:
- the end is still to come
- these are just the beginning
A few verses later, Matthew 24:14, Jesus gives us a bigger clue about the timing of the end:
- This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
The word nation is the Greek word ‘ethnos’, which means a tribe, a nation, a people group. So, before the end of the world, the gospel must be heard not just in every country but by every people group in every country. That task has not yet been completed.
For all of these reasons I do not think that Covid-19 is a sign that the end of the world is almost here. When Lord Jesus’ disciples asked him questions about the sign of the things to come, he gave them certain signs, i.e. wars and rumours of wars, earthquakes and famines and Lord Jesus warned them that the signs are not given to make a detailed chronological prediction about the end of the world but to help them to be alert and stay faithful to God.
Let’s return to the question of our response to God at this time. What is the most important question to ask? Is Covid 19 a sign of the end of the world or where do I stand with God if I was to be judged today? Will you consider putting your relationship right with God? The end of the world will indeed lead to the judgement day. Lord Jesus told his disciples that the end of the world will come like a thief, unexpected and without notice. The most important thing we can do is to put our relationship right with God now. God loves you and sent The Lord Jesus to die for your sins. When you repent from your sins and believe in Lord Jesus you are right with God. So no matter when the end of the world comes you are ready for it.
So don’t focus on the clock to see if you can work out when the end of the world will be, but look at your heart to see whether it is ready to meet God.
The following are all words taken from the Bible and I encourage you to listen to them or read them and allow God to speak directly into your heart:
I am so glad that you have decided to respond to Me. This is something I have been longing for (Acts 17:26). You see, My word is true (Psalm 119:151); I do not and cannot lie (Numbers 23:19). You can either believe My words or not – that’s the step of faith you will have to decide on taking if you are to go any further…
But I can assure you that if you believe in My words, your life will be changed and transformed, even in the midst of this pandemic.
I know everything about you, and am familiar with all your ways – your coming and your going (Psalm 139:1-3). I’ve even numbered the very hairs on your head (Matthew 10:29-31). I knew you before you were formed in your mother’s womb (Jeremiah 1:4-5). You have been made in My image (Genesis 1:27). You are not a mistake but are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13-14). In Me you live and move and have your being for you are My offspring (Acts 17:28). I have been calling you (using a ‘megaphone’) to get your attention. You see, I love you, and I am your creator God; I chose you when I planned creation (Ephesians 1:11-12).
But I’ve been misrepresented by those who don’t know Me (John 8:41-44). Through this pandemic, I am not distant and angry, but I am the complete expression of Love (1 John 4:16), and it is My desire to lavish My love upon you as My child (1 John 3:1). I am your provider and am able to meet all your needs (Matthew 6:31-33). My plan for your future is always filled with hope, because I love you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 29:11). My thoughts towards you are as countless as the sand on the seashore (Psalm 139:17-18), and I rejoice over you with singing (Zephaniah 3:17), and I will never stop doing good to you (Jeremiah 32:40).
If you seek Me with all your heart, you will find Me (Deuteronomy 4:29). I am able to do more for you than you could possibly ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). For I am your greatest encourager (1 Thessalonians 2:16-17), and the Father who comforts you in all your troubles (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). When you are broken-hearted, I am close to you (Psalm 34:18). As a shepherd carries a lamb, I carry you close to My heart (Isaiah 40:11). One day, I will wipe away every tear from your eyes and take away all the pain and suffering you have experienced on this earth (Revelation 21:3-4).
I am your Father and I love You even as I love My Son, Jesus (John 17:23). For in Jesus My love for you is revealed (John 17:26). Jesus is the exact representation of who I am (Hebrews 1:3). He came to demonstrate that I am for you, and not against you (Romans 8:31), and to tell you that I am not counting your sins. Jesus died so that you can be reconciled to me (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). His death was the ultimate expression of My love for you (1 John 4:10). I gave up everything I love so that I might gain your love (Romans 8:32). But My Son, Jesus, did not remain in the grave. His ministry did not end in defeat (Acts 13:34). The resurrection of Jesus witnesses to My immense power and absolute sovereignty over life and death. I raised Jesus from the dead (Acts 2:32). Only I who created life can resurrect it after death, only I can reverse the horrors of death itself (Acts 2:24), and only I can remove the sting and gain the victory over the grave through the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-7, 54–57). Now, Jesus sits in a place of honour at My right hand in heaven (Hebrews 10:12), triumphant and never to die again. He meets with Me in order to speak on your behalf (Romans 8:34); isn’t it wonderful to know that Jesus continuously speaks to me, His Father, on your behalf? (Hebrews 7:25). What a gift!
If you receive the gift of My Son, Jesus, then you receive Me (1 John 2:23), and nothing will ever separate you from My love again (Romans 8:38-39). I’ve always been Father and will always be Father (Ephesians 3:14-15).
Now I have a question for you: Will you be My child? (John 1:12-13).
From Your Creator God and Heavenly Father.
If the answer is ’Yes’ and you are choosing to believe that God’s word is truth, that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and you believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved (Romans 10:9-10).
Here is a simple prayer to invite Jesus into your heart – This is not an official prayer, but is only meant as a guide of how you can talk to God and ask Jesus Christ to become your Lord and Saviour. There is no magic formula or prescribed pattern that has to be followed to receive salvation. God knows what is in your heart:
I believe You are the Son of God,
that You died on the cross to rescue me from sin and death
and to restore me to God the Father.
I choose now to turn from my sins and every part of my life that does not please You.
I choose You. I give myself to You.
I receive Your forgiveness and ask you to take Your rightful place in my life as my Saviour and Lord.
Fill me with Your love and Your life,
and help me to become more like You.
In Jesus’ name I pray.
If you have just prayed a sincere prayer of faith and you’re wondering what to do next as a new Christian, see these helpful suggestions:
- Salvation is by grace, through faith. There’s nothing you did, or ever can do, to deserve it. Salvation is a free gift from God. All you have to do is receive it!
- Tell someone about your decision. It’s important that you tell someone to make it public, secure, and firm. Find another Christian and tell him or her. Tell someone today if you can.
- Talk to God every day. You don’t have to use big fancy words. There are no right and wrong words. Just be yourself. Thank the Lord daily for your salvation. Pray for others in need. Seek His direction. Pray for the Lord to fill you daily with his Holy Spirit. There is no limit to prayer. You can pray with your eyes closed or open, while sitting or standing, kneeling or lying on your bed, anywhere, anytime.
- Find a Bible-believing church and get ‘plugged in’ somewhere.