By Paul Bawden
The outbreak of the coronavirus is certainly devastating and heartbreaking, and hopefully it can be curbed soon. Our prayers are with those who have lost loved ones, and that those who have the virus will respond quickly to treatment.
When something awful like this happens with the loss of valuable human life, this question can quickly come to the fore, “Where is God?” Even further, “Why does God allow such to happen?”
Such is not an easy question to answer for we aren’t omniscient, or we don’t know everything actual and possible.
We see in the Bible where God brought plagues and diseases on His people and on His enemies “to make you see my power” (Exodus 9:14, 16). He brought plagues on Egypt to force Pharaoh to free the Israelites from bondage (Ex. 12:13; 15:26). Such action indicates God’s sovereign control over disease and affliction.
The biblical God also warned His people of the consequences of disobedience (Leviticus 26:21,25). After giving the Mosaic Law, God told His people to obey the Law or suffer wasting disease, fever and inflammation (Duet. 28:22).
It’s easy to start thinking that the God of the Bible is not merciful and gracious. That’s why some today reject the God of the Old Testament. A further study of the Bible reveals that God’s desire is that His judgment and warnings of judgment will cause His people to turn back to Him. For in II Chronicles 7:13-14, God told Solomon that when the heavens are shut up and the locust come, if they would humble themselves, pray, and seek His face, He would hear and heal their land. God desires that when evil things happen people should not turn away from Him but turn to Him in repentance and faith.
In the New Testament, we see Jesus pronouncing judgment on the hypocritical religious leaders (Matt. 23:13-18), but at the same time reaching out with His grace and forgiveness to those standing in need (Matt. 9:2-6), while healing the sick, the blind, and raising the dead (Matt. 9:35). Christ’s action showed God’s compassion on those in need, while demonstrating without a doubt that He was the Savior, the God-man.
What does this all say about “Where is God?” in the midst of the Coronavirus and other diseases and catastrophes that happen in our world? Certainly, such events take place because we live in a fallen world. We all have feet of clay. At the same time, there is no way to determine if there is a spiritual cause behind such happenings. Blaming God doesn’t solve any problem. Sometimes our personal challenges are caused by our own selfishness and wrong decisions, at other times things happen to us physically, emotionally, and spiritually because we are part of the human race.
So why does God allow bad things to happen? Is the biblical God not all-powerful as He claims to be? The bad things that happen in the world and to our lives in different ways, are not a reflection on God’s power, rather they are a reminder that the world we live in is plagued by sin, while we are sinners as well, needing desperately the Savior, Jesus Christ, for His forgiveness and grace, provided for the believer through His death, burial, and bodily resurrection. Yes, we need His redemption, and some day the Lord will bring into existence the new heaven and earth free from all the sin in our world and the sin in our lives that causes us to not please God (Rev. 21:1-5).
Jesus put it this way in Luke 13:1-8, as He commented on people taken away in sudden death, in a situation where it could be supposed that they were great sinners. He cautioned His hearers not to blame the sufferers, but rather to look at their own personal lives, and realize that they needed to repent, that is turn from their sin and really accept Him as their Savior so that they will not perish, but have eternal life here and in the life hereafter. What is your response to Jesus Christ? (cf. John 3:16-21).
Paul Bawden is married and served in the pastoral ministry for 45 years, retiring in 2011. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a B.A. in Speech and attended Dallas Theological Seminary, receiving a Master of Theology. He has taken counseling courses at Trinity Evangelical Seminary in Deerfield, Illinois. Paul is a lifetime member of the Evangelical Free Church of America, as well as being a member of Interim Pastor Ministries (IPM), which serves churches during their time of transition in searching for a new pastor. He writes for Union Gospel Press, as well as being a volunteer writer for GotQuestions.org. Paul likes to write, read, bike, and work in the yard. The Bawdens have had the privilege to travel to Mexico and Romania on mission trips and visited various countries in Europe.
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