Any time there is a world disaster, people are quick to blame God as the cause. This has a way of deflecting the blame from the real culprit, which is often ourselves, and pushes people away from the Lord. The coronavirus pandemic rests heavily on human shoulders. We are told God manages the events of the earth; He is the puppeteer. However those who say God permits the coronavirus make a major mistake. They undermine our belief in a perfectly loving God. Just as a loving parent would do whatever they could to protect their child, a loving God would not allow a virus to wreak widespread death and destruction.
Why does suffering happen?
Christian theologians, scholars, and researchers have dived into the topic of suffering for hundreds of years. They have come up with six different explanations as to why suffering occurs, and here are a few of them. First is original sin. This is the belief that suffering is caused by the fall of mankind. Due to the fall, the whole cosmos is corrupted, such that all creation is groaning (Romans 8:22). Paul argues that original sin corrupted not only human nature, but all of nature.
Secondly is because of the devil. We can blame the coronavirus on Lucifer. After all, Jesus was crucified because Satan entered Judas, according to Luke and John (Luke 22:3, John 13:27). A literal reading of Genesis would easily pinpoint that Adam and Eve fell into sin due to the temptation of the serpent. Walking hand in hand with the original-sin model, Satan was behind it as well. Satan wants to see the world struggle, as we are with the coronavirus.
Next is because of free will. We can blame suffering on the abuse of free will and the fact that suffering is an inevitable consequence of freedom (Proverbs 11:31). The free will defense argues that suffering is a consequence of bad actions. Bad actions or sin will always be a potential consequence of having true freedom to choose between good and evil. Many could say the bad actions of the markets in China propelled the coronavirus.
Another way we can think of suffering is by our lack of understanding of God’s plan (Isaiah 25:1). The divine-plan argument argues that suffering is part of God’s divine plan, which will all work out for the good; it is just that we cannot possibly fathom what God had in mind before the creation of the foundations of the world (Job 38). Despite the suffering from coronavirus, we are also seeing great change that was needed.
How does God want us to respond to the pandemic?
What can we do as Christians in this crisis? One way we can honor God is by pointing people to Him and show them what He offers to those who trust in Him. Even as we battle our fears and concerns of being infected by the coronavirus, losing our jobs, and overall instability, God is by our side. We should be using this time of unrest to share the Word of God, so that everyone can find comfort.
We can also pray for the people who have been affected by the outbreak. We can hope that they experience the presence of God, who “is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). We can ask God to be their protector because He “will protect him, for he acknowledges My name” (Psalm 91:14). Lastly, we can ask that God offers them peace, which “transcends all understanding [and] will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
In our current crisis, God’s specific will changes. God calls each person, each family, each community, and each political structure to unique responses of love. For most, social distancing can be a significant form of love. Sharing provisions, even something as simple as toilet paper, can be another. Cooperating with health officials can be a powerful expression of love. Taking reasonable precautions can be an act of love. Many who claim God causes or allows the coronavirus will see some good that comes from our current crisis. They will point to stories of self-sacrifice or the good that comes from people cooperating to combat this pandemic.
We cannot win without God’s empowering love. God needs our cooperation to overcome this evil, and He is working against the coronavirus. We cannot help but wonder why COVID-19 happened. But in the end, if we were to ask ourselves what Jesus would do, we would remember that Jesus Himself never had a theodicy discussion with His disciples before healing someone. He simply helped those in suffering. We must do the same.