Coronavirus. COVID-19. Worldwide pandemic. Who is causing all this? God? Satan?
Individually, every one of us is ignorant about so many things. Collectively, as the human race, while knowledge continues to increase, we are still extremely ignorant in many areas.
This is especially true in the spiritual realm. To illustrate this, consider the case of Job. Bible students today know that God gave Satan permission to attack Job. But at the time, what did Job know about that? Zero. What did Job’s “friends” know about that? Zero. Job and his friends thought God was afflicting Job. They were all wrong. Was God permitting it? Yes. Was God causing it? No.
Then there was the man born blind in John 9:1-3. The disciples thought some personal or parental sin caused the blindness. They were dead wrong. And neither we nor the disciples would have known the reason for the blindness if Jesus had not revealed it.
It is common to assume that tragedies must be because of somebody’s current sin. Remember those who proclaimed that hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment on the ungodliness of New Orleans? And there are preachers claiming that today’s pandemic is God punishing specific sins in the world today.
Without a revelation from God on such matters, we are in the dark. As Deut. 29:29 says: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God; but the things that are revealed belong to us.” Thank God for all that He has revealed. But the secrets that have not been revealed do not belong to us. They solely belong to God.
We dare not pretend to know what we do not know. “The prophet, who shall speak a word presumptuously in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak… shall die” (Deut. 18:20). Die? Well, that’s the OT, not the New. Nevertheless, it shows God’s evaluation of people who are presumptuous – overconfident, insolent, rash, bold, foolhardy, audacious. Beware of those who, like Job and his friends, assert that God is causing a certain disaster when God has not revealed that to anyone.
What We Do Know
We do know that God has the power to directly impact this world. The Bible is filled with cases of God’s power over individuals, nations, and nature.
We do know that Satan has power. Or, if you don’t know that, examine Job 1:6–2:7; Luke 13:16; 2 Thess. 2:9; and 1 Peter 5:8.
What we also know is that the earth is under a curse. Genesis 3:16-19 is well known: “I will greatly multiply your pain… cursed is the ground… Thorns also and thistles will it bring forth… you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Not as well-known is Romans 8:20-22: “For the creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of decay into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now.” The whole creation was “subjected to vanity… bondage of decay… groans and travails in pain.”
Any natural disaster could be directly caused by God. It could be directly caused by Satan. Or it could just be an indirect result of the curse which God set in motion because of the sin of Adam and Eve. We do know that there are these three possibilities. In any given case, we do not know which of the three it is.
How This Disaster Can Help Us
What benefit can we obtain from disease, sickness, pain, and death? What good can come from this worldwide pandemic?
It can cause us to reflect on the original curse we have just considered. Adam and Eve’s sin was so insignificant in our eyes. Yet it caused God to curse the whole creation. Disobeying God is not insignificant. Sin, insignificant or of great consequence, is the problem of mankind. What may seem small in our eyes is big in God’s eyes. We can benefit from this pandemic if we allow it to remind us of the seriousness of sin.
COVID-19 can also motivate us to reflect on what is really “essential.” I am reminded of Jesus’ remark to Martha: “one thing is needed” (Luke 10:42). Different versions translate the word as “needed, necessary, important, or essential.” Yes, I found two versions which actually say “essential” – that word which is so debated these days. “One thing,” Jesus said. And what was that one thing? While “Martha was distracted with much serving,” Mary “sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.” The really essential is the spiritual.
Coronavirus and all that is happening can likewise help us develop good character – if we will let it. “We also rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering works perseverance; and perseverance, proven character” (Rom. 5:3-4). And “the testing of your faith produces endurance. Let endurance have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:3-4). Overcoming hardship can help us grow and mature in Christ.
In addition, the present sufferings can remind us that the end of suffering is in the future, not in this world: “He will wipe away from them every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; neither will there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more. The first things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4). That’s after Jesus’ return, after the great Judgment Day, after this heaven and earth pass away. In the meantime, we are confined to a fallen world.
In short, whether this pandemic is from God, or from Satan, or simply a natural result of a cursed earth, it can push us away from God, or draw us closer to Him. It’s our choice. COVID-19 can bring out the worst in us or bring out the best. It’s our choice. Coronavirus can cause us to complain more about what we do not have, or it can help us focus on what is truly essential. It’s our choice. Let’s not obsess over who or what has caused this worldwide pandemic. Let’s concentrate on what benefit we can gain from it, difficult as that might be.