By Rev. Pete Erickson
In January could any of us imagine that the whole world would find itself in the throes of a global pandemic? Who could have predicted living in this new realm of uncertainty? I, for one, certainly didn’t envision we would find ourselves asking the same kinds of questions that the Job of ancient days asked in 2020. Yet here we are my friends.
People have been asking in recent days, “Where is God amid the Coronavirus Pandemic? Why would a loving and all-powerful God allow people to suffer as they have? Why won’t God stop it? Those are the same questions that many of us asked after 9/11. Indeed, they are the questions that have been asked repeatedly throughout history. Consider for a second that what we really should be asking, during these present circumstances, is this:
“How am I going to respond as a person of faith?” …and, “What might God want me to learn in all of this?”
One look at history will tell us that we’ve never really been free from times of personal or corporate suffering. It is all around us and often within us. That’s life. It’s what characterizes a world steeped in sin. In fact, where did we ever get the idea that our walk of faith would guarantee a suffering and trial-free existence? Beginning with the introduction of sin, God explained to Adam and Eve that their lives would now be characterized by struggle. The phrase from Genesis comes to mind, “by the sweat of their brow.” How quickly we all forget (including me) that the one who was without sin, Jesus, the one who never deserved to suffer as he did, nevertheless did suffer and suffer terribly! He was scorned, ridiculed, and died an agonizing death.
To answer these common questions, let’s remember that God is where he’s always been and always will be. We sing the song, “This is my Father’s world.” Do we believe these lyrics? We see God in the countless examples of people helping other people, baking bread, delivering groceries, volunteering hours of humanitarian aid and assistance. God is still on the throne, giving us all opportunities to discover, in his grace and mercy, that he’s ready to see us through the times of suffering we will experience.
Yes, God could stop it with one command. So why doesn’t he? As an Ordained Minister of over thirty years, let me be honest here and tell you simply, “I don’t know.” What is more, I’ve got better things to do than try to answer this difficult question fully. Indeed, none of us know the answer like God does.
Yet there is profound hope and even joy amidst the not knowing. We’re reminded in Scripture, by the apostle Peter, “There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold.-though your faith is more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the days when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” (I Peter 1:6-9 NIV)
So how should we respond as people of faith to this trial of Coronavirus? We might start by recognizing that evil does not come from God, nor will God permit any evil to happen without his permission. That’s what happened with Job if you read carefully. God allowed him to suffer so that his time of testing would reveal and refine the depth of his faith and trust in God. The question is, “Will we allow trials and suffering to make us stronger and more faithful, or will we allow them to defeat us?”
My wife and I, and our daughter & her family all attend Mercy Road Church. Recently we’ve started a new practice together. We begin every morning with a prayer for personal safety, for those working on the front lines, for leaders, and loved ones. We also pray for those who’ve lost jobs and who are suffering from the effects of this virus. We ask God to teach us something new today, that we may speak and act in God-honoring ways toward each other, and that we may find something for which we may give thanks to God for today. This week may you trust God amidst the trials, speak to Him daily, and live with the hope and joy of all that is to come in Jesus Christ.
Rev. Pete Erickson is a Retired Senior Pastor in the Evangelical Covenant Church and attends Mercy Road Church. For questions or comments, Pastor Pete’s e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org