That’s the question people always ask when something this devastating comes along. Normally, the things we consider devastating are local in impact. Earthquakes, hurricanes, terrorist attacks. They’re all local. The world may notice but in the end most of the world is not personally affected.
This coronavirus on the other hand is going to affect just about every single person on earth. It has already reached nearly every country. We also know once it arrives, it grows exponentially. Starting off small, its numbers quickly grow huge.
Several things are now clear:
- It will produce devastating consequences around the globe;
- Millions will get it and it’s possible that millions may die;
- Even if it suddenly ended next week it has already knocked our economies for a loop;
- If it continues for another few weeks it will have worldwide economic consequences so catastrophic that it may take a decade or more to fully recover.
So the question is, on something this big and this devastating – why is God allowing it? Is He not powerful enough to handle it? Or could it be that He doesn’t care?
Well, the answer is, first of all, God didn’t just allow it, He decreed it and orchestrated it.
This was His plan from ages past. Do you really think the God who created the universe is so weak that He is unable to hold back a virus, if He so desires? Of course He could! So the fact that it’s happening shows that it wasn’t His desire to hold it back. So, why then, if God could have stopped it, didn’t He?
It’s not possible to read the mind of God and know exactly why He has ordained something like this to happen. In the Old Testament He sent prophets who spoke for Him and announced judgments and plagues to the people. They would warn them to repent or suffer. They would tell them what was coming and why. They would also tell them what, if anything, they could do to avoid it.
But God doesn’t speak through prophets today so we don’t have a direct word from Him on any specific situation. However, we can look at how He acted in the past and glean some lessons from it based upon His unchanging character.
Often the Bible shows us times like this where God has brought wide swaths of destruction to the world, or parts of it. There are many examples in the Bible where God, speaking through His prophets, told the people He was showing His anger or He was bringing judgment to a wicked people.
Most times these acts of God served as a wake-up call. God often called His people to repentance, through His prophets. He often promised that if they genuinely repented, He would spare them the judgment and bless them. So, God often used events like this to wake people up. But wake them up from what?
Today, every nation on earth is in denial of God. Most people everywhere, deny that God even exists. And if they don’t do so openly and overtly, they do so secretly in their hearts.
As an entire global community we have lulled ourselves into believing the God of the Bible doesn’t really exist. And if He did, most people believe that He would never do anything unkind or mean. He would never punish people or render justice on them.
There are many things He may be moving to wake us up from. One might be our self-delusion that we are in control of our lives and our fate.
People walk around arrogantly believing that they’re in full control and God (if He even exists) is totally powerless to stop or judge or punish them. They feel they have complete immunity from the One who created them.
Nothing could make more clear to us what weak and fragile little creatures we are than the devastating impacts and economic dislocations COVID-19 will cause around the globe.
And nothing could make more clear to us how mighty and powerful God is. He is so powerful, in fact, that when He decides to act, our total weakness and inability to stop Him comes shining radiantly through!
Throughout history God has acted many times, in judgment, punishment and all the other scary ways we always suspect God might act. BUT… He always does so with a call to repentance and a promise of salvation and blessing.
He wants us to turn to Him. He wants us to fall to our knees in sorrow, repentance and submission. This is His wake-up call! What seems to be a harsh judgment or punishment is also a wake-up call. It is God showing His patience and His willingness and desire to give us yet one more chance.
Don’t squander this opportunity again! For the Lord, as we are now seeing, is awesome and mighty and fearsome. Yet He’s patiently and lovingly calling us to come to Him because He is eager to forgive us and save us. But His patience won’t last forever.
Check out how relevant these words are from the prophet Joel, written nearly 3,000 years ago:
“Fear grips all the people; every face grows pale with terror. The attackers march like warriors and scale city walls like soldiers. The LORD is at the head of the column.
He leads them with a shout. This is HIS mighty army, and they follow HIS orders.
The day of the LORD is an awesome, terrible thing. Who can possibly survive?
That is why the LORD says, “Turn to me now, while there is time. Give me your hearts.
Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.”
Return to the LORD your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish.
Who knows? Perhaps he will give you a reprieve, sending you a blessing instead of this curse. Perhaps you will be able to offer grain and wine to the LORD your God as before.”
Joel 2:6, 7, 11-14