Why Does God Allow Pandemics?
The new reality we are living in today was sprung upon us with terrifying speed. It’s hard to believe that just a month ago, most of us had virtually no concern about COVID-19. Now it’s all we hear about. And the news we hear about it every day quite literally feels suffocating. The political primaries and the looming presidential election have simply fallen off the grid. The sheer horror of this fast-moving infection is terrifying. As a pastor, I’ve heard an avalanche of feelings in the last month: panic, fear, anger, sadness, confusion and despair. More and more I feel like I’m living in a horror movie, like the kind that I typically turn off because it’s too disturbing. But I cannot turn this one off—I have to just “keep watching.” I’ve been waking up some mornings hoping that it was all just a bad dream. Most of us are asking, or quietly wondering, “Why is this happening?”
The question of “natural evil” (suffering from illnesses or natural disasters) differs from that of “moral evil” (suffering from the actions of individuals like Hitler and Stalin). But leaving aside theological distinctions, the question that now consumes the minds of millions of people is simply this, “Why does God allow pandemics?”
The short answer is two words: Genesis Three. In the first book of the Bible (Genesis), we are told about mankind’s rebellion against God (chapter three), and the disastrous consequences that followed. One of these dreadful consequences is the reality of disease, physical suffering and death. Paul teaches more about this in Romans 8. Adam and Eve’s rebellion not only had spiritual consequences, but also biological ones. Horrific ones! Adam and Eve’s rebellion utterly changed the biology of our planet.
So, the first and most primary answer to our question is that God allows pandemics because of mankind’s rebellion in Eden. But there’s more than this. The Bible is also clear that God not only allows pandemics and plagues, but that He’s also fully in charge of when they strike, and for how long. This past week, I was reading in 2 Samuel 24 and I came across these words in verses 15-16, “So the Lord sent a plague on Israel from that morning until the end of the time designated, and seventy-thousand of the people from Dan to Beersheba died. When the angel stretched out his hand to destroy Jerusalem, the Lord relented concerning the disaster and said to the angel who was afflicting the people, ‘Enough! Withdraw your hand.’ The angel of the Lord was then at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.”
Most of us are also familiar with the story of Moses and the plagues of Egypt. These were specifically sent by God to accomplish His purposes at a unique moment in history. So, while it may be disturbing to hear that God is in charge of plagues and pandemics, it would actually be more horrifying if He was not! This goes back to the discussion people had after 9/11. On that surreal day, I was asked in a radio interview, “Where is God in this tragedy?” I heard one pastor in our city tell his church that, “God had nothing to do with 9/11!” While I certainly understand his sentiments, I find the theological implications of what he said to be horrifying. In other words, if God had nothing to do with 9/11, where was He? Is He in full control of all things or not? Is His providence only provincial? He is either Lord of all, or He is not Lord at all.
The reality is that we live in a cursed paradise because of Genesis Three. We live on a very beautiful, but a very dangerous planet—an extremely deadly planet. But we also live under the authority and jurisdiction of a good and loving Heavenly Father who is in full control of all things, including plagues, pestilence and pandemics. That is why we are not to fear. Why does He allow any specific pandemic? I have no idea. But I take great comfort in the fact that He does it for His purposes and for His glory. I also find great comfort in that God offers us His Son and His Scriptures. The Bible is full of precious promises to God’s people that no matter what may befall them, they have a home secure on the New Earth. This is something that becomes more real whenever we are looking at our mortality in the face.
So, preach to yourself! Remind yourself and your loved ones of God’s promises and the hope of the gospel. Remember, we don’t preach truth to ourselves because we always believe, we preach truth to ourselves because we need His help to keep believing.
by Jay Childs, Senior Pastor
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