The current state of our world is uneasy at best. It seems each one of us is choosing to handle the COVID-19 crisis differently. We see memes popping up all over social media making light of a dire situation. Friends and family in medical professions work on the front lines of this pandemic every day. Parents isolate with their children, seeking protection from exposure. Others are going about things flippantly as if there isn’t any actual threat to human life. And some are just hoarding toilet paper. Yet, the theme I continue to hear is the feeling of helplessness. Collectively we seem uncertain of where to even turn. Society at large has lost a perceived sense of control, and the realities of death and grief seem to be staring everyone in the face.
But in the midst of uncertainty, there is One who is in control. There is One we can turn to. There is One who holds the whole world in His hands. God is sovereignly, graciously, reigning over the world in the midst of fear and panic. He is not threatened by this pandemic, nor is He surprised.
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God Is Not Surprised by the Coronavirus
God is not thrown off course by the Coronavirus. He is fully aware and fully in control (Psalm 135:6). He knows where it began and where it will go next. In reading Scripture, we see that God is not surprised by this pandemic because God laid witness to what caused it: man’s original sin, when sickness and suffering first entered the world (Genesis 1-3). In his article The Coronavirus is a Result of the Fall, Kevin DeYoung, explains the origin of all sickness, including the pandemic:
“The coronavirus is a natural evil, under God’s providential control to be sure, but whose existence is the result of original sin. The root of all human pain and suffering in the world is the rebellion of our first parents—a rebellion that Christ conquered on the cross and will one day wipe away, along with all its sad and sinister effects.”
God is not wondering what to make of the novel coronavirus. He knew about this sickness as soon as the first sin entered the world (1 John 3:20). God is not only fully aware of the disease, but He has complete power over it (1 Chronicles 29:11-12). Just as Jesus possesses the power to control the wind and the waves (Mark 4:41), Jesus can remove the pandemic from our midst.
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Jesus Is Sovereign over Our Sickness
Our suffering from disease should be expected in the Christian faith, but it is not something to be feared (1 Peter 4:12-13). The Bible speaks clearly of Jesus’ authority over sickness (1 Peter 2:24). In Luke 4:38-40 Jesus heals a woman suffering from a fever with simply His word. Under His perfect dominion, Jesus commands the fever to leave, and it obeys. Mark 5:21-43 describes Jesus healing two people. The first, a woman, comes to Him in a crowd. Bleeding for 12 years, in desperation, she reaches to touch the edge of His robe. Feeling power go out from Him, Jesus tells this woman that she is healed by her faith. He then moves to heal a young girl at the point of death. Jesus heals her with the command to “wake up.” In John 5:1-15, Jesus approaches an invalid, telling the man to get up and walk—instantly he is healed.
While the COVID-19 virus is certainly serious, we as Christians can put our trust in the fact that God is in control. Jesus has the authority and power to heal who He wants, when He wants, and how He wants. We may not fully understand God’s plan in the midst of this pandemic, but we can trust that His plan is always for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28). Even as our plans change, the purpose of the Lord remains faithful (Proverbs 19:21). In this trial, Jesus does not leave us; rather, the cross remains our only hope of assurance.
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God Does Not Leave Us Lonely in the Midst of Social Distancing
God will not leave us or forsake us in the midst of this pandemic. He made sure of that through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. If you believe the gospel and seek to live in light of it, then you can take heart that Jesus—in all His power and might—is walking with us during this age of uncertainty.
Jesus willingly came to earth, leaving the safety, security, and perfect presence of God the Father, to rescue us from the despair of this broken world (1 Corinthians 5:20-21). Jesus lived among the sick, wounded, and sinful. He witnessed the fullness of pain we experience. He grieved as loved ones died (John 11:1-44) and understood the realities of sin, shame, and sickness. Jesus came to pay our debt, in order to one day put an end to sin and its repercussions (Revelation 21:3-5). He considered our painful separation from God to be so serious that He willingly took it upon Himself and died for you and me. Out of love for His creation—plagued by sin, sickness, and death—Jesus bore the wrath of God (Isaiah 53:4-5).
Even through immense anguish, Jesus carried the penalty of our sin, so that in our pain we would not be left alone. Because of His sacrifice, we are known by a God who is always present, who hears our cries (Psalm 145:18), and empathizes greatly with us. Even in the isolation of social distancing, fear of disease, and grief of lost loved ones; God does not leave or forsake us.
The question we now face is, why? If God does not leave us or forsake us, then why would He allow this pandemic? If God can stop it, why doesn’t He?
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If God Can Stop a Pandemic Why Doesn't He?
Let us consider that God may choose not to stop this pandemic, simply because He cares more about the disease in our hearts than disease in our bodies (Ezekiel 36:26, Jeremiah 17:9). My husband recently answered this question in his sermon titled, The Authority of Jesus:
“When disaster strikes, we experience suffering and evil - often we can ask - God how can you allow this? A common objection to the Christian faith is, “How can a good God allow so much evil in the world?” But I wonder if it’s not God’s goodness and grace that allow us to see, experience, and feel the brokenness in the world that is. How can a good God not allow suffering and brokenness in the world? To show humanity the true reality of what it is. It is broken. It seems to me, that God is gracious and kind to show us, and allow us to experience this present world in all of its brokenness, evil and darkness. This reveals not that something is wrong with God but something is wrong with His creation. It calls us to consider that there must be more.”
I am led to believe that God does not put a sudden stop to the COVID-19 pandemic because God is not done revealing the greatness of who He is. Suffering exposes the state of our broken humanity and our great need for a Savior. God allows disease to flood the earth to bring us to our knees—to see His majesty and share Him with others (Hebrews 1:3, Matthew 28:16-20, Philippians 2:9-11). May this season call us to repentance, to turn from our sin and selfishness, and put our faith in the one, true, everlasting God (2 Peter 3:9).
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See, Savor, and Share the Glory of God
As Christians, we are not called to hoard our hope in Christ. But rather, in this uncertain time, we have immense opportunities to share the mercy and hope of God, who can and will put an end to all our misery in His time. We trust that Jesus can open the eyes of the blind, call the lame to walk, and heal the sick. But, more than that, let us trust in a God who ultimately desires to heal the utterly broken, sinful nature of our hearts (Psalm 51:9-10).
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." - John 3:16-17
As this pandemic reveals our world’s complete lack of control, ultimate fear of death, and unbearable pain, let us consider how we might instead proclaim how Jesus wipes away every tear, conquers over the grave, and remains our only hope in life and death (Hebrews 9:27-28). Put your hope in the hands of a God willing to suffer in your place. Don’t let sin and sickness move you to fear and bitterness. Instead, let us fear the Lord (Matthew 10:28, 2 Timothy 1:7).
Let this pandemic usher you to trust in the Father who is over all things. Let your faith be found in the One who died to remove suffering from the world once and for all. Trusting that our hope does not stand in our health and safety, but in Christ alone, I leave you with Paul’s words as an encouragement for today.
"I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." - Philippians 1:20-21
Stephanie Englehart is a Seattle native, church planter’s wife, mama, and lover of all things coffee, the great outdoors, and fine (easy to make) food. Stephanie is passionate about allowing God to use her honest thoughts and confessions to bring gospel application to life. You can read more of what she writes on the Ever Sing blog at stephaniemenglehart.com or follow her on Instagram: @stephaniemenglehart.
- Keller, T. (2009). The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (pp. 29–31). New York: Riverhead Books.
- desiringGod.org, "What Courage Might Corona Unleash" & "Suffering"
- thegospelcoalition.org, "Coronavirus Covid-19" & "8 Things Coronavirus Should Teach Us"
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