April 30, 2020
What's God up to in the Pandemic?
Whenever a disaster – natural or man-made – occurs, whether hurricanes or earthquakes or terrorist attacks or pandemics, many in Christian prophetic ministries or Last Days ministries gear up their operations to announce the reason for the disaster. Almost always, their interpretation involves God’s judgment on particular groups of sinners. Hurricane Katrina was God’s judgment on sinful New Orleans! 9/11 was God’s judgment on sinful New York! The Haitian earthquake was God’s judgment on Haitian voodoo! Or these things are all signs of the imminent return of Christ.
Of course, ever since our first parents sinned we have all deserved God’s judgment. As C.S. Lewis put it, “The real problem is not why some pious, humble, believing people suffer, but why some do not.” Or to quote the Apostle Paul:
“Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin…no one is righteous, no not one….All have turned away…
[Therefore all of us] are storing up wrath against ourselves in the day of God’s wrath. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God….”
(Rom. 3:9,10, 12, 23; 2:5)
But it is a dangerous and unbiblical business to assign individual instances of suffering to God’s punishment for particular sins or sinners! That's what Job’s friends did, and they were rebuked by God for doing so. That’s what some individuals did in Luke’s Gospel. In Luke, Jesus responds to the story of a tower that fell and crushed 18 people. He asks, “Do you think they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you no.”
The real problem is not
why some pious, humble,
believing people suffer, but
why some do not.
We might ask Jesus’ question to those who believe this pandemic (or other disasters) are God’s judgments on particular individuals. Do you believe that people in refugee camps are more deserving of God’s punishment via COVID-19 than wealthy people who are able to “socially distance” by moving to their second homes? Do you believe that the poor people who drowned in the Lower 9th Ward in New Orleans were more deserving of judgment than the porn peddlers on Bourbon Street who escaped Hurricane Katrina without a scratch? Did the tens of thousands who died in churches during the Great Lisbon earthquake on All Saints Day in 1755 deserve more punishment than the atheists who did not go to church and survived?
Any claim to “be in the signal box” with God where we know what God is up to on a global scale or even what God is up to in another person’s life is dashed on the rocks of both Scripture and right reason.
So, rather than ask what is God up to in the world during this pandemic, I have found it infinitely more profitable to ask – what is God up to in my life? I find God often gives me insight regarding my personal spiritual condition while keeping secret his work in the world.
Here are some questions I have asked myself during this pandemic.
- What have I been trusting in other than God? Or to put it more biblically, what are the idols in my life that are being challenged by the pandemic? How important are things like my retirement account, my health, the health of loved ones, or the success of the church to me?
- What is my identity built upon – what I do for God or my nearness to him?
- How can I (and the church) show love and concern for those most in need during this time?
- How can I live with open hands to God regarding everything in this world?
- How can I (and the church) be better at the end of the pandemic than we were at the beginning?
- What is God up to in the pandemic? Concerning the world, no one other than God knows! But make the question personal – what is God up to in your life – and the Lord will speak to you.