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COVID-19: Jesus and Suffering

05.05.20 | Discipleship | by Matt Herrington

COVID-19: Jesus and Suffering

    Over the past two months, we've witnessed the COVID-19 pandemic affect our community, our country, and our world. It's human nature to try and find the purpose behind the difficulty we experience, but what do we do when the problem hasn't subsided, or we don’t find answers? Tragedies, natural disasters, and pandemics cause many people to question God’s goodness and power. So how can Christ-followers respond to the problem of suffering in light of COVID-19?

    Thankfully, the problem of suffering is an issue that many notable Bible characters struggled with as well (Jeremiah, David, Paul). Though the specific situations were different, they were essentially asking the same question: How can a good God allow suffering? Though we can't know all the answers, the Bible does give us hope and encouragement as we navigate situations like these.

    Regardless of our circumstances, God is good. 

    Although God allowed this pandemic to take place, it doesn't mean He desires us to suffer. The reality is, we live in a broken world, and God, in His goodness, gave humanity free will. He allows humans to make choices, either to follow Him or to rebel against Him. All the brokenness in our world is linked to Genesis 3, where Adam and Eve's decision to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree ushered sin into the world. All sin and its effects like death, disease, and decay, find their roots in Genesis 3. Romans 8:19-21 tells us, “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” Everything in creation is subject to “frustration” and “decay.” In the same way that God allows us to experience the consequences of sin, He allows the earth to experience the consequences of sin through natural disasters, death, and disease.

    Regardless of our circumstances, God cares. 

    For so many of us, when we experience pain or suffering, we are tempted to believe that God has left us or that he does not care. In John 11:1-44, we find one of the most encouraging realities about God as it relates to how he responds to our suffering.

    Jesus has just received news that one of his closest friends, Lazarus, is deathly ill. Instead of coming to the rescue to heal Lazarus immediately, Jesus waits two more days. After Lazarus dies, Jesus travels to his village. When he arrives, Jesus is met by Martha and Mary, Lazarus's sisters. When Jesus sees Mary weeping over her brother, he responds with compassion and empathy. Jesus mourns with them, even though he knows he will soon raise Lazarus from the dead. God responds to our suffering with compassion and empathy. God cares about what is burdening us and wants to shoulder that burden. In 1 Peter 5:7, Peter reminds us to "cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you." 

    Regardless of our circumstances, God has a plan.

    Just because we can't see reasons for the bad things that happen, it doesn't mean there aren’t any. In Romans 8:28, Paul encourages us to hold on to hope amid suffering. He writes, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." In his power, God can take the brokenness in this world and turn it for good. When we face a global pandemic like Covid-19, we don't have to understand how God will use it for good, to know that he will.

    Ultimately, we don't get all the answers we seek. God's ways and thoughts are infinitely higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). His sovereign plan takes in the whole scope of history, past, present, and future, encompassing every possible course of action, every cause and effect, every potentiality, and every contingency. There is no way we could fathom the intricacies of His design. By faith, we trust that His plan is the best plan possible for restoring fallen humanity and a cursed world to righteousness and blessing.