There seem to be more questions than answers as the science and medical communities do their best to fight the rapid spread of COVID-19. The pandemic also has triggered spiritual curiosity. Below, Will Graham, vice president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and executive director of the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove, shares his response to one common question about the coronavirus outbreak.
*Find six more of Will Graham’s Q&As on the pandemic at the bottom of this page.
Q. Why did God allow this global pandemic to happen?
A. The truth of the matter is that I don’t know, and I might not be able to give an answer that satisfies this question. With that said, we can learn a few things from the Bible.
First, to address a misconception head-on, disasters are not necessarily God’s judgment. In Job, for instance, we see great suffering befall a man who “was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1, NKJV). In fact, his suffering was because he was so faithful, not the other way around.
Later, in Luke 13:1-5, a conversation takes place in which Jesus discusses a pair of recent tragedies: The death of a number of Galileans at the hands of Pontius Pilate, and 18 people who died when the tower in Siloam fell.
“Do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem?” Jesus asked. “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” In other words, crises are going to come in this fallen world, but the most important thing is the spiritual life, not the physical one.
Second, by looking at Job we know that Satan is at work in this present age, causing suffering. I wouldn’t say that he causes all suffering. Some we bring upon ourselves with poor decisions. However, the evil in this world is his domain. He begged God to let him devastate God’s faithful follower, Job (Job 1:6-12).
Finally, in some situations, like in Job 1, we see God allows suffering to take place, even though He isn’t the author of it. At the same time, He eventually (in Job 42) rectifies the injustices and restores Job, giving him double what he had before.
Please note, as we look at Job chapter 42, that the man still bore the scars of his ordeal. Though he was blessed with a new generation of sons and daughters and more resources than before, his siblings still came to show him sympathy and comfort in his emotional turmoil.
Similarly, even though we see good in the midst of disaster, we may still feel lasting pain. I believe this is the cost of living in a fallen and broken world.
I don’t understand and I don’t have all of the answers, but I do cling to the promise of John 16:33, in which Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
Suffering exists, but we can have hope in the eternal promises of Jesus.
More Q&As from Will Graham: