We often emphasize God’s power to deliver us from trouble. We teach our children that God protected Daniel from the lions, kept his friends unharmed in Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace, delivered Peter from prison and parted the Red Sea for the Israelites after they left Egypt. We quote passages like Psalm 91:3, in which we find the precious promise that God “will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence.” Nothing wrong with this. However, if we don’t consider the many records in Scripture of God’s silence or lack of intervention when bad things were happening to people who loved Him, we not only develop a very unbalanced theology (picture of God), but we set ourselves up for bitter disappointment.
If we take an honest look at our world, our lives and the biblical record, we find that more often than not, God is silent. I’m not suggesting that He is not active in our world, or that He is indifferent to the pain of humans. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. God is very active, and He cares deeply about our world and individual lives. But the truth is, for reasons that we will not fully grasp in this life, God in most situations chooses NOT to intervene. Bad things happen under His watch.
Case in point, the current crisis in our world with the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19). God, who is all-knowing and all-powerful, could have prevented this whole situation from developing. For some reason which I do not presume to know or understand, He chose not to.
Does this make me doubt God’s love or existence? No. He’s given me enough unmistakable evidence that He exists and that He is good. So how do I reconcile these two? Is it even possible to do so? Only partially. What I do see is that a crisis often brings much good that would not have been accomplished had it not come. I’ve experienced this on a personal level with my Crohn’s Disease. Though it has been incredibly inconvenient at best and excruciatingly painful at worst, God has used my whole experience with this illness to produce a better version of my self.
I believe this is exactly what James meant when he wrote that “trials” will produce “patience” (Ja. 1:2-3). This what Paul meant when he wrote that “though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man [character] is being renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16). This is what Job meant when he said, “When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10). This is what Peter meant when he said that the “genuineness of your faith” “is tested by fire” (1 Pet. 1:7).
The author of Hebrews acknowledged that the sufferings of this life never “seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless,” he continues, “afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:11). I can’t explain why this whole ordeal is happening to our world. But I believe God will bring good out of this if we will allow Him. I believe ALL things, yes, even the COVID-19 crisis, may “work together for [our eternal] good” (Rom. 8:28).