Why Does God Let Pandemics Happen?
Why are there pandemics? Why disease? This question comes up a lot when a large part of the human race is sheltering in their homes if not falling sick or dying. Is this God’s will? Did God create the viruses? Does God send epidemics as a punishment? Or are we supposed to learn something from this? How do we make sense of it all? Like many people I pondered these questions long before this current pandemic, so I will share some thoughts that give me hope and peace in this troubled time.
God is love
God is love, (1 John 4:7,8). He is merciful and forgiving, gentle and kind, (Exodus 34:6). He is “good, ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy …full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering,” (Psalm 86:5,15). “The Lord is longsuffering and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression,” (Numbers 14:18). “I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you,” (Jeremiah 31:3). His love is never-ending, enduring, and constant. “His mercy endures forever,” (2 Chronicles 5:13, Psalms 100:5, 118:29, 135:3). “The goodness of God endures continually,” (Psalm 52:1).
Moreover, the Lord’s love goes out to all people: “He is kind to the unthankful and to the evil,” (Luke 6:35). “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust,” (Matt 5:45). “The Lord is good to all and His tender mercies are over all His works,” (Psalm 145:7). The Lord’s love is both infinite and eternal. That is, His love for each person is far greater than we can conceive, and He loves every single person at every moment to eternity. There are no limits to His love.
And because He cannot work against Himself, He cannot do evil. "Far be it from God to do wickedness, and from the Almighty to commit iniquity," (Job 34:10). "His work is perfect...a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He," (Deuteronomy 32:4). The Lord never wants bad things to happen. Evil is not part of the Lord's will. “‘I know the thoughts I think towards you,’ says the Lord, ‘thoughts of peace and not of evil.’” (Jeremiah 29:11). When a young child dies, remember: “It is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” (Matthew 18:14). God cannot cause evil because He is totally good.
So why does God let pandemics happen?
One reason the Lord allows evil and suffering because He can bring good from it. The Lord allowed Joseph to be sold as a slave by his brothers, and imprisoned. Yet through this, Joseph came to rule the Egyptians and save them from starvation during seven years of famine. Later Joseph forgave his brothers: "You thought evil against me, but God meant it for good,...to save many people alive," (Genesis 50:20). The Lord can turn a curse into a blessing, (Deuteronomy 23:5). "All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose," (Romans 8:28). He allows us to experience suffering because of the benefits that can come from it. "Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.... Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven," (Matthew 5:4, 10).
For those who trust in the Divine all things are moving towards an everlasting state of happiness, and that no matter what happens at any time to them, it contributes to that state. (Swedenborg, Secrets of Heaven 8478.3)
When Jesus and His disciples came upon a man who was born blind, they asked Him, "Who sinned, this man or his parents, so that he was born blind?" Jesus replied that it was not a punishment for sin, but so that God's work could be revealed in him, (John 9:1-3). Through blindness the man came to know Jesus and see more clearly than the religious leaders who eyes were healthy but were blind to the power and presence of God. God allows physical sickness because it can lead to spiritual healing. It's never because He wants to punish people or make them suffer.
The man who was born blind did not suffer as a punishment for sin, but so that God's work could be revealed in him, what is that work? What is God trying to do?
- Through suffering we learn to have compassion for others.
- Through disease we learn to help each other and depend on each other.
- By facing physical diseases we can learn to face and recover from spiritual diseases.
- By going through difficult times that test our faith and love, our faith and love can grow stronger.
- Through disease we learn to turn our lives over to God and gain wisdom about what we can control and what we can't.
Some teachings in the Old Testament are veiled in symbolic imagery and references to death and condemnation that hide the deeper meaning. But this veil is taken away when we see Jesus (1 Corinthians 7-18). Most of Jesus' miracles were healings. "Jesus went about all the cities and villages...healing every sickness and every disease among the people," (Matthew 9:35). This was God's work (John 9:3). "I am the Lord who heals you," (Exodus 15:26). He forgives all our iniquities, heals all our diseases, and redeems our life from destruction, (Psalm 103:3-4).