All of us have been through trials that left us feeling like we’ve been stripped bare. At times our prayers are nothing more than weak whispers of, “I love you.” Jesus doesn’t reject us when the storms of life leave us exhausted. He doesn’t shake his head in disappointment when our eyes of faith won’t focus. Instead, with matchless compassion, he climbs into the boat to be with us.
When you’re in the midst of the storm and can scarcely turn your heart to the Lord, but do so anyway, he sees. With tenderness he rushes to your side, wraps himself around you, and becomes your strength. He creates hope out of hopelessness and stills the storm. With patience he breathes faith into your heart until you can see clearly once again. His love lifts you above the storm in a hurricane of grace. Victory becomes your song.
Jesus, all I can do is sit and wait for you in total dependence. I feel you here, breathing hope and igniting faith. I will not yield to despair. Instead, as you hold me in your arms, this storm will become a foundation for us to dance upon. With every breath, I will praise you.
The whole world seems to be asking this question, a fact that actually gives the biggest part of the answer. More on that shortly.
COVID-19, or coronavirus disease 2019, is a respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). The effect of the illness can range from mild to severe. First identified in Wuhan, China, in late 2019, the virus quickly spread to other countries. On March 11, 2020, COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization.
Only a liar or a true prophet can claim to know God’s reasons for bringing about COVID-19 or any other specific calamity. That’s partly because God’s purpose extends to every individual involved, from the beginning of time to the end of the world. Understanding every possible factor goes far beyond human ability, but God has within His complete knowledge and control every facet of every situation (Romans 8:28–30). The Bible reveals some insights about God’s use of deadly disasters in general, but we must apply relevant Scripture and the principles of faith in order to gain wisdom about any specific disaster.
As with any mystery, to solve it we must go from the known to the unknown in our search. So we’ll put question of why God would allow COVID-19 into the context of what we already know from the Bible and from personal experience: we know that life is a gift from the Creator (Isaiah 42:5; Acts 17:25). We know that God alone has the right and power to give life and take it away according to His own wisdom and plans (Job 2:10). We know that life is short and includes some degree of suffering, ending in death and judgment for how we lived our lives—only one life with no “do-overs” (Hebrews 9:27). Short or long, our lifespan and date of death are set and controlled by God (Matthew 10:29). Even the longest human lives are “like a breath; their days are like a fleeting shadow” (Psalm 144:4).
Moses described God’s sovereignty over life and death, and this could have been written about today’s COVID-19 pandemic: “You turn people back to dust, saying, ‘Return to dust, you mortals.’ A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night. Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death— they are like the new grass of the morning: In the morning it springs up new, but by evening it is dry and withered” (Psalm 90:3–6).
So what is God’s purpose in allowing COVID-19? Without being too dogmatic, we know that, generally speaking, one of God’s purposes in trials is to get the world’s attention off themselves and onto Him, their Creator and Savior—which is the biggest part of the answer to the question at hand. “Why would God allow COVID-19?” Millions are suddenly asking that question right now, believers and non-believers alike, which means that God is on their minds. God desires for all people to earnestly seek Him and find Him, discovering that He is actually close to us (Jeremiah 29:13; Acts 17:26–28). God desires us to sense our own weakness and neediness so that we put our trust in Him (2 Corinthians 12:9). God desires people to fear Him with proper reverence and awe (Proverbs 9:10); to love Him more than their own lives (Matthew 10:37; John 12:25); and to show love and gratitude for the Savior by loving and helping fellow humans, especially the suffering (Romans 15:1; James 2:14–17). God desires to shift our focus and affection away from this temporary, troubled world to our eternal, heavenly home (Colossians 3:1–2; Hebrews 12:1–2).
Times of trouble are a prime motivation for us to store up treasures in heaven rather than cling to treasures on earth (Matthew 6:19–20; Colossians 3:1–3), and to be good stewards of those blessings God gives us in this life (Luke 16:11; Matthew 25:14–30). God wants us to trust Him absolutely, knowing that our times are in His hand (Psalm 31:15).
Ultimately, it is the poor and hurting who seek God, not the rich and comfortable. It is danger and calamity that turn men to their Savior, not health and wealth (see Mark 2:17). It is suffering that wakes us to our true need. C. S. Lewis put it this way: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world” (The Problem of Pain, HarperCollins, 1996, p. 91).
Life for all people means facing suffering, death, and their eternal destiny. Even if we develop immunity to COVID-19, we can’t escape the fact of trouble in the world. What’s best for us, in any situation, is to seek God: “Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart” (Psalm 119:2).
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace. — Galatians 5:22
The evidence of Spirit-filled living will not be in what we say or even in what we do. It will be written on our faces in our countenance of love, joy, and peace.
The first proof is found in love. The Greeks had three primary words that translate into our English vernacular as love. One is a fleshly, sensual, or passionate kind of love. Another is a fondness or affection, a kind of brotherly love. And then there is God’s love, agape. This is a selfless love that seeks only the highest good for others — no matter what they may do to insult, injure, or humiliate us. Agape is the word Paul used here in Galatians 5:22. All the other manifestations of the fruit are simply different expressions of this agape love.
In addition to love, joy will also be evident on the face of a Spirit-controlled believer. This is not the sort of joy that comes from defeating an opponent or escaping some trouble. Instead, it is a joy that only God can give, a joy that persists and endures even when the shadows of life come our way.
And then there is peace, that blessed inner tranquility that the Spirit-filled believer is able to draw on when circumstances are anything but peaceful. It is the very peace Jesus promised when He said,
My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. — John 14:27
For the believer, love, joy, and peace join together to shine on our faces — and give glorious proof of the presence of the One who lives within us.
CODE WORD: COUNTENANCE
When you look in the mirror, what do you see in your face? Ask the Spirit to grow His fruit within you so that it shines on your countenance for all to see.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. — Philippians 4:7
Lord, on my own, I can’t love everyone, or be joyful in all things, or have peace in the midst of troubles. It is only through Your Spirit within me that I can be filled with Your love, Your joy, Your peace. Live through me to touch someone today. In Jesus’ name, amen.
I can honestly say that one of the hardest things to learn in life is to trust. I would even dare to say that the more we know people, the more we tend not to trust. However, if we were to analyze the core of the problem, it does not have to do with the act of trusting in itself. The real issue has to do with the one in whom confidence is placed. When we trust, we rely on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.
Trusting requires only one action: to stand still and do nothing but wait for the one in whom we placed our confidence to operate. It is so simple and yet so difficult! The only thing we have to do is wait and allow the person we have trusted to do what they have said they will do, but our instinct is to try to take the matter into our own hands. Nevertheless, when we are facing battles we know that we do not have the power to do what is needed. The only thing we can do is to trust and wait for the One who does have the strength required, to step in and perform.
The amazing story we have been focusing on in these few days shows us a crucial lesson we must learn. God told Joshua not to be afraid because not one of them (the enemies) were going to be able to withstand him (Joshua). God made a promise, and Joshua believed and trusted in God’s Word. The result: the Lord fought for Israel! Joshua did not have the ability nor the strength to win this battle. The first and only thing Joshua could do was to trust God. God does not forsake those who seek Him.
In the Bible, we have thousands of promises that we can grasp. When the enemy surrounds your life, threatens to destroy you, and you cannot act, the first thing that you should do is set your mind on God’s promises! Trust in God’s power to deliver you from evil. It is your choice whether to focus on your ability or on God’s. All of life is a chance to learn to trust Him more, to get to know Him, to really know Him.
All of life is a chance to trust Him more. Trust in His promises, in His ability, strength, power, and character. God does not forsake those who seek Him.