The seriousness of the Coronavirus is understandably raising some obvious questions. “Why? Why is God allowing such a terrible thing to happen? If God is so powerful and loving, why doesn’t He protect innocent children and adults from suffering and dying?”
Anytime such horrible and uncontrollable tragedies strike, our desire for help with these questions moves from mere interest in academic discussion or religious debate to a sincere search for honest help with our growing feelings of fear and confusion.
If you’re asking some of these same questions and having these same thoughts and feelings, you have lots of company. It’s a normal response of being a caring human being who has limitations for understanding.
You won’t be surprised to hear that while working as a chaplain in a metropolitan hospital emergency room, the question I was most often asked was, “Why? Why is this happening to me? Why did this happen to my loved one?”
Do you know why we ask the Why-Question in such hard times? I suppose there are many reasons, but I think the main reason is that in our culture, we think if we can figure out why it happened, we can fix it.
When my car won’t crank, I want to know why? So, I go through a list of questions: Is the battery dead? Is it out of gas? Maybe the spark plug. Because it’s a machine, I eventually find out why it won’t crank, and then I get it fixed.
That’s the way we attempt to handle most of our troubles. With a serious, unexplainable problem, you’re already programmed to think—if I can find out why it happened, I can fix it or at least feel better about it Your underlying assumption goes something like this—there’s a cause for every effect. Something or someone causes every problem.
For most of the world’s religions, the explanation is that suffering happens because of Karma—the belief that you get what you deserve. Even some Bible-believers have Karma-like thinking about bad situations. They say things like, “God’s Word tells us we reap what we sow. If you’re suffering, it’s because of sin.” They say, “Everything is God’s will. If you suffer and want to know why, just trust God’s will, one day you will understand. He is all-powerful and could have prevented it if He wanted to.”
This is not the way Jesus answered this question of evil and suffering, and it’s not the way we should answer it either. In answering the Why-Question, Jesus took a radically different approach. His answer shook up the entire religious world.
The Bible recorded the time Jesus and His disciples saw a man who was blind from birth, and His disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?” Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do.” John 9:1-3 MSG
Jesus insisted that His followers not look at suffering at a time like that and react by asking meaningless questions or foolishly debating the issue. There is a time for questioning, debating, and examining just like the scientists and doctors are doing right now with the Coronavirus, but when people are hurting and reaching out for help is not the time for the rest of us to be asking the Why-Question. It was in that kind of time that Jesus said to his disciples, “Stop asking the Why-Question and start asking the What-Question.”
What is God’s purpose for me in all this? What can I do to honor Him and encourage His children? Jesus doesn’t want us to focus on the questions, He wants us to focus on God’s purpose for us because life becomes meaningless and self-centered if we miss following His plan for us. He doesn’t want you to miss your purpose just because you can’t figure it out and fix it.
God so loved the world, and you, that He gave His only Son to suffer and die for you. What kind of God does that? What kind of Savior is willing to fulfill His purpose and sacrifice Himself for you? What kind of Savior says to us, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16: 33 NLT. What kind of follower of Jesus will you be when you face suffering and terrible unexplainable situations like the Corona Virus pandemic?
You know the answers to all these questions. Don’t you?
This devotional is one of 66 from my new book, Getting to Know Your God: 66 Daily Devotionals for the 66 Books of the Bible. Stay tuned. The book will be published soon.