The Problem with Pain and Covid-19

            “If God is good, why did He create the Covid-19 virus and let it kill so many people?  That doesn’t sound like a very good God to me.”

            Although I knew this question was coming for over three weeks now and had tons of time to prepare, it still caught me off guard.  I chose not to answer for a moment while I collected my thoughts for a proper answer. 

            In order to get my daughter talking and thinking instead, I answered with a question, “Why do you think God allowed the Covid-19 virus to get started?”

            “I don’t know.  Maybe He was getting tired of this world and wanted to start over.  Maybe He knew the world was getting overpopulated or He didn’t like how people were destroying the environment, so He wanted to wipe them all out.  Besides, daddy, that’s what I asked you.”

            “Yeah, you’re right.  You did ask me first, didn’t you?  Well, the first thing to consider is that God didn’t create the Coronavirus because…”

            “But I thought God created everything.”

            “Well,” I started, “did God create sin?”

            “No.  Adam and Eve did that.”

            “Right.  So, God doesn’t create everything because there are some things in this world that He doesn’t want in there either, like sin.  So, even though we have the Coronavirus, it doesn’t mean that God created it and sent it out to kill a bunch of people.  It would be just as silly to say that God created the Nazis and that what they did during World War Two was somehow His fault.”

            “So, if God didn’t create Covid-19, who did?”

            “Well, when sin started in this world, it wasn’t just the humans that were affected.  The world became affected by sin as well.  In fact, in Romans 8:22 and 23, Paul says that ‘that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God’ and that ‘we know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.’  So, because of sin coming into the world, the world itself began to suffer.  A lot of the suffering present in the world is due to the fact that the world is broken due to sin and decay.  Covid-19 is a product of that sin and decay.”

            “My friend Stacie says that Covid-19 is a biological weapon and it was produced by the Chinese to wipe out the United States.”

            “Well, as of this moment in time and based on what we know so far, it’s just an infectious disease caused by a new virus.  Now, it’s best to not go off wild rumors and speculation.  Rumors and speculation can increase our fear and that fear can drive us to do stupid and violent things.  In other words, fear can cause us to sin against others.  Right now, we know that there aren’t any certain people in the world that are immune to it, so it affects everybody.  It doesn’t make too much sense to create a virus and turn it loose on the world, knowing that it can come back and take out those who created it, does it?”

            “I guess not.  So, if God didn’t create it, why didn’t He stop it?”

            “Well, that’s the question.  It’s true that God has the power to stop the Coronavirus.  He’s all powerful, which means He can create or destroy anything that He wants to.  But sometimes He allows bad things to happen.” 

            “But if He has the power to stop the Coronavirus and doesn’t do it, doesn’t that mean that He’s partially to blame for it?”

            “Wow.  You’re a pretty smart cookie, aren’t you?  Yes, if I had the power to stop something bad form happening and I chose not to stop it, then I’d say that I was partially to blame for it happening.  But sometimes bad things happen and it’s not always the best option to stop the consequences from happening.”

            “What do you mean?”

            “Well, think about pain for a minute.  Pain doesn’t feel good, right?  But it’s not always a bad thing.  Pain is a warning that something isn’t right and needs to be addressed.  So, that’s a good thing.  Pain can also be a natural process of growth.  When I’m at the gym and working out, I feel sore afterwards.  But along with that soreness comes the growth of my muscles.  Pain, in that case, is a sign that I’m getting fit.  And sometimes we do dumb things that cause us pain, and pain in that case is a constant reminder that we shouldn’t do that thing again.  Like if you touch a hot stove and get burnt.  I bet you wouldn’t touch that hot stove again.”

            “Not unless you like pain.  But I get that.  Pain is sometimes used to make something good or it can help us to not do something or do something different later in life.  But what about pain that you didn’t deserve, like the Coronavirus?  Nobody did anything that made them get sick with that.”

            I smiled.  “You’re right.  And I was getting to that.  Covid-19 is kind of like a natural disaster, right?  It’s like a tornado or a hurricane that comes out of nowhere and kills and destroys everything in its path: the good and the bad.  So, really, that’s your main question: why does God allow natural disasters to just randomly kill people?”

            “Yeah.  Why does He allow that kind of stuff to happen when He could stop it?”

            “Well, remember what I said at the beginning, some things are just a result of this planet being broken.  Humans chose to sin and, as a result, we’re stuck with pain, death, and a planet that’s broken as well.  A broken planet is the natural consequence of sin coming into the world.  So, if I killed somebody, I’d go to jail, right?”

            “Right.”

            “Right.  Well, jail is a consequence of my actions.  If I drove crazy and ran into a tree, the consequence could be that I’d be killed.  Actions have consequences.  You could look at natural disasters as a consequence on a much bigger scale.  They are a consequence of what humans as a whole have done and any human, because they are a member of that race that caused it to happen are then subject to the consequences.”

            “But sometimes bad things happen to those who don’t cause it to happen, right?  Like you said earlier about the Nazis.  They killed a bunch of people, but the people that died didn’t deserve to die.  The consequences didn’t match their actions.”

            “Well now,” I said, “that’s a good point.  So, sometimes bad things happen as a result of the sin and bad decisions of other people.  Other people’s actions sometimes affect us and cause us pain and hurt.  But isn’t that just a part of how we function in the world?  Everything affects all the other things in the world.  Our bad decision not only hurt us but they can hurt others.”

            “So why does God allow that to happen?  Why does God allow other people to hurt people?”

            “If I could control you with my mind so that you could only do what I told you to do, would you like that?”

            “No.”

            “Why not?”

            “Cause I wouldn’t be free.  I’d be your slave or even worse.  I wouldn’t be me.  I’d just be a part of you.”

            My eyebrows raised.  “That is one hundred percent right.  If you weren’t free to make mistakes or to do what you wanted to do, then you also wouldn’t be free to do the good things in life, like help others.  You’d be a robot.  So, in order for God to allow people to do the good things, they also have to have the freedom to do bad things.  Otherwise, they don’t have the freedom to do anything.  God could have made a planet full of robots that never did anything bad, but He didn’t.  He gave us the freedom to choose to do bad or good.  Is it worth it or would you rather be a robot?”

            “Being a robot would be cool, but I don’t think I’d like to be one if I can’t think for myself or do what I want to do.”

            “I agree.  And because being free is better than being a robot, then because God made us free, we get a world where we feel the consequences of bad actions, but we also get the benefits of good actions.  When someone does something nice for you, buys you a toy, gives you ice cream, hugs you and tells you that they love you, you get the benefit of their good actions.  Now, if we did away with people’s freedom to do good and bad and they could only do nice things, would that be a good world?

            She smiled broadly.  “It sure would.  It’d be the best world ever.”

            “Okay, but you’re a part of that world too.  So that means you can only do good things for others as well.  So, when you get that ice cream from someone else, you’d couldn’t enjoy it cause you’d want to give it to someone else as well.  And if someone gave you a toy, you’d want to immediately give that toy to someone else as well.   It’s not all good things coming to you, but it’s good things going from you.  Do you think anyone really cares about you if they have no choice but to care about you?”

            “But you love me, right?”

            “Of course, sweetheart.  But I choose to care about you.  Again, I could be selfish and only care about myself, but then I would be hurting you by not choosing to love you.  Having the freedom to be good or bad is a two way street.  We have to take the good consequences with the bad.  It’s a package deal.”

            “Okay, I get that bad things happen because others have the choice to be bad and their choices affect me or others.  But again, what about the things that aren’t the result of anyone’s choice, like the coronavirus, but they end up hurting people?  What about those things?”

            “Well, remember I said that sometimes we receive the consequences of people’s general bad actions, like how we are all affected by the brokenness of the planet?  Well, sometimes we can’t see the goodness that can come out of a situation or the purpose of a situation because all we can see is the pain or the here and now.  You remember a guy named Job?”

            “He got swallowed by a whale.”

            “Close.  That was Jonah.  Job was a guy who was really rich, had tons of sons and daughters and owned a lot of stuff.  Well, through no fault of his own, things happened and Job lost his kids, his stuff and even got bad health.  His friends said he must have done something to deserve what happened, but he really didn’t.  He was a pretty good guy.  And in the end, because he stayed faithful to God, didn’t blame God for what happened like his wife told him he should do, just said that God gave Him everything and God had the right to take it all away if He wanted, in the end, He got to see God.  Now, do you think it was worth it to Job: to go through all that bad stuff but to get to see God?”

            “Yeah, I think it was probably worth it.”  She said.  “Even if he had to go thru some bad stuff, he got to see God and I bet that was pretty cool.”             “Yeah, I bet it was too.  And maybe that’s what it’s all about.  There’s pain and death and bad stuff that happens in life, but there’s also good stuff too.  And if this life is just a tiny little speck compared to eternity, then no matter what happens here, if we get to live forever with God, it’ll be worth it.  A guy named Paul once said, ‘I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.’  In his mind, it was all worth it, as long as he got to see God.  And no matter what happens in this life, it’s just a tiny little road bump compared to eternity.”         

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