Updated: Mar 28, 2020
Many of us will be asking the question, 'If there's a God who's good and powerful, why is there suffering?' as #coronavirus cases rise around the world. I tend to speak of this in terms of a jigsaw puzzle where Christians have some pieces but certainly not all of them:
God made a very good world and made people in his image. That's the story of Genesis 1 and 2. We see plenty of evidence of this in the current crisis with people being kind and generous. Coronavirus infecting humans was not part of that original creation.
But people messed up. We did what we were told not to do. That's the story of Genesis 3 and much of history. God gave people a huge amount of freedom to enjoy life, but people still chose to do the one thing they were told not to do. See it today in the arrogance of people ignoring God and ignoring other people as they strip supermarkets of toilet rolls, food, baby formula and painkillers. See it today in our pride that we are not like other people who panic buy. See it today in our desire to remain comfortable, rather than sacrificing our own comfort to bring comfort to others. Are we giving away our own toilet rolls? Are we speaking kind and generous words on social media or harsh and complaining ones?
God is with us. The Bible after Genesis 3, the story of Jesus' life, death and resurrection in particular and the coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 remind us that the Christian God is not a distant God but an imminent God. God didn't abandon the people he'd created after they messed up, but kept reaching out to them, even being willing to enter the world as a human - Jesus, an angel announcing him as 'Immanuel' which means 'God with us' (Matthew 1 v.23). Still today, countless Christians talk about God being with them in difficult times. God is with us in our isolated and nervous homes, with us in our hospital and surgery red zones, with us in our business offices, with us next to our empty supermarket shelves, with us in our challenging classrooms and yes, with us, even in our overcrowded but often forgotten pharmacies.
God knows what it is to suffer. Jesus experienced suffering himself: born in poverty, fleeing as a refugee, tempted, misunderstood by his own family, mourning when his friend Lazarus died, weeping over people in power, being left alone by friends, being tortured and abandoned to painful isolation on a cross. It's not that God is comfortable in heaven drinking nectar, while we are going through the trauma of Coronavirus.
This might seem simplistic but there is more to come. And as I said earlier, Christians can add some pieces but not all of them. Here's a challenge for you: how would you answer the questions: 'Why is there suffering in the world?' and, 'What can you do to provide practical help and also hope for the world at this time?'
You can read the next part at: The puzzle of suffering #2.
Dave Thornton is author of 'Raising the Bar: Nearly everything you need to know about Christian youth ministry'. Find out more here.