Where is God in this Pandemic?

The short answer to this question is God is everywhere wooing each individual from every country and every culture into a deeper relationship with Him.[i] The more I study the Bible and live the Christian life, the more I see God’s pervading love and sustaining grace infusing all of life and all of reality.

From a biblical perspective, God’s omnipresence is more than an impersonal Force sustaining far, far, away galaxies and life on planet earth. God’s presence is intimate, up close, and personal. For example, God comes to Moses in a burning bush that is not consumed and asks Moses to take off his shoes for the ground he is standing on is holy ground (Exodus 3).

Moses gets personal and asks God His name, for to know one’s name in the ancient world was to be in special relationship with that person, to have a hold on that person.

God replies (knowing He will never have another moment of peace) to Moses, I AM WHO I AM.[ii] The phrase I AM comes from the Hebrew verb HAYAH which translates as “to be” or “to exist.” Moses, go tell Pharaoh that “being itself” that “existence itself” that “reality itself” has personally come to set my people free. YHWH, rendered LORD in the Bible, is derived from the verb HAYAH, to be.

If God (YHWH) is “being itself” or “existence itself” or “reality itself” then all ground is holy ground; there is no secular space: everything, everywhere, and everyone has Spiritual underpinnings.

However, humans are born blind to God’s intimate sustaining presence. Like Adam and Eve, all humans have metaphorically eaten of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Humans have inherited Adam and Eve’s sin or propensity for self-autonomy and self-deification. Humans have bought into the Serpent’s lie that we can go it alone, that we possess the power and wisdom of God, that we can obtain fame, wealth, and immortality in and of ourselves.

God honoring humanities’ free will and desiring non-coerced love has allowed “the human predicament” to proceed. The human predicament of pain, suffering, pandemics, and death intertwined with the beauty, joy, and wonders of life and nature.

Surprisingly, God has not abandoned us in our hubris and alienation. Biblical book after biblical book and biblical passage after biblical passage tells us of God’s wooing love and sustaining Spirit who desires entrance into the deepest sanctuaries of our beings to have fellowship with us. “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” (Revelation 3:20 NIV).

God’s creative omnipotence is echoed by Nehemiah, "You are the LORD, you alone; You made the heavens, the highest heavens and all their host, The earth and all that is upon it, the seas and all that is in them. To all of them you give life, the heavenly hosts bow down before you” (Nehemiah 9:6 NAB).

King David acknowledged God’s omnipotence, omnipresence, and love permeating the cosmos.

“When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour” (Psalm 8:3-5 KJV).

Or,

“Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me” (Psalm 139:7-11 KJV).

The Apostle Paul similarly writes that “in Him, we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28 KJV).

In Ancient Near Eastern creation accounts, creation was the outcome of wars or other procreative interactions between the gods.[iii] In contrast, in the Genesis creation account, “the Spirit of God” stands undivided, uncreated, and uncontested in total control of “the darkness,” “the deep,” and the chaos of “the waters.” God’s creative Word orders, infuses, and now moment by moment sustains the cosmos and life.

How fitting that the Son of God, with a word, would still a raging storm on the sea of Galilee. The disciples were terrified, “What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:41 KJV).

The cosmos and life exist because of God’s omnipotence and omnipresence. In modern scientific terms, dark matter, dark energy, all visible known matter, light, space, and time are God’s self-sacrificial gifts of a portion of His power and energy reconfigured and ordered for reality, nature, and existence “to be.”[iv] A created cosmic temple for humanity and God to dwell together.

“For behold, He who forms mountains and creates the wind And declares to man what are His thoughts, He who makes dawn into darkness And treads on the high places of the earth, The LORD God of hosts is His name” (Amos 4:13 NAS).

If God is “being itself” or “existence itself” or “reality itself” then all world events are under God’s purview and influence. Even the COVID-19 virus cannot exist without God’s consent.

Nebuchadnezzar has a disturbing dream about a statue representing the world’s future. The prophet Daniel is not surprised for “God revealeth the deep and secret things; he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with Him” (Daniel 2:22 KJV).

“Jonah is cast into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods” (Jonah 2:3). God is there in presence of a great fish bringing salvation both to Jonah and later to the repentant Assyrian city of Nineveh, considered Israel’s arch enemy.

Like Jonah, maybe now is the time for the world to reach across national borders in peace, repentance, and mutual wellbeing? Will we be hoarders or will we compassionately look after our neighbors in human solidarity regardless of race, religion, color or nationality? Hard choices when lives are being lost, medical resources are being strained, economic chaos abounds, and isolation and suspicion are part of the cure.

God does not stand outside humanities’ suffering and pain. If God is “being itself” in some mysterious way God literally shares our suffering and pain. This could not be more evident than in the incarnation of His Son Jesus Christ. “The Word becomes flesh (human flesh susceptible to suffering, pain, and death) and dwelt among us” (John 1:14 KJV).

Although, the Essence of God is independent from our reality and transcends nature, God willingly condescends to be a literal part of our reality and nature through creation and the incarnation of His Son. This self-sacrificial love and unity with humanity is the “good news” of the gospel, at the heart of the Kingdom of God, now at hand (Mark 1:15).

The Lord’s supper should remind us that the Spirit of God can be as intimate within us as the molecules of bread and wine are to the cellular metabolism of our bodies.

In the midst of trials, tribulation, and pandemics, humans can even share in the righteousness and mind of God. A mind of humility and service.

“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21 KJV). Also,

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name” (Philippians 2:5-11 KJV).

Even death is under God’s control. By the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; Jesus now holds the keys to life and death. “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death” (Revelation 1:18 KJV).

In this coronavirus pandemic, the Bible reminds us we live in a wonderful but broken world where death and pandemics and suffering will be part of our existence until the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (Luke 21:11) — but do not panic or as the Bible counsels “be not afraid.”

In this pandemic God is fully and completely here, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 ESV).

In C.S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain he writes, “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts to us in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”[v]

Could “Shelter in Place” also be an appeal to “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)? Is God in His mercy calling a global timeout?

Different answers and emotions will be generated depending upon whether God exists in your world view or not. And if one believes in God, what attributes form His character? The biblical evidence, taken as a whole, points toward a merciful, loving, and redemptive God leading to the healing of people and the nations.[vi] A vengeful wrathful God does not align with my personal experience or understanding of scripture.

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 KJV).

Notes & References:

[i] I write “Him” for God for practical literary purposes understanding that both males and females are necessary to reveal a complete picture of God. “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27 NIV).

[ii] Jesus aligns Himself with the “I AM” God of the Old Testament. "Whom do you seek?" And they said, "Jesus the Nazarene." Jesus answered, "I told you that I AM He; … When therefore He said to them, "I AM He," they drew back, and fell to the ground (John 18:4-6 NAS).

‘And they (Pharisees) all said, "Are You the Son of God, then?" And He said to them, "Yes, I AM." And they said, "What further need do we have of testimony? For we have heard it ourselves from His own mouth" (Luke 22:70, 71 NAS).

[iv] Thomas Aquinas writes of God’s intimate role in creation: “we must consider not only the emanation of a particular being from a particular agent, but also the emanation of all being from the universal cause, which is God; and this emanation we designate by the name of creation.” The Summa Theologica, I Question 45 (Benziger Bros. edition, 1947) Translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province.

[vi] “And on either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:2 NAS).

Ron Reece is a physician and fourth generation Adventist, who completed a Graduate Diploma of Christian Studies at Regent College, British Columbia in 2010.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

We invite you to join our community through conversation by commenting below. We ask that you engage in courteous and respectful discourse. You can view our full commenting policy by clicking here.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/10309
2 Likes

Thank you for that compassionate article, Dr. Reese. It sure is more appealing than a youtube video that I viewed a couple of days ago where the well known SDA evangelist equated the current pandemic to a “Sword of the LORD” action to humble the world’s inhabitants and referencing to 1 Chron. 21:12.
Caddy

14 Likes

When are we as a church going to come to terms with our SPIRITUAL MALARIA .
SPIRITUAL COVID
And false teachings

Like COVID being a biological disease so is false teachings

1 Like

In the Old Testament God reveals Himself as
IMMANUEL
“God with us”.
Traditional 18th, 19th Century Christianity has
“God – UP THERE”.
But that is NOT Biblical.
God is with us to journey WITH God, but also journey
TO GOD where He is waiting in the “Land of Rest”.
As the Psalm says – God is FOR me.

10 Likes

When I read certain things I become still more encouraged to remain an Agnostic.

7 Likes

This article is quite a discourse on the Biblical input on the question in the title. But if feels like a hymn being sung to the choir. This feels like insider talk. Is there another case to be made?

What do I have to say to people not in the choir? What would I say to the agnostic? What would I say to the person who believes herself/himself to be spiritual but not religious? What would I say to a person who is anxious about this pandemic but either doesn’t know or doesn’t believe the Biblical narrative? Or do I just write all these people off because all I know to say is to quote Bible verses? Again, is there another case to be made?

7 Likes

If you ever figure it out, please let me know. I would love to examine it. There must be one, something, somewhere.

I liked your comment on feeling this article as, “a hymn being sung to the choir.” That’s exactly how I felt when I browsed through it. So much suffering on the planet right now, but God loves us all so much. Something is in disconnect.

In some sense, this article made it all worse and more confusing. I don’t know what would you say to an Agnostic… :wink:

5 Likes

DURING THIS TIME OF CRISIS:

Let us focus on our loving Lord.

Let us remember that God has promised to be with us even though we walk through a valley of death.

Let us focus on HOPE rather than the negative!

(I humbly suggest that now is not a good time to be accusatory, critical, or suspicious.)

5 Likes

When one reads Mark [the center section], Jesus is on The Way.
He tells everyone to follow Him on The Way.
The Way is on His way to Jerusalem where He will be arrested,
tried, tortured, and crucified.
He tells everyone to take up their CROSS and follow Him.
N.T. Wright commenting on Mark said Angels were there in the
wilderness, but not there to keep the Devil away. Angels were
around the Cross, but not to save Him.
Perhaps we in the 21st Century that had our Religious Education
in the 20th Century were given the wrong pictures of God.
Perhaps we need NOW to find the Real Pictures.

Sometimes all we can do is tell ourselves [when we don’t know if we
are in the “good line” or if in the “bad line”], that God sends the sunshine
and the rain on the Good and the Bad. And BECAUSE of that Each One
receives Bread each day for their daily need.
[except in Venezuela]

2 Likes

Of course, the burning question is not where is God in this pandemic

BUT WHO CAUSED THE PANDEMIC BY CREATING THE CARONA VIRUS ???

This minuscule, microscopic organism is super sophisticated —- its ability to stay suspended in droplets in the air after a cough / sneeze—- its incredible longevity — many days on surfaces—- its ability to totally destroy human pulmonary tissue.

It seems to have been designed for maximum infection potential. So what higher power designed this intricate, complex, cunning, creature ?
It is too complicated to have just “ evolved “ .

We are told that Satan has ZERO creative powers, that only God can create — so who formed these lethal viruses, bacteria, malarial parasites in the first place ??

They maybe minute and invisible, but their lethality is cleverly constructed by a cruel craftsman.

For those who insist that Satan does indeed have creative powers, the burning question is why does God allow him this terrifying ability ?

Plagues, pestilences, fevers, epidemics have killed billions since time immemorial.

The Bubonic Plague wiped out one third of Europe.

The Spanish flu killed fifty million in 1917. My mother, living in remote Namibia ( German Southwest Africa at the time )
recalls the church bell in the Lutheran church tolling every fifteen minutes for a new funeral, for days on end !

Tuberculosis, the number one cause of death from an infectious disease, was responsible for 25 % of all deaths in Europe in the 1800s.
But TB has also been found in 3000 year old Egyptian mummies. Teenagers, the elderly, rich and poor alike all wasted away from “ consumption “. It still infects ten million a year on our planet.

The malaria parasite is still virulent / venomous in multiple countries and has caused misery for millions.

Meanwhile God is appallingly ABSENT, pathetically paralyzed, strangely silent, and gruesomely gone while millions perish.

6 Likes

Where is God in this Pandemic?

I read the article or most of it. The questions was not answered. Thousands of people are dying, alone with not a single person from their circle of loved ones, beside them. Where is God? Thousands of people hungry, unable to go anywhere and having not a single person around to assist them. Where is God? Thousands of people suffocating in their own mucus, unable to breathe and no respirators or ventilators available? Where is God? Thousands of people relying on financial help to pay their bills, their mortgage, feed their families and out of work for an indefinite amount of time. Where is God? The question is what is the church doing to help it’s constituents in this crisis? We can go to the Bible and throw out thousands of quotes but not of them tells us where God is and what the Conference is doing to help their members in this crisis.

5 Likes

I think the Conference leaders are wondering what the fallout will be on tithe and offerings. Now for the first time in memory–there will be a serious short fall. Members not working don’t pay much tithe and are not motivated to pay church expenses when they don’t attend. Most of us, leaders included, are looking at our mortality and the fear that drives it, which hinders ministry.

The first thing I believe the Conference could do is: Set up prayer/help lines that connects with a pastor/administrator 24/7. Second thing: as members are forced to cut back on expenses due to employment issues, the Conference should publicly state what they propose to eliminate from their normal expenses. Third thing: the Conference should tell members to take care of their local church/school expenses first, before sending funding to them. Forth thing: this would be an ideal time to consider Conference/Union mergers and downsizing and sale of assets.

7 Likes

Great proposals Frank. I would add that it’s probably a perfect time to eliminate the GC, leaving the Divisions or, still better,replacing the whole thing with some kind of worldwide Unions coalition. Time to make the local churches stronger and more independent.

4 Likes

…the same place He’s always been. Just because we are experiencing the tragedies and “inconvenient” restrictions on our daily lives similar to those some have been suffering right along, - now, suddenly we’re asking where God is in all this? People have been suffering from disease, and economic hardships for centuries and asking “where God is”.

We do need to come to terms with that question. You would think after millennia of pain and death it would be - enough already, but the time involves generations of people. We hardly ever learn from history. We need personal experiences to learn the big lessons. So what is the big lesson we’re supposed to learn through the hardships and tragedies?

7 Likes

Mostly I wonder about the propensity of people to expect their god-or their government (sometimes synonymous) to do something about the tragedy du jour, all the while acting solely selfishly themselves. Are these things “permitted” to separate the doers from the doubters?

2 Likes

Yes. You would think that. I confess that the Great Controversy theme frays around the edges. It explains a lot, but also baffles a lot. As Robin Vandermolen likes to point out, and you repeat above, isn’t it enough already? Who are the dunces out there in a vast universe who do not see that evil is…evil? Maybe evil is somehow more potent than we comprehend.

The whole thing is probably more complicated than our usual narrative recognizes or knows. It all leaves one dangling at the end of a long rope, holding on to that knot at the end.

6 Likes

Precisely, to show up in a “very good garden”-even in heaven itself is instructive.
Perhaps it’s potency is related to our own willful blindness to how evil our envy, our selfishness, our inaction and our self righteousness is. Not to mention our demand that we force others to “do the right” we want them to do-even using their government-god to so do.

Where is God during this pandemic is our question. The first readers of “Daniel” were asking, Where is God when the altar of the temple in Jerusalem has been transformed into an altar to Zeus and we no longer are connected to God for the forgiveness of sins by “the continual sacrifice”? Where is God when those who refuse to offer a sacrifice to Zeus are martyred? The first readers of “Revelation” were asking, Where is God when in order to be able to live in our neighborhoods and be respected by friends and family we are required to offer sacrifices to the genius of the emperor? The authors of “Daniel” told their readers, Just hold on, endure, be patient and at the Judgment you will be O.K., at the resurrection you will be an angel shinning like the stars in the firmament, rather than be put to shame and everlasting contempt. The readers of “Revelation” were told, Hold on, do not participate in the worship of the emperor. Idolatry, harlotry, is the capital sin. “Worship God;” He is the creator of heaven and earth. If you worship the genius of the emperor your name will be erased from the Book of Life and those whose names are not found in the Book of Life will first be killed and left on the ground to become a banquet for the birds of the field; then they will be resurrected for the vengeance of God to be fully revealed by throwing them into a like of fire where they will spend the rest of their time where the fire is never quenched and the worms never die.
These biblical answers to the question Where is God when we experience traumatic suffering and death need to be considered within their cultural settings. Otherwise they only serve to bring about theological aberrations.
Apocalyptic, Sapiential and philosophical answers to the question of the suffering of the innocent never prove themselves acceptable. Righteousness is by faith, because believing that God is the creator of the world in which we live can only be held by faith. And faith is demonstrated by the way in which a person expresses her/his being in society. The worship of God is no longer attached to rituals but to a person’s way of being.

7 Likes

I didnt ask the question I was quoting the article’s title.

It shows in your posts.

We know where God is in this pandemic, but does He know where we are? We are forbidden to go into the churches. One country said they would keep the virus from spreading by closing the churches if they tried to open. It is time for small groups.

Small Groups to Unite in Prayer for Souls–We are laborers together with God. Spiritual workers are needed not only to labor in the pulpit but to do personal work among the people. Too much time is devoted to the churches in preaching. This is not attended with the best results. The work of the Lord’s ambassadors is to organize companies of workers to hunt for the souls who need help. Hours are spent in preaching that might better be devoted to house-to house labor. In the spirit of Christ, with a heart all aglow with His love, seek to win the hearts of those in the families you visit. Give faithful admonitions and instruction from the Word of God. There are appropriate and applicable lessons from the Scripture that need to be presented in the spirit of Christ and in love for the souls for whom He has died. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” [2 Timothy 3:16, 17]. {12MR 240.2}