God in the Pandemic
There is some talk heard of what God is up to in these pandemic days. Some of the talk tends toward the apocalyptic — COVID-19 is somehow a precursor to the end of the age or the Second Coming of Christ.
Such talk forgets (or ignores) Jesus’ caution that “about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father (Matthew 24:36, NIV). If only the Father knows, then it seems wise for us mere mortals to refrain from such speculation – especially when Jesus goes on to warn that “the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Matthew 24:44).
However, I do not want to dismiss any consideration that God may be doing something in these pandemic days. As the Apostle Paul asserts, “in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28), although it may be many miles/kilometres down the road before we will see what “the good” is in the rear-view mirror of our lives.
Paul’s declaration comes after a vivid description about how “creation was subjected to frustration” yet hopes to “be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:20). In the meantime, creation is “groaning as in the pains of childbirth” (Romans 8:22).
We certainly know that creation has been groaning. The degradation of the environment through pollution, abuse, and exploitation has been extensively documented. But in these pandemic days, there have been numerous reports of the healing of creation, such as significantly reduced levels of nitrogen dioxide in parts of Italy and China, reduced emissions of carbon monoxide due to less motor vehicle traffic in large cities like New York, and visible improvement of water quality in Venice’s canals attributed to the absence of boat traffic and tourists.
Could it be that these pandemic days have afforded creation a respite and rest from its groaning? Is this where we might see God in the pandemic?
Not as dramatic or apocalyptic as some soothsayers would have it. But what a blessing for both creation and we who have been formed in the image of the Creator!
My fervent hope and prayer is that it will not be a blessing spurned.