Pandemics, Tragedies and the Goodness of God
It is considered one of the worst pandemics to ever hit the entire world. What was once simply news from a remote village in China has developed into a worldwide crisis with almost 200,000 infections and almost 8,000 deaths. It has now spread to 163 countries and territories, virtually all continents except Antarctica. The economic fallout has also been swift. Every major stock exchange is down to record levels. In fact, it has gone down faster than at any other time in its history. And it’s all far from over!
When something like this happens, it is inevitable that questions will be asked – How can a loving God allow this to happen? Why is there suffering in the world? Didn’t God care for all those people? To many of these questions, we will never know the answers, but it is our desire to offer a perspective based on God’s Word.
In the Gospel of Luke chapter 13, Jesus was informed about people who were ordered killed by Pilate while they were in the middle of sacrificing animals in the temple. Jesus then makes this a starting point to teach people regarding calamities and tragedies.
“Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”” (Luke 13:1–5, NIV)
CALAMITY AND DEATH ARE PART OF LIVING IN A FALLEN WORLD
Jesus taught the crowds that calamity could happen to anyone because that is the kind of world that we live in. Jesus cited two instances of tragedy. The first concerned some Galileans who were killed by Pilate while they were offering sacrifices. The second concerned seemingly innocent bystanders in Siloam who were killed when a tower fell on them. Two types of tragedies -- the first type is man-made and the second can be called natural disasters. Both are the result of living in a fallen world. The first tragedy mentioned regarding Pilate ordering the killing of some people is an example of a man-made calamity.
Many of the things that people are suffering today are simply consequences of man’s selfishness. Global warming which is slowly destroying our planet and causing weird weather all over the world is the result of our so called “modernization”. Poverty, `drought and hunger in many parts of the world where thousands of children die every day had been aggravated by corruption and civil war.
For this first type of disaster, we should not blame God for something that man did. Why is it that as human beings we give ourselves the credit when something good happens while we blame God when something bad happens.
The second type of tragedy is natural disaster. Natural disasters happen because the whole world is under a curse because of man’s sinfulness. God did not create this world in the state that it is in right now. When God created the world it was perfect. There was harmony in creation. as God declared in Genesis chapter 1, “IT WAS GOOD!”
When sin entered the world, it was not only man’s relationship with God that was affected, so is our relationship with nature. In Genesis chapter 3 verse 17 and 18 God says to the man:
"Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you….NIV
The entrance of sin into the world produced hostility between man and nature that man will try to work and manage nature but nature will not always cooperate. No matter how we try to manage or control our environment, nature always has a way of reminding us that it cannot be managed and nor will it be controlled. We are living in a fallen world where the consequence of sin is manifested as the sinful actions of human beings bring harm and tragedy upon others and as the earth that brings life and sustenance to us also brings death and calamity.
The second thing we learn from this is
EXPERIENCING A CALAMITY IS NOT NECESSARILY
A MEASURE OF ONE’S SPIRITUALITY
The people in Jesus time attribute calamity as a direct result of one’s sin. So if something terrible happens to someone it is because that person did something wrong or has sinned against God. But Jesus tries to correct this notion by asking…
“Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”” (Luke 13:2–5, NIV)
Jesus’ point was that being killed or not being killed is not an accurate measure of a person’s unrighteousness or righteousness. Instead, Jesus reminds everyone that all are deserving of God’s judgment because of sin and the most urgent thing for people to do is not to discuss the sins of others but to turn in repentance to God.  This point is brought out in verses 3 and 5—unless you repent, you too will all perish. Death is the common denominator for everyone. Only repentance can bring life as people prepare to enter the kingdom.
It is interesting to note that Jesus did not delve into the question of WHY it happened but on the importance of repentance – the question is not about the character of God – whether God is good or loving -- but on the readiness of people to meet God. Twice in the passage Jesus said “unless you repent…” We also should probably be asking a different question, instead of asking why it happened maybe we need to ask ourselves, “Am I ready to meet God if something like this were to happen to me?”
Also, no matter how we may try to give an explanation, no answer will ever be sufficient. We will never be able to exhaust the reasons God may have for allowing such things to happen. We are reminded in the Book of Isaiah…
““For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8–9, NIV)
CALAMITIES ARE REMINDERS
THEY ARE REMINDERS OF THE SHORTNESS OF LIFE
Natural disasters are reminders of our humanity and mortality, that life is a loan from God. He gives it and takes it, whenever and however He wills.
“Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4:13–14, NIV)
Natural disasters like earthquakes, typhoons and pandemics remind us that death can overtake us at anytime, wherever we may be. Death is as imminent to those who are healthy and strong as well as those whose health is failing. It is as near to those who are having a vacation in some remote place or those simply doing ordinary chores at home. It can come like a slow developing disease or as fast as an approaching wall of water.
The writer C.S. Lewis explained that natural disasters do not increase death, because death is certain for all people, whether by sickness, accident or a natural disaster. The Bible is clear on this, that all men will face death, because it is inevitable and a scheduled, divine appointment
NATURAL DISASTERS REMIND US OF OUR NEED FOR GOD’S STRENGTH AND PROTECTION
Tragedy often shakes and awakes. It shakes our self-confidence and awakens our dependence on God. Tragedies like this remind us of how fragile life is. The strongest buildings can collapse by a simple movement in the earth. History has taught us that the most powerful empires can fall, the strongest economies can collapse, the most beautiful vacation spots can turn into a mass grave in just a matter of minutes. Where do we find hope, purpose and stability in the midst of all these? Again, the Bible gives us the answer…
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” (Psalm 46:1–3, NIV)
THEY REMIND US OF HOW BLESSED WE STILL ARE IN SPITE OF OUR PROBLEMS
Sometimes we can just be overwhelmed by our own needs and our own hurts that we fail to realize that we are still blessed, in spite of our problems, in spite of what we are going through. We can still be thankful to God for a lot of things. Many of us need to count our blessings more than we count our problems.
Lord thank you for this day, we thank you that in spite of our problems, we know that your blessings still abound in our lives. We pray that we may be a more thankful people. We ask for your forgiveness for blaming you for the things that other human being have done. Today we ask that you may give us a heart of wisdom – so that we may examine our lives and live a life that is pleasing before you so that we may be prepared to meet you anytime a calamity may strike. As your people we pray that we may do a better job sharing your love to others especially those who are hurting.
We especially lift up to you the victims of COVID19. We pray that you may comfort those who are mourning, bring relief to those who are suffering and healing to those who are hurting. We pray for protection for those in the frontlines fighting this disease. We pray for wisdom for our government leaders from all levels as they take the steps to guide us through this crisis. We lift up to you those who are there right now struggling to make sense of what is happening, we pray that out of this tragedy may bring us closer to you and to one another. We pray that we may be united as a nation.
We dedicate to you our lives right now, in Jesus name. Amen.
 Thomas Nelson, Inc., King James Version Study Bible [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1988 by Liberty University.  Walvoord, John F., and Zuck, Roy B., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Scripture Press Publications, Inc.) 1983, 1985.