Is this pandemic a judgment from God?

If you’re familiar at all with the Bible, you probably know that God periodically punished people with pestilence. You may also know that pestilence is predicted as part of God’s penalty on mankind at the end of the age. So if you’re a believer in God you’ve likely pondered the possibility that this pandemic may be punitive. At least in passing.

I have. But although God has plenty of good reasons to punish us, I have reason to believe this coronavirus crisis is more diagnostic than judgmental. What do I mean by that?

In the Old Testament when the Israelites disobeyed God and worshiped the false gods of the nations they had mixed with, God sometimes caused them to be taken into captivity by one of those pagan nations. From there they would call out to him in their distress and he would rescue them. Usually. Their idolatrous, immoral behavior was bad enough to justify God destroying them completely, but he let them live with an eye to waking them up to their grievous sin and their need for their Maker and Redeemer so that they would repent and return to him.

I’m thinking that’s his intention with this pandemic as well. The virus isn’t taking out everyone it infects, like you might see in a pandemic disaster film and what a judgment from God would likely entail. It’s just taken us captive with fear, exposing our vulnerability and inability to completely control our environment or our bodies. He wants us to recognize that he is the one who does have complete control so that we will return to him and reject the false gods of our own making who cannot save us.

So COVID-19 is diagnostic in that it is exposing and identifying our malady. We are sick with sin and dying an eternal death if we reject the only true God who created us for a loving relationship with himself. God wants us to call out to him in faith to help and to heal and to save.

When all is well and we have everything we need, that is when we are most susceptible to the disease of self-reliance and rebellion. God becomes an afterthought if he is thought about at all and we see no reason not to just do whatever we want. A crisis, then, is a measure of mercy to wake us up to our perilous predicament.

Suffering, pain, and crises of all kinds are often, as C.S. Lewis put it, God’s “megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” I’m praying that we don’t stop our ears to it.

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world. – C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain