At this point we have been in lockdown for a few weeks due to COVID-19 still impacting on our nation. During this lockdown, we have in some ways been blessed with time to ourselves without the constant distraction of our busy lives. Perhaps you have spent time in reflection and prayer (I hope so) and taken time to consider how God is involved in your life. And maybe you’ve found yourself asking the question “if God does love us, why has He allowed this to happen?”
This is a hard topic to discuss, because no-one on Earth knows what God knows, or can claim to fully understand the ways of the Father. Remember, God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and reaches across all of time and space. Therefore, nothing on Earth has the perspective to understand why He does anything, we must simply have faith that He loves us, as He promised.
What we do know is that God in his infinite wisdom and love for us, chose to give us free will, and since he has given us free will, he has restrained himself from forcing us to do anything, even if we are going to cause great evil. Because we have free will to choose to serve Him or not to, our choice to love God in return is so much more meaningful.
The trouble is of course, just as we can now freely choose to love God, we can also freely choose to reject Him. This is why the choice to love God is meaningful, and we believe that our having the power to freely choose is a greater good than taking away that freedom even for a moment to prevent something bad happening – because the only way God could prevent someone doing something bad is to temporarily remove their free will. Instead we understand that He sends the Holy Spirit to be a guide to us and to help us to choose God in all things, but again, we are free to reject this support.
Disease and Disasters
So if we know that God has chosen not to directly interfere to stop someone doing bad things to other people because we believe he values our having free will as the greater good, then what about other, non-human things? Disease and natural disasters are not caused by humans – for example, we currently believe that COVID-19 evolved from only affecting bats to also affecting people, and that it spread from there with no human intervention. Why did God not stop this from happening, if to do so he didn’t have to violate human free will?
The answer to that is simply, we don’t know. We know God is all-knowing, all-loving, and that He has a plan for us, but it is beyond any of us to know it. So we must trust that God has chosen to tolerate this virus for a reason – that somehow, the greater good for us will be worked by God even through this virus. Even though the virus has been terrible and devastating, both personally and communally, God will still be able to use this to work some kind of good in the grand scheme of things.
What Can I Do Then?
The best we can do in the face of bad things happening, such as getting sick or injured, is to continue to pray. We don’t have to understand the why of these things, only have faith that God is greater still and will be able to work good out of this too. Sometimes our prayers will be answered, and sometimes instead, God will comfort us and give us the strength to go through that challenge but not remove it for you, though this can be hard to understand.
The Apostle Paul talks about this in his letters to the Corinthians:
Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.2 Corinthians 12:7-10
We can also take suffering as an reminder to be thankful to God for the good things we have, while another very powerful thing we can do with our suffering is to offer our sufferings up to God as a sacrifice for His glory. For example, we heard at our last youth meeting that fasting for lent without prayer is just dieting. Suffering without prayer is just suffering, but suffering with prayer (making it an offering to God) is self-sacrifice: if I injure my arm, I can either say this hurts oww, why me! Or I can say this hurts, but I will offer this pain up to God for the easing of the suffering souls in purgatory, and then choose to suffer that pain with intent and grace. In one option, your suffering has no purpose and just sucks. In the latter however, we take control of the suffering we encounter, and with grace and faith in God we turn it towards a purpose, making it a bit more bearable.
In short, pray over things that challenge you. Ask God if He can remove these challenges for you, and He may yet do so. But also pray that if He does not remove it, that He gives you the grace to overcome it through Him, and offer your suffering up to Him that He might use it for His glory.
God loves you, and he does not want for you to suffer. But He will turn it to a greater good when you do suffer, since our world is not a perfect world.
Take heart in this and stay faithful even as we face down these trials!
For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.Isaiah 41:13
Peace and God Bless,
The Quest Youth Leadership Team