Yes, it can!
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
The Apostle Paul wrote those words nearly 2000 years ago. Inspired by God to write, his words have inspired millions of Christians since then to find the faith to rise above the worst circumstances and trust God to bring good—and he does!
But what about Covid? To answer that, we should first address the question that I have heard many times. “Did God cause Covid?”
DID GOD CAUSE IT?
No, of course he didn’t. But he did create us in his image and that means that we have creative potential—for good or for evil. It also means that we must live with the consequences of our decisions and behaviour; he does not routinely intervene and override our freedom. That is why I don’t agree with the phrase that I hear so often, “God is in control!”
He is “in charge” but does not meticulously control human behaviour—as is obvious from reading the Bible. If he is in total control then all the appeals from the prophets, and the calls from Jesus for people to repent, and the exhortations to change behaviour from Paul’s letters, are all misleading.
THEN WHAT DID CAUSE IT?
So yes, I am saying that Covid-19 is a consequence of human behaviour. I am not yet sure what that behaviour was, but it seems that most experts have concluded that it came from one of two potential sources: It could have been from the wet markets of Wuhan where a very wide range of animals are kept together in small cages to be sold alive. Disease can pass from one species to another and mutate until it is a danger to people.
The second and more likely cause is that it was a result of an accident in a Wuhan laboratory that was studying bats that carry the Covid viruses but are immune themselves. Given the response and reactions from the Chinese Communist Party, we will probably never have a conclusive explanation about its origins and why the knowledge of it was kept secret for so many weeks, while is spread globally. It is worth noting that the second location where it began to spread was Northern Italy, where China had purchased some luxury Italian fashion brands and had changed the work force from Italians to Chinese, especially workers from Wuhan. So, it seems possible, if not certain, that much of the world is suffering from a series of decisions that reflect poor judgment—at best.
But what God is promising in Romans 8:28 is that, no matter what comes our way, he is never taken by surprise and will work within the problems that human sins produce. And that applies to Covid too.
HOW DO I FIND THE GOOD IN IT?
There are, however, conditions. The people who love him and are doing what he has called them to do, are people who look for his good work in everything they do and everything that comes their way. They are people who see the world through eyes of faith, not fear.
To my mind, the worst aspect of this current season is not the disease, which has accounted for about 3% of the total number of deaths in the world from January 2020 to January 2021 with the average age of those dying being just over 80 years old. The worst aspect is the pandemic of fear.
For the committed believer, Romans 8:28 is a description of the cure for the fear pandemic. So, how are you faring?
The cure is not available to those who are passive. It is not available to those who have no consistency in prayer and the scriptures. It is available for anyone who sets out, each day, to listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying, who read and study the scriptures and who actively “throw all their cares on Jesus.” 1 Pet 5:7
SOME OF THE GOOD HAS ALREADY BEEN OBVIOUS, BUT MORE WILL COME
Already some of the good that God can bring, and is bringing, out of Covid can be seen. Here in the UK, our teams are finding that conversations with ordinary non-Christian people are deeper and more sincere than any time in our memory. People are now more serious about the big issues of life and death.
Many Christians have discovered that meeting with much smaller numbers of fellow Christians can often go deeper and be more relevant to daily life than their weekly experience as part of the “audience” in larger congregational meetings. Often, the very large online events are a poor second to being together in live events with good worship bands, good preaching etc.
“TWO OR THREE TOGETHER IN MY NAME”
The smaller meetings, whether online or in person, are another matter. When just a few people open the scriptures together and meet in the name of Jesus, his promise is true, “where two or three come together in my name, I’ll be there in the midst of them.” (Mat 18:20) These small meetings can be so much more personal, lead to application and change, create an environment of personal support and touch areas of our lives that remain a closed book in the larger meetings. I’m not saying that the large congregational or celebration meetings are wrong or unhelpful, but they are not so likely to lead to such deep relationships as the smaller gatherings produce. The gospel has to include the deep sharing of lives together.
It is no accident that the greatest numerical growth the Church has ever known was in China from the 1950s through the 1990s. Now the greatest percentage growth of the church in any people group is amongst the Iranians. In both cases, they were not able to meet as congregations, but took great risks to meet in small groups where they read the scriptures together, helped one another apply what the Bible taught and prayed for one another.
CONNECTING WITH GREATER EASE
Another good is coming from Covid. I note that geography has become less important. The online world of meetings can be equally effective with a group of neighbours or with friends from several continents. In recent months, I have regularly been in online meetings with people from more than a dozen time zones. Just today I chatted with, and then presented a half-hour message of encouragement to, people from South- Central- and North America. I noted that there were about 130 devices connected and many of them had 15 or more people engaging with the screen. Next week I expect around 3-4,000 people to be online for one of our YWAM family gatherings.
I could think of more positives to come from Covid 19, but I will finish with just one more. More than a year has passed since Marti and I were last separated from one another and that is the first time ever, since we met one another in 1969. We have really enjoyed it!
What about you? Can you identify some of the “good” that God has brought out of Covid 19? Can you stop and give thanks for those blessings? If you have been struggling, a thankful heart can be good medicine!