Why the Coronavirus?
I do not normally advocate seeking to figure out why a particular “bad thing” happens. We know from John 9 that the man’s blindness was not caused by his sin or by the sin of his parents. Suffering sometimes just happens. That’s how life in a fallen world works. Recall the hebel of Ecclesiastes…
And yet, in John 5 Jesus does seem to relate sin with suffering: “Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you” (5:14). Sin does have consequences, and one way to avoid suffering is to avoid sin. God punishes sin.
And in 2 Chronicles 36:21, it appears that one of the reasons for the exile was that the land might rest, “until the land had enjoyed its Sabbaths.” The land was meant to lie fallow every seventh year, and also every fiftieth year, which means that every 50-year cycle, the land would lie fallow for two consecutive years. During these times, the people would eat the food the land provided naturally, for example, fruit from fruit-trees. This was primarily so that the top soil could recover its nutrients. But, these precepts were apparently never kept by the people of Israel, and the Lord used the exile to force that rest upon the land.
And in Hebrews 12 we learn that discipline, which “seems painful rather than pleasant” (12:11), is “for our good” (12:10), yielding “the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (12:11).
There does in fact exist a verse that relates these three aspects of why “bad things” occur. It is found in Job 37. Elihu tells Job: “Whether for correction or for his land or for love, he causes it to happen” (37:13). There is of course some debate as to whether Elihu as a whole provides wise counsel to Job. Without seeking to answer that, I think we can affirm the wisdom of that particular verse because, as was shown above, the rest of the Scriptures support it. God can act, powerfully and destructively, for the sake of correcting, for the sake of the land, and/or for the sake of love.
If I may be so bold, I will relate these aspects to the current situation with the coronavirus:
Perhaps the Lord is correcting people and society through this. Can we think here of rampant materialism? Greed and materialism, “respectable sins” in America, are being checked as people can longer buy everything they want instantly. Perhaps we will all learn that we can make do with less?
Perhaps the Lord is acting for the sake of the land. “The earth is the Lord’s and all the fullness thereof,” but the way we have been treating the air, the water, the fields, and the animals is an affront to that. This international slowdown may perhaps give nature some respite from our repeated attacks on it.
Perhaps the Lord is acting for the sake of love. But this can look like discipline. Recall Lamentations 3: “The Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men.” As a matter of fact, I am happy to affirm that back of any other reasons that only God knows, love is always there. But remember that love in time of the exile, looked like an exile!
Feel free to disagree with my interpretation of Elihu’s statement, or the verse in 2 Chronicles, or any of my conjectures. My point is not to be dogmatic about any verse or idea, but rather to suggest ways in which we might think of why the coronavirus is spreading and why it is having the effect it is having on individuals, society, and the economy. In any case, there is never any harm, while we are all at home with time to reflect, in thinking over some of the issues raised above.