Why is there suffering? Why do viruses and bacteria make us sick, even cause some of us to die? How do we reconcile our belief in a loving God who cares personally for each one of us with the reality of illness and suffering?
This is one of the fundamental questions humans have been asking since the first human formed the first thought. If God is all loving and all-powerful, why do we suffer? In the Hebrew Scriptures, the book of Job struggles with this question in a stark, unromantic way. Job seeks an answer from God, and is met with only silence time after time.
When God’s response does come, it is just as puzzling as ever. Part of God’s answer is that we lack the scope of understanding to comprehend the entire question. Our field of vision is too short, too narrow, too limited by time and our own self-perception. The satisfying portion of God’s answer to Job is that even when we do not understand what is happening, God does not abandon us.
When the Angel announces to Mary that she will be the mother of the Messiah, the angel says the child will be known as Immanuel, which means, “God is With Us.”
That, ultimately, is our strength and hope. No matter what happens, God is with us. Our faith does not promise that as followers of God we will never face any difficulties; our faith promises that no matter what the difficulty, God will be with us through it all.
The infection and mortality numbers of this pandemic are frightening. Here in the United States, we may be near a peak soon; if we continue keeping ourselves isolated and taking as many precautions as we can to protect ourselves from infection, we may begin to see the pandemic wane over the next month or so. It might be too soon to be certain about that.
But no matter what happens, God is still with us. The sustaining force of God’s Holy Spirit remains near to us as we call for the Spirit’s support and strength.
But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.
-2nd Corinthians 4:7-9