In this column two months ago I wrote about The COVID Crisis Miracle. At that time the nation was six months into the pandemic and not a single case of the coronavirus had visited the residents or caregivers of The Baptist Home network of campuses. Then, on Oct. 1, the pandemic came to our northwest campus. The number of positive cases jumped from one to forty in a period of twelve days. That begs the question, “How does a believer reconcile months of prayer for protection from the virus against an outbreak of such magnitude?” To answer this and similar questions, theologians turn to the doctrine of theodicy. If you are not familiar with the term, don’t fret. Most of my family members and co-workers are not familiar with the word. Theodicy is the doctrine that explores God’s goodness in light of the presence of evil. In other words, why does God allow bad stuff to happen? If you have ever pondered this question, you are more of a theologian than you thought.
Consider with me the most serious consequence of the coronavirus – death. For the believer, this outcome ushers one into the presence of the Lord. As Paul wrote to the Philippian believers from prison, “to live is Christ, to die is gain.” As our families, friends, churches and caregivers weep over the loss a brother or sister in Christ, our grief is softened by the reality of the wholeness the deceased is now experiencing. Suffering also refines us spiritually and practically. Starting in February, I prayed for God to spare The Baptist Home from the ravages of the coronavirus. I tempered the prayer with a “Thy will be done.” I must confess, my will and God’s will are not always in alignment. As in every other case where our wills diverged, His will is best. I confidently believe The Baptist Home will be a stronger, healthier and more Christlike ministry as we apply God’s truths to the lessons we have learned in this heartbreaking season.
One observes from Scripture that just because God’s response to our prayers is not what we anticipated does not mean the prayer was not answered. Consider the lessons learned from Matthew 14. In this passage Jesus instructs his disciples to cross over the sea of Galilee while he spends time in prayer with the Father. When a storm arises on the sea, I can imagine the disciples might have said to themselves, “Why did we listen to Him?” Jesus, of course, was aware of their situation. However, instead of calming the sea, Jesus joins them in the midst of the storm. That is the story of The Baptist Home. God joined us in the midst of the storm, and provided just the right resources, encouragement and hope at just the right time. The story of the Missouri Baptist Convention’s response is a story of cooperation. It is a story of weeping with those who weep and celebrating God’s goodness – even in the hard times.
Finally, I am also reminded of God’s providential timing. Due to changes in the compassionate care visit guidelines in late September some family members and one pastor were able to visit with loved ones during this crisis. I am so very thankful the updated guidelines were in place when the crisis visited our campus.
Suffering is real and one of the many consequences of the fall. No one has felt the pain of suffering more than our Lord Jesus Christ, who took upon Himself the full brunt of our sin and our rejection in order to become the sinless sacrifice and atonement for our sin. That puts the promise of Romans 8:28, “For we know that God causes all things to work together for good, for those who love Him, those called according to His purpose” in its proper light when considering our own suffering.