“What’s happening proves there’s not a God.” This was a comment left in reply to one of VfJUK’s recent postings on Facebook. The assertion, when I read it, struck me as both strange and misguided. First, it implies that if God exists He would only ever allow things that we enjoy. Yet at a very basic level this is nonsense. For example, a three-year old child, left to him or herself, may well demand a diet of baked beans, chips and ice cream, watch TV all day, and refuse to have their hair washed. Result, a very fat and unhealthy child, with minimal social skills, and extremely greasy hair. Which, as every parent will tell you, is not a good idea. No, in a child’s best interests, parents lay down ground rules, some of which the child may not at the time fully appreciate, and which may even result in the odd tantrum. And parents do this, not because they’re being nasty, but because that is the only way to protect the child so that they grow and develop into a healthy, happy, balanced, and responsible adult.
And when a child deliberately misbehaves and flouts the rules, a caring parent disciplines him or her – they do not let the child get away with it, because becoming even more of a spoiled brat is not in the child’s best interests.
Second, the claim presupposes that, if God exists, He doesn’t care what we get up to. And, most especially, that He’s not bothered if we don’t live by the rules. Yet at any level of intellectual assessment, how can this be right? To revert to our parent/child analogy, it has been said – with some justification – that permissive parents don’t lay down rules because they want to be ‘friends’ with their offspring and don’t want to be seen as nasty. Or even, like the dreadful Edina in Ab Fab, in their quest to be seen as cool, they become more woke than their child! But, whatever the reason, the refusal to set boundaries frequently leads to dysfunctional and unhappy adults. So, if God does exist – and is a ‘good’ parent – surely it is reasonable to accept that He requires we live by the rules – because He cares what happens to us longer-term. In which case, it is surely unreasonable to expect that He will protect us from the consequences of our choices and actions when it’s clear we’re going to persist, and when those choices inevitably expose us to harm and stop us from becoming the individuals He has made us to be.
In fact, what our Facebook friend hasn’t apparently even considered, is that the pandemic may actually provide very strong proof that God does exist and, more particularly, that He’s not at all happy with the way humanity has been carrying on. In particular, that He’s allowing us to suffer the consequences of our rejection of Himself and dubious attempts to rewrite the rules.
This does not mean that God created the virus in order to attack humanity. Nor is it to say He doesn’t want and stand ready to help. He does. God is our Creator, who cares so much about us that He sent His own Son – to show us first how to live and then, by His death, to set us free from Satan’s hold. To restore us to the fullness of relationship with Himself, so that we might become fully what He always intended us to be. But men and women have always had free will, and God never forces us to accept salvation. That has to be our choice. So no, the fact we are currently suffering from a global pandemic does not ‘prove’ God doesn’t exist, but possibly the opposite.
Our own choices and behaviours have led us to this place. For example, the exact origins of the virus still demand inquiry, while the actions of some countries, once it had taken hold, have without doubt been inadequate. It is increasingly clear that records have been falsified and information deliberately suppressed, as a result of which the rest of the world didn’t wake up to the scale of the threat until too late. And even now we still don’t know the real scale of the threat, so that to a large extent the actions being taken are ‘guesstimates’. But beyond all that, given the West’s determined rejection of Christian values and belief, on what basis can we claim that God should have helped and moved to protect us against the threat?
No, the truth – which our Facebook friend apparently finds so unacceptable – is that God is as much with us now, in the midst of this pandemic, as he has ever been. And He longs to help – He hates to see our suffering. But we need first to repent our treatment of Him, and our behaviour … and then we need to ask Him to intervene.
The story is told how, in 590 AD, Rome was suffering from a terrible plague that left vast swathes of the population dead. Understandably, the populace was terrified, so Gregory VII, Pope at the time, led the city in prayer, calling out to the angels for help to deliver them. On April 25th, as the people processed round the city in prayer, the Archangel Michael was reportedly seen standing at the top of the castle of Crescentius – a short walk from the Vatican – wiping a bloody sword, before sheathing it at his side. And from that moment, the story goes, the plague was over and the city was free. In thanks for their deliverance, the castle was renamed the Castle of the Holy Angel – Castel Sant’Angelo. As it is still known today.
Perhaps we would do well to follow the example. So instead of shouting defiance – and in some cases even hatred – let us humble ourselves and repent, and ask the Lord for a miracle. Let us ask Him to deliver us.