I probably quote Isaiah 55:8-9 as much as I quote any other passage of Scripture.
That passage says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
What a comforting truth — God is not like us! He doesn’t worry like we do, he doesn’t get unjustly angry like we do and he doesn’t ever act selfishly. He has reasons for doing things that we can’t understand. He never does anything without a purpose, but he doesn’t always reveal those purposes to us, because we wouldn’t be able to fathom them, even if he did.
We don’t know why God allows the coronavirus or any other disease or natural disaster, at least not definitively, at least not in entirety. To say, “Well, God is doing this,” or, “God is doing that,” is a dangerous exercise in futility because the best you can do is speculate about what God might be doing at this exact time in the exact way he does it.
Even so, there are some biblical principles that are true and can be applied to any scenario at any time, so while we don’t have a complete answer, we can rest in the truths we do know.
First, we know God is in control of all things and that his will is always done. The Bible says, “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him” (Psalm 115:3) and, “Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps” (Psalm 136:5).
In talking about molding the hearts of man in Romans 9, God says he will show mercy to whomever he wills and will harden the hearts of whoever wills. He then asks who are we, as the creation, to question what he, the creator, does?
Some people struggle to understand how God’s will is always done when seeing the state of the world, but those two things are not at odds with one another. In “Mere Christianity,” C.S. Lewis explains this truth, saying, “Anyone who has ever been in authority knows how a thing can be in accordance with your will in one way and not in another.”
He then gives example of a mother who tells her children that they must clean their rooms every night (her will), only to find each morning that they have failed to do so (against her will). Although she would rather the children be neat and tidy, she chooses to allow them do as they please anyway. In this instance, the mother’s will is ultimately done (her will that the children choose freely for themselves) even though at the same time the children act against her will (that they keep their rooms clean).
Second, we know God is always good. James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights ...” Psalm 84:11 says, “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.”
Furthermore, all of his purposes are for good. Romans 8:28 famously teaches us, “…we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” In other words, what God sovereignly allows is always good, or always works for good, according to his purposes.
Third, we look back at Isaiah 55:8-9. Since God is sovereign and always good and his ways and thoughts are way above ours, we can conclude that God does things all the time or allows things all the time that are beyond us to understand, but are still part of his will and in accordance with his goodness.
Might he be allowing some of his children to get sick in order to cause them to trust him more deeply? Yes. At the same time, might he be judging some who arrogantly rebel against him in sinful disobedience? Yes. Might he be giving the church a great open door for evangelism during a national crisis? Yes. Do we know he’s doing all of these things. No, but we do know that whatever he’s doing is for a perfect purpose, and we can trust him as he does it.
Really, what else do we need to know?