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Opinions of Thursday, 23 April 2020

Columnist: Kwakye Ransford

Where is God in the midst of Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic?

The question above has been one of those difficult questions being posed by a lot of people especially those who deny the existence of God. Others, mostly those with religious inclination, say the pandemic is from God to punish immoral people forgetting that faithful believers are also being infected and killed by the same virus. Others say it is the end of the world and that people will be forced to get the mark of the beast and so on. If these are held as true then the above question doesn’t need to be answered. It is evident that in life certain people, including believers, are too quick to make conclusions without first fully grasping or having adequate data or information about events. And that in itself is a pandemic.

Isn’t it ironic that these same people do not ask about the whereabouts of God when they are enjoying their normal lives (say buying their favourite food or a desired phone or even a preferred dress)? It seems they only remember there is God when calamity strikes. For us not to fall prey to this, it is important to understand how God deals with evil deeds using the life of Joseph as a test case.

A Lesson from Joseph’s Story

In Genesis 37, Joseph was sold by his brothers for twenty (20) shekels of silver in order to prevent the manifestation of a dream he had. Joseph, Jacob (his father) and Reuben (one of his brothers who didn’t side with their plan of killing Joseph) probably taught what happened was evil. Each had their own interpretation about this same event. Reuben taught it was evil for his brothers to kill Joseph, Jacob also taught it was evil for something bad or worse to have happened to his son. Joseph, himself, taught it was evil for his brothers to punish him for a dream he had no power over. Everyone was quick to come to their respective conclusions on what happened. Their conclusions were similar, it is Evil! Joseph, as human as he was, would definitely ponder over why he was going through such suffering for nothing he did wrong. To make matters worse, the Midianites who bought him resold him to Potiphar in Egypt and was in addition imprisoned for an adulterous crime he never committed. Basic questions, where was God? Why didn’t God stop his brothers from selling him or the Midianites from reselling him or Potiphar’s wife from falsely accusing him? Was God powerless to do that? Or He just didn’t care about Joseph? These questions and others are difficult to answer but what can be said is that Joseph was never alone and God never deserted him. We read (in chapter 39:2, 3, 21, 23) that the “Lord was with Joseph” in each step of the way.

The Lord was with Joseph when he was sold, resold, falsely accused and imprisoned but Joseph on the other hand taught he was all alone. Again someone may ask, why didn’t God act? It is evident that God acted by giving Joseph the strength, knowledge, wisdom and understanding to go through all these sufferings. The opportunity for Joseph to have favour in the eyes of Potiphar and the prison keeper, and also to interpret dreams of his prison mates and Pharaoh were all the Lord’s doing. But these actions were/are not recognised by people who question God. Again, God was with him at every step of the way just that Joseph did not count that as good but evil. He only acknowledged his travails and pains but not what God was doing through those predicaments. He knew God was with him throughout but did not understand why he should suffer. It was when the famine came and his family needed food that he appreciated the suffering he (Joseph) went through and saw that it was good he suffered that evil. In Joseph’s words, in Genesis 45:6-8, it was not his brothers who sent him to Egypt through their evil deeds, but God (allowed it) for the purpose of preserving them during that unforeseen famine.

At the end, the theology of Joseph’s family was altered, they came to realise that what was meant for evil, God meant for good. They understood that God has the ability to work within evil for his own

good and purpose. How he does that is a mystery and therefore we need not to quickly jump into conclusions when bad things happen. I don’t think there is much mystery in taking away or preventing evil (say changing the minds of Joseph’s brothers) compared to turning their evil deeds into good. Just ponder over that. At the concluding part of the story, in Genesis 50:20, we read that Joseph and his family understood that “what they meant for evil, God meant it for good” so that “many people should be kept alive”. It’s important to note that, God did not terminate evil rather his divine providence brought good out of evil.

In the same vein, God did not end the excruciating pain and suffering our Saviour Jesus Christ went through on the cross because through that pain redemption was being made for us. Isaiah (53:5) rightly states this; “but he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” God has the power to transform what is evil or worse into good that is why we do not have to look down on people or wrongly make conclusions even if everything seems hopeless.

How Does this Apply to the Coronavirus Pandemic?

In this current imperfect (broken) world, almost everyone is scared because of the coronavirus. A whole lot of conspiracy theories have been propounded just to explain the source of the virus. They range from the consumption of bush animals by Chinese, installation of 5G, to being developed in the lab among others. The fatality rate of the virus according to Johns Hopkins University & Medicine (as at 13 th April, 2020) stands at 119,483 and 2,019,320 confirmed cases globally. Currently, no one knows exactly where it came from and definitely this did not come from God. How did I know that? The nature and character of God make me understand that anything that is evil, which seeks to end lives, does not come from him because he is Perfectly Good. That notwithstanding, it is certain that wherever COVID-19 came from, God could have prevented it (because he is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent) but he did not. His exact reasons? I do not know.

Now, how God is going to turn this pandemic for our good, I do not know either but I trust in Him and His divine works. What I am certain about is that if God permitted this pandemic then there is some good that can emerge from it. For instance, I posted on my facebook wall some weeks ago that, “the coronavirus is not good but it is good the world is experiencing this pandemic.” Some friends of mine taught otherwise but what they did not know was that humanity have begun to identify some positive impacts of COVID-19. Few of these are; 1. Governments (Central &; Local) are now doing what they were supposed to be doing long ago. 2. People are becoming more caring, loving, and compassionate.

The earth is recovering from years of pollution since most factories are on hibernations. Immorality in lockdown zones or towns has reduced. 5. Most, if not all, families are now enjoying the bond they should be enjoying long ago. 6. Security is on the increase and due to that people feel safer compared to first since our security forces are on the streets. 7. Premiums are being placed on essential workers. The world is now appreciating the fact that it has placed unnecessary premiums on certain disciplines. 8. Humans are adhering to simple hygienic lessons 9. The innovative desires of Ghanaians have increased and so on. I do not rule out some adverse impacts of this pandemic either.

Some people think that God did not act to prevent this virus from infecting the world or is not acting to save mankind from perishing but what they don’t acknowledge is that just as in the case of Joseph, God has provided and continue to provide scientists and doctors with the knowledge, wisdom and understanding on how the virus operates which may probably lead to the development of a vaccine one day. There are accounts of coronavirus patients being healed by God through prayers and other divine encounters in several parts of the world. These mean that God is not adamant.

Also, there is no way mankind can deal with this virus without God’s divine intervention. If we could we would have dealt with it already. I disagree with people who are of the view that scientists have all the knowledge and wisdom to fight this pandemic.

Scientists may have certain clues about how the virus works or its cure but they need God’s empowerment or enlightenment to totally annihilate this pandemics.

It is obvious, in the spiritual sense, that this imperfect world constantly experiences battles between two forces, good and evil. God, on the side of good, sometimes doesn’t just end evil in order to dominate but works within evil for his good as seen in the lives of Joseph and Jesus Christ. Another example is the Apostle Paul of whom God did not eliminate evil from but exhorted him that his (God’s) grace is sufficient to handle his (Paul’s) pain/suffering even after praying for three times.

I urge fellow believers and even non-believers to stop spearheading conspiracy theories and rather focus on praying and seeking the face of God for a divine intervention. Again, where is God? God is always with us and has never left us. An omnipresent being is always present and never leaves. Then why does God seems adamant during this pandemic? He is not and we should not expect him to be changing his mode of operation by directly interfering in our lives only when calamity strikes.

The omnipotent God who doesn’t interfere directly in our normal lives is the same God who would not directly interfere when misfortunes hit us. Let us all go back and hold God to his word, get on our knees, cry to him and allow him to do what he knows best for this imperfect world.

I acknowledge that things are not the same and will or may not be the same after this pandemic. Let us all adhere to precautionary measures given by Ghana Health Service (GHS) and World Health Organisation (WHO) to prevent the spread and also protect us from contracting the virus. Remember, we may not have definite answers to divine questions being raised but what we know is that we are never alone. God is with us till the end of time (Matthew 28:20b) and has promised to never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:8).

Stay home, Stay safe and God bless you.

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