Church of England Diocese of Carlisle Brampton

Plague and Sickness and the Providence of God

This is my reflection on how God is at work in the current crisis.


Saint Paul writes, “And we know that … for those who love God … all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28, ESV)

As Christians, we believe that God is the Creator of all things.

The Providence of God asserts that God is also the sustainer or maintainer of all things. He upholds, directs and governs all things by his most wise and holy providence. The stability we so readily take for granted is due to God maintaining order, and holding back chaos.

In Him all things hold together, day by day and hour by hour. [In short, we depend on God for every breath we take.]

“How,” you might ask, “does that leave room for something like Coronavirus?”

God is not only the primary cause of Creation. He is also the primary cause of the continued activity of the entire universe. To this end, he has set in place secondary causes such as the laws of physics and chemistry and biology, seasons and weather patterns, and human free will, etc.

The problem is that the whole of creation has suffered as a result of the Fall. Paul writes, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in the pains of childbirth until now.” Creation groans be-cause it is waiting to be redeemed (put right).

Creation in all its beauty is there to be respected. When human beings mess around with Creation, there are consequences. Interestingly, in Leviticus 11:19, the Lord tells his people not to eat bats.

God does not usually intervene to alter the course of secondary causes. But God does work through human history (both good and bad) to bring about his good purposes. As the hymn put it …

God is working his purpose out, as year succeeds to year.

So, one aspect of God’s providence is that he maintains the universe by his mighty power. A second aspect of God’s providence is that he is working to bring good out of adversity. We read about this in the life of Joseph, when Joseph tells his brothers who had sold him into slavery:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (Genesis 50:20, ESV)

Throughout the Old Testament we get examples of God, in his providence, bringing good out of evil. We find examples even in the genealogy of Jesus: Judah and Tamar, David and Bathsheba, etc.

But the ultimate example is, of course, Good Friday!

Paul writes, “And we know that … for those who love God … all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28, ESV)

God has not changed. The same God who worked through the life of Joseph, and the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, is every bit as much at work in his world today. This is why Christians can sing with confidence:

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father, there is no shadow of turning with thee.

Thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not; as thou hast been thou for ever wilt be.

The Providence of God means we can endure aging, illness and suffering, in the knowledge that God is continually working to bring about his good purposes in our lives.

What has God been saying to you in this time of adversity?

Paul writes, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, …”

If God is for us, who can be against us? God, in his providence, is working to bring good out of every form of adversity. This might be through medical research, through the work of doctors and nurses, or through the care of friends and neighbours and loved ones.

Or God might be using the circumstances to call lost souls back to Himself.

C.S. Lewis writes this in his book, “The Problem of Pain”, …

“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Pain may well be God’s megaphone. But are we ready to listen?

Revd Stephen Robertson