As humans, we are finite creatures. We possess finite knowledge. We also have limits to our understanding regarding the significance of events of life around us each day. We construct theories, which might even contain false assumptions. This is true from forecasting the weather, to predicting or even interpreting the events of the day. We humans are sense makers and like to know the “why” to life.
For the Christian, we look to the Bible as a source of wisdom and understanding as we navigate and interpret daily life. Even the non-religious can see sage wisdom in the words of Christ. The greatest danger is when we go beyond what is written. Paul discusses this in 1 Corinthians 4:5-6. He cautions against judging before the appointed time and says, “do not go beyond what is written.” In other words, we must be careful when we think we speak for God himself. Just remember, God is very capable to speak for himself; even the “rocks cry out” to one who wants to listen (Luke 19:40).
Regarding illness or suffering, let me give a few examples of the danger in making assumptions beyond our knowledge. In 2 Kings 15:4-5, it specifically states that a king is struck with leprosy as a result of his wrong action. In Job, he is struck with illness specifically because of his right action. While finally, in John 9:3, it is assumed that the boy was born blind because of his or his parents’ wrong actions, but Jesus corrects the assumptions stating the reason is that “work of God might be displayed.” Three illnesses, each for different reasons — none of the reasons would be clear except God has specifically revealed them. We all must beware of specific assumptions in specific situations.
Yes, all suffering is the result of a fallen world; this we do know. Suffering will one day end, but in God’s timing; once again we do not know the specifics. Neither do we always know the specifics of the events around us each day. In our sense-making desire, we have the urge to make assumptions regarding the events around us. However, to speak for God, as to his specifics is a dangerous position. Prophets were held personally accountable for such actions.
A surgical knife can be lifesaving when handled with the honed skill of a surgeon or a weapon of death if slashed about carelessly. Wisdom is in the correct handling of the Truth of Scripture (2 Timothy 2:15-18). Going beyond what is written and applying it indiscriminately is destructive to the speaker and the hearer (Ephesians 4:29) and lacks wisdom.
COVID-19 is yet another challenge to our life in this world. Can we speak for God and say why it is here? Yes, in sweeping generalities, suffering is from sin. However, the specifics of COVID are beyond our purview. What is not beyond our purview are the lessons to be learned and relearned from COVID.
Let us list just a few of such lessons.
Humans are mortal.
Life here will have suffering and suffering can be an opportunity.
Science can be used to reduce suffering, but does not extend life beyond the grave.
Many things are beyond our personal control.
People can be selfish and hoard even toilet paper.
Humans can be selfless and risk their lives for another.
These COVID lessons in total recount what the Bible has taught for more than a millennium. The material life here on earth, studied and affected by science, is just not the entire story. There are immaterial constructs all around us, like compassion, greed, worry and worth. These entities have an immense role in living and processing and giving meaning to everyday life itself. Why do these immaterial concepts prove to be such important issues? They provide an opportunity, beyond the science and even suffering. An opportunity is to see life as MORE, more than the material. Jesus stated it like this, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”
Edmonds is an elder at Community Bible Chapel in Toddsville.