What if God meant COVID-19 for good?

by Mary E. Stephens
Oct. 2020

Romans 8:26-39 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

It's a curious thing, but Romans 8:28 gets taken out of context a lot and used by itself. This isn't necessarily bad, but I think sometimes we fail to appreciate its context in the passage. As we are living through such a strange time right now, it might be a good idea to consider how and why God might be using the coronavirus and the disruptions of life for good to His children.

Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

We often don't know what to pray for as we should. We don't always know what God would have for us. But, His Spirit does. This is a very comforting thought if we remember that He's working for our good. It can be quite frightening when we start to question if God's intentions are good, or if we are afraid that what He thinks is good for us is something we don't want to experience. (Ouch.)

Romans 8:27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

God searches our hearts and also knows the mind of the Spirit, who makes intercession for us according to God's will, not man's will, not our will.

What is the mind of the Spirit in a general sense? I think we get some idea from what Jesus said in John 16:13-14, Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.

So, the Spirit of God intends to guide us into all truth, to speak what God tells Him to speak, to show us things to come, and to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ (not Himself!).

Do you think that God could have kept the COVID pandemic from happening or from being so bad? Yes, of course. He is God Almighty. So, it must be God's will for us to experience this. That will be more or less difficult to accept depending on how much trouble and grief this has caused you in your own life.

Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Because this verse is used so often and so personally, I think we don't always think about what it all means. Since the Spirit helps our infirmities and makes intercession for the saint - all true believers - according to the will of God, therefore we know all things work together for good to them that love God. That's plural - not singular, not personal. It isn't me by myself, or you by yourself that He is working for. God means for others to benefit from His work in all things as well.

Whatever happens, the Lord can use it to bring good to the body of Christ - all the called. It may not always feel like it brought good to you or to me as an individual, but God can use these things together to bring good to His saints.

Why and how?

Ephesians 4:15-16 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

Ephesians 5:29-30 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.

It is for the purpose of edifying the body and nourishing it. We are connected to Christ who is the head, and the spiritual body - the church - is meant to spread the effectual working and nourishment so that it all may increase and be edified in love. It works like a physical body where the nourishment and care is passed throughout for the benefit of the whole. This is how our experiences are meant to work for good to all them that love God.

We read in 1 Corinthians 12:20, But now are they many members, yet but one body. And then in verse 26, And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.

Whatever happens to one member is meant to affect the body as a whole. So, if some of us are going through a situation or a difficulty, God will be able to use it for the good of the saints - to all who are called according to His purpose. Sometimes when we can't see the good it is doing for us personally it may be that it is because the good is meant to flow through us to someone else in the body.

It seems to me that the way Romans 8:28 is sometimes used is a bit selfish, really. As if it were all about us instead of about Jesus Christ and His body. I came to think some time ago that it really has this broader meaning of working good, even though it can sometimes feel very personal at the same time.

Romans 8:29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

We are meant to be conformed to the image of His Son. How does that happen? Often, or usually, through suffering. Hebrews 5:8 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; If Jesus learned obedience through suffering, we will too. We are called to follow His steps, and His example leads through suffering. 1 Peter 2:21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:

Romans 8:30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

"Called according to His purpose" means predestined to conformation to the image of Jesus Christ. This means learning patience in unpleasant situations and suffering in the will of God. 1 Peter 3:17 For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.

Romans 8:31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

None. Everything that reaches us must pass through the hand of God first, and He only allows what is for our good as the body of Christ.

Romans 8:32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

He gave His own Son for our good. He gives us all things through Him, but sometimes conforming to His image comes through trials and difficulties.

Romans 8:33-34 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

It is God that justifies us. We are not condemned because Jesus Christ died and rose again and makes intercession for us at the very throne of God. And, our high priest who intercedes for us understand suffering. Hebrews 4:15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

Romans 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

Now look where this is heads. Not to prosperity and a resolution of all our earthly problems. Not to "the good life" or luxury and success. But to tribulations, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril and the sword. Because that is real life. We cannot escape it. But, it can't separate us from the love of Christ, and God has promised to work it for our - collective - good.

Romans 8:36-37 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

Even if we die, we are more than conquerors through Him! We are never defeated as we stand in Christ. Even when it looks like we are.

Romans 8:38-39 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

"Things present" includes COVID, lockdowns, illness, shortages, loss, loneliness, death. It even includes masks. And, may I just say that thinking wearing masks is a terrible trial looks pretty silly in the face of some of these other things, doesn't it?

"Things to come" includes elections, the decline and fall of nations (including the U.S.), loss of freedoms, persecutions, economic collapse, illness, death - whatever you are fearing.

"Any other creature" includes protestors, presidents, viruses, and more.

"Death" includes from diseases or vaccines or persecutions or protestors.

"Life" includes a life of misery or illness, being a long-hauler with COVID and not knowing if you will ever be well. It includes a life with fewer comforts, luxuries, and even necessities than we have been accustomed to enjoy.

"Angels" includes Satan and his fallen spirit servants.

"Principalities" and "powers" includes governments and those in power.

None of these things can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. We aren't called to have perfect lives free from troubles and trials, but we are promised that God can work things for good and He will never stop loving us - because of Jesus Christ our Lord. That is a thought that is hard to grasp in our limited minds, but it is also a great comfort. Our hope is not in earthly things, but in knowing that God will never stop loving us for any reason.

Let's think about this passage in the context of COVID.

A lot of Christians have been complaining about various things related to COVID. Admittedly, there have been poor choices by those in power and by individuals. It doesn't matter which side you are on, there are always "reasons" to complain.

But, if God can work it together for good to us - and He promises He will - then why all the focus on perceived "bad" outcomes and negative things? And there surely are plenty of negative things to focus on these days!

How can there be good outcomes? Can God really use this for good, even now?

What if God is using this to show more Christians that they can or need to homeschool? What if this is the answer to prayer to that mom who wanted to homeschool and her husband wouldn't let her? What if this is the deliverance some kid needed to escape bullying or learning in an evil environment? I know these things are happening.

What if God used this to help some young people find options for college where they could stay at home because that is where God wants them right now? What if this released them from the peer pressure that says they need to "escape" their parents or get out on their own?

What if God is using this to help some couples discover that they can live on one income after all, if they get rid of all the unnecessary expenses, and the wife can stay home? I have heard of this happening.

What if companies are realizing that letting people work from home can work and now some wives and mothers are able to work but be at home too? Also, what if some men are able to be with their families a lot more and have more input in their lives? My dad and I have personally benefitted from having my husband working from home this year.

What if some women (or men) who were in abusive marriages have been forced to face it and get out and get help? What if children are delivered from an abusive father because the mother finally finds out what has been going on behind her back? Well, that is a somber though, and yet it could be true as well, and certainly would be good.

What if God is forcing a lot of good churches to finally get on with internet live streaming so that shut-ins and those who live where there aren't good churches have access to sound Bible teaching? This is another one I have personally benefitted from. What if the access to these biblical ministries helps someone somewhere escape bad doctrine? What if it helps someone to be born again because it reaches them where they are when they would never have entered a church building?

What if God wanted more Christian musicians who sing Christ-honoring music to put their music on the internet? What if He wanted them to give more freely of the free gifts He has given them? Because that is happening too.

What if God wants more churches to create home groups so that smaller groups can meet together when the whole congregation cannot? Do you realize how useful this could be in a time like this or during persecution or war? Some Bible believing churches won't even consider such things because they are mentally chained to their buildings. Look in the New Testament. You won't find that in the early church. Many met in homes. This is something that we need to talk about and act upon for the sake of future usefulness as well as present.

What if God is using COVID to inspire His children to serve one another more without hope of monetary gain?

What if God wants His children to make more of an effort to reach out to each other between meetings and cutting us off from the building was the only way to get that to happen? Hmmm.

What if God wanted us to value our own families and spouses more so He made us all spend more time together?

What if our hearts had to break for the people in nursing homes and limited care facilities so that we would try harder to visit them when we can?

What if God wants us to see the level of rebellion in our own cultures and in our own hearts over something as simple as masks or social distancing so that we would deal with the deeper, uglier rebellion that is generally ignored? What if we needed to re-evaluate our attitude towards "our rights" and think about how our actions and choices affect others - even in potentially causing someone's death?

What if we needed to learn to be thankful for and to enjoy simple pleasures again? What if some Christians need to realize that their lives are cluttered with things of no eternal value?

What if we needed to learn how to spend time together again? What if we needed to enjoy things that we had forgotten how to enjoy?

What if we needed to grow gardens? Enjoy sunshine? Find small, free pleasures that make life sweet? Read more books? Laugh together? Really see the kids growing and changing? Listen? Sing? Appreciate the mundane things we take for granted, like getting in the car and going to the grocery store any time we feel like it?

What if we needed to be lonely so we would remember those who are alone? What if we needed to be inconvenienced so that we would appreciate those who struggle to do everything? What if we needed to be limited so that we could be more understanding to those with limitations we don't have? What if we needed to feel lost, alone, and out of control so that we would recognize and reach those who are lost and alone and don't know how to live?

What if we needed to be put in a place where we remember we need God, we need His care, we need His amazing attention to details, we need His very present help, and His everlasting love?

What if we needed to be reminded of what hopelessness looks like so that we would get back to helping the hopeless?

What if God is reminding us that life is fragile and short, so that we will be more diligent to redeem the time?

What if the only way we would ever see the wastefulness and foolishness of modern life was to be shut away from a lot of it for awhile?

And I wonder - are we listening?

God is working COVID for good, but if we dig in our heels and refuse to be part of His plan, we can cheat ourselves and others of the good He intends. We cannot lose His love, but we may miss the blessing He meant for us to receive and to pass on to others.

Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Do you love God? If so, do you choose to be among those who are actively looking for all things to work together for good?

Psalm 27:13 I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.

Proverbs 17:20 He that hath a froward heart findeth no good...

If you harden your heart and look only for evil, you will find it. You will not see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living if you live in unbelief. Instead you will faint in the day of trouble.

Psalm 84:11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.

God intends to work good through everything for those who love Him. He will not withhold anything that is good for us. If you are not finding good somewhere in the tragedy of COVID maybe you need to examine your own heart.

"Disappointment -- His Appointment"
Change one letter, then I see
That the thwarting of my purpose
Is God's better choice for me.
His appointment must be blessing,
Tho' it may come in disguise,
For the end from the beginning
Open to His wisdom lies...

"Disappointment -- His Appointment"
"No good thing will He withhold,"
From denials oft we gather
Treasures of His love untold,
Well He knows each broken purpose
Leads to fuller, deeper trust,
And the end of all His dealings
Proves our God is wise and just.

- Edith Lillian Young

 


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graphics and backgrounds by Mary Stephens
Oct. 2020.