Where’s God in the Pandemic? Making Sense of the Pain with Four Spiritual Views.

In the United States, we recently reached a grim milestone: 1 in 500 lives have been claimed by the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

Regular readers of this newsletter know that this statistic includes my own mother. You probably know someone who’s died, too. And many more whose lives have been impacted — either through impaired physical health due to long Covid symptoms, loss of income due to disrupted jobs, or strained mental health due the stress of trying to stay safe and sane when the world seems to be turning inside-out.

So what do we ‘do’ about this?

There are many dimensions to consider. But public health and economic questions, as important as they are, don’t really respond to all of our questions about this pandemic, do they?

Questions of the heart remain unanswered.

Many of us wonder — to put it simply — where is God in this pandemic?

In my spiritual journey, I don’t want any question to be off-limits. I want my faith to equip me to meet reality, unflinchingly and with grace.

Otherwise, what’s the point?

My particular path — apprenticeship to Jesus in friendship with God, neighbors, and our planet — asks me to apply my entire heart, mind, being and strength to the question at-hand. I want to pray heartfully, narrate biblically, think theologically, and act faithfully to embody the Kin-dom of God’s good dream on earth, just as it is ‘in heaven.’

Sadly, we Christians don’t always do the best job praying, narrating, thinking and acting these days, especially amid online culture. I don’t know if you saw, but an investigation recently revealed that 19 of the 20 most popular ‘Christian’ pages on Facebook — with a combined reach of hundreds of millions of viewers — are run by Eastern European ‘troll farms’ funded by foreign actors intending to sow dissent and disinformation. And many American Christians have just eaten it up.

That’s why I don’t take it for granted that you’re here, reading this newsletter, which I call (in rather defiant hope) ‘Opti-Mystic Meditations.’ I consider it my sacred charge to bring you better resources than the ‘noise’ you’re likely to encounter on social media.

Discerning how God shows up in the midst of a global pandemic with no end in sight is a big subject. We don’t need to listen to just anyone as we shape our hearts and minds and lives around this era-defining set of questions. And this is why I’m to excited to introduce you to the work of Reverend Gregory Love, PhD.

God and the Coronavirus: Four Christian Perspectives

Professor Love is a pastor and theologian who has been teaching at San Francisco Theological Seminary for over 20 years. He isn’t afraid to ask the hard questions about God’s presence (or absence) in the midst of human suffering. Partnering with SFTS, he recorded this in-depth, six-part series and made it free for everyone.

In this series, Professor Love takes us through four main models of Christian response to the COVID-19 pandemic:

  1. God’s Governance
  2. Soul-Making
  3. God as “Horrified”
  4. A relational, Trinitarian model of human suffering, reinterpreting the above three models in light of the cross and resurrections of Jesus.
What I appreciate about these videos is that Professor Love is the quintessential teacher. He doesn’t tell us what to think, but instead shows us how to think — alongside Scripture, the great tradition(s) of Christian faith, the gifts of reason and conscience, and honoring our own innermost experience of the Divine.

If this sounds interesting to you, you can watch the entire series right here or click the video below:

If you tune in, feel free to comment below and let me know which of these perspectives resonates most with you.

Or if another response stirs you even more deeply, let me know what’s ruminating.

We’ve already been through so much, these past 20 or so months. I can’t predict what’s ahead, but I know that we’re in this together.

PS: San Francisco Theological Seminary is now entering its 150th year of existence. As I’ve partnered with them over the past year, I’ve come to trust their faculty and staff more and more. They’re innovating online, in-person, and ‘hybrid’ learning, offering biblical, theological, contemplative, and interfaith learning opportunities for professionals, ministers, academics, and anyone looking to deepen how they think and live their spiritual journeys. If you’d like the opportunity to study with Professor Love and other world-class educators directly, fill out the query at the bottom of this page and you’ll get some further information!

One Response to Where’s God in the Pandemic? Making Sense of the Pain with Four Spiritual Views.

  1. Joseph Carson October 11, 2021 at 10:34 pm #

    Does Professor Love address the radioactive question “does God’s will on earth require the voluntary self-sacrificial actions of some Christians, at least at times, in non-violently confronting institutional evil, such as law-breaking corporations or government agencies?”

    if not, then in my opinion, he is failing to do what he claims to do in the series on Covid. For instance:

    Did Christian/others in Wuhan fail to blow whistles about unsafe, if not unlawful, practices at its virology lab that result in the covid pandemic? Did they fail to do so because they put “love of self” before ‘love of neighbor” in protecting their professional standing and economic security?

    How much is the lack of trust Americans now have in their institutions – manifested in the resistance to vaccines/masks/etc. – justifiable given how much institutions as corporations and government agencies have lied to the public in the past/present?

    How much of less than trustworthy institutional behavior the result of the failure of Christian/others who witness it to do other than bystand to it?

    How much is Professor Love putting his professional standing and economic security before other considerations in “NOT GOING THERE” in this series?

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