A question sceptics of the Bible often ask is: Why does God allow suffering?
One possible explanation is that times of suffering and hardship force a person’s true character to come to the surface.
Most of the time we humans can be very adept at hiding our true selves behind the polished and refined exterior that we choose to show to the world.
When life is comfortable, when we are not facing any great need or struggling with any problems outside of our control, it’s relatively easy to keep up that mask.
When hardship comes our way, when our problems are completely outside of our control, our true character shines through, for better or worse.
Today the entire world faces ever-increasing fear and chaos as a result of the coronavirus. Every day more people are infected by the virus. Every day it takes more people’s lives.
Some people react admirably, reaching out to help those worse off than themselves – for example going out to buy food or essentials for elderly or vulnerable neighbours who are most at risk from the consequences of infection.
Some people react out of fear and self-preservation, stockpiling and hoarding large amounts of essential supplies, making it difficult for others to get what they need.
Some people react despicably, using the desperation of others to line their own pockets – for example buying up huge quantities of essential supplies such as hand sanitiser or dried food and then selling it on again for a huge profit.
Jesus said that the only place on Earth that evil and selfishness come from is inside the hearts of human beings:
“For from within, out of the human heart, come evil ideas, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, evil, deceit, debauchery, envy, slander, pride, and folly. All these evils come from within and defile a person.” (Mark 7:21-23)
Jesus also said that the things we value in life will determine what is in our hearts.
“Do not accumulate for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But accumulate for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21)
As we face the threat of the coronavirus we must ask ourselves where our priorities lie: caring for others worse off than ourselves or simply looking out for number one?
One of Jesus’ closest friends also spoke of a time in the future when life will be very different:
“He [God] will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death will not exist any more – or mourning, or crying, or pain, for the former things have ceased to exist” (Revelation 21:4)
As a Christian I recognise my responsibility to care for anyone who needs my help, but I also have a hope of a time when nobody will have to live in fear of illness or want.