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BY GREG CASTILLA
IN TIMES of great crisis like now with the unspeakable suffering that the coronavirus has inflicted on so many people, young and old alike, it’s more than natural for people to ask: Where is God? Asking the question is almost a cry for help.
The God that I learned from my Jesuit friends and teachers was all-loving and all-powerful appears to be missing and insensitive to the thousands of people afflicted by this global pandemic. God seems so far away at the time that we need Him the most.
So many people, me included, want to know why God won’t stop the spread of coronavirus. More and more I feel like I am living in a new normal that’s characterized by fear, anxiety, uncertainty, sadness and violence.
This pandemic has become a lightning rod for many people as they look for answers on how to cope with this malady.
Some of the answers are just beyond me. They are unthinkable, divisive and outright unchristian.
There are those who have already advocated for the health of the nation’s economy and the stock market over the sanctity of human life.
Some doctors, due to lack of ventilators and other medical equipment, have to make the tough decision of prioritizing the health of the young over the elderly.
Reports of hate crimes against Asian-Americans are on the rise. The Chinese are blamed for creating this virus and bringing it to the US. But the violence is not limited to the Chinese, but to all Asians lumped together.
Recently, two women, thought to be in their 70s, engaged in a fist fight outside of Fred Meyer in Renton, Washington, because one cut the other in a line during senior citizen hour. This coronavirus has the effect of making people easily lose their patience.
Gun sales are on the rise as homeowners prepare for any eventuality as people are laid off.
So, again, where is God? Why doesn’t this powerful God wave His magic wand and eradicate this coronavirus? He’ll make so many people relieved and happy, more understanding and secure.
I asked the same question when, as a teenager, I was told that one of my older brothers died when he was only 7 years old. I did not even have the chance to know him or play with him. My parents explained that he had developed a skin disease that could have been the result of eating fish caught through dynamite fishing. If true, my brother was poisoned by uncaring fishermen in our town.
It’s the same question that everybody asks when suffering of whatever kind strikes. And the question becomes more complicated when only certain people suffer and not everybody. It’s a mind-boggling question.
Philosophers and theologians for centuries have dissected the problem of suffering. They have come up with various answers that range from suffering as a punishment for our sins to suffering as a form of karma to suffering as a result of one’s weakness in one’s devotion to God.
That suffering is also a way of testing our faith in God is a common belief by many Christians. Did God test my 7-year-old brother by allowing him to be poisoned? That makes God so heartless.
I continue to search for answers to why God would not stop the Covid-19 virus that continues to kill thousands of people.
Truthfully, I really do not know the answer. So where do I go for comfort and strength during these challenging times?
Fortunately, it’s not all suffering that I see. When I look at the bravery of the first responders and frontliners – the doctors, the nurses, the firefighters, the physical therapists, the medical staff, the lab technicians and the police – who are saving lives, I see selflessness overpowering pain.
When I look at the massive humanitarian efforts in the form of fundraising and food drives to help the poor and those who have been laid off, I see magnanimity overpowering hopelessness.
When I see the grocery store cashiers, baggers and stockers risking contamination to serve the community, I see goodness overcoming fear.
Yes, I still do not know the answer why God does not stop the spread of coronavirus. But I do know that God is in every one of us.
He is in the hearts of the many first responders and front liners. He is in the midst of all the humanitarian activities. He is in the heart of every person working hard to find a cure to this malady. He is in the hearts of netizens who offer comfort to those left behind by their dead loved ones. He is in homes where families are drawn closer together. He is in neighbourhoods where everyone is willing to lend a helping hand to one another.
When the coronavirus crisis is over – and it will – the question that I will ask is no longer: Where is God? But what has become of me because of the coronavirus crisis? What lessons have I learned from such a life-changing event?