Currently, I have a family member in the ICU. She’s been in the hospital for over a week now, and due to the Coronavirus outbreak not one of her family members or friends can visit. I understand the pain and grief that my family is in as they sit idly by waiting for calls from the hospital. But imagining the isolation and loneliness that the hospital without a loved one must bring is unsettling. Being able to hold firm to the promise that “the Lord does whatever pleases Him” is a comforting thought. It is not cruel, defeating, or deflating. Rather, it has built my spirit and bolstered my faith. In the midst of a global pandemic, where grief, despair, and uncertainty are plaguing the world, Psalm 135:6 brings hope and peace to the darkest of our quarantine times.
What Is the Meaning of Psalm 135:6?
Before we answer the question of God’s pleasure in regard to the Coronavirus, we must first look at Psalm 135 as a whole. Although there is no known author for this specific Psalm, many scholars believe the psalm was written to call people to renew their faith and gratitude in God. The psalm starts by praising the God of Israel, who is ‘good’ and ‘pleasant’. It then goes on to state that He is “great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the Lord pleases, He does”. The author makes the claim that God is in control of the heavens, the earth, the air, the wind, all kings, rulers, men and beast. All people and all things are in His hands, and we are to “bless the Lord”.
In verse 6, we also see a cross-reference to Psalm 115:3, where the author states “Our God is in the heavens; He does all that He pleases”. Both of these psalms were written to the Israelite nation, reminding them that God alone is worthy of their trust and worship. In each, we see the author call out God’s good, gracious sovereignty and power while urging the people to lay down their idols and put their faith in the Lord alone. Based on the statements made by these two psalms, and scripture as a whole, we can infer that yes, the Coronavirus brings pleasure to the Lord. The question we must now ask is, in what way?
How Can We Interpret This Verse in Light of the Coronavirus?
There is a sense in which God is pleased with what is happening in the world. Because of the providence of God, we know that God is controlling the current state of the Coronavirus. God is sovereign, all-powerful, all-wise, and intimately involved in His creation. In the Bible, we see that God is pleased with the Coronavirus because we know that nothing happens outside of God’s control (Isaiah 46:8-11), and He is pleased with all that He does (Psalm 135:6).
There is nothing too hard for God (Jeremiah 32:27). Nothing has happened in the world that God has not commanded, both good and bad (Lamentations 3:37-38). He created man and has complete authority over man’s body. For “who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” (Exodus 4:11). He gives life, and He brings death; He wounds and He heals (Deuteronomy 32:39). His counsel will stand, and no purpose of His can be thwarted (Isaiah 46:10, Job 42:2). He alone is the God over all creation (Psalm 103:19).
When we look at the Bible as a whole, we see that Psalm 135:6, in light of the coronavirus pandemic, means that God is pleased. However, there is also a sense in which God is not pleased. God is not pleased with the death of His creation. He was grieved in the garden as sin and death entered the world, and He is still grieved today as people are suffering and dying.
“Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?” – Ezekiel 33:11
God does not desire death for His creation. He finds no pleasure in it. He wants His creation to flourish and find abundant life in Him. Because these two points can seem somewhat contradictory to our finite minds, (God being pleased with the coronavirus but not pleased with death), we can glean wisdom from 2 Peter 3:9, as he gives light to the purpose of our suffering:
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
In the midst of suffering, whether it be a global pandemic, fluke accident, or a sick family member, we know that God is not pleased with the perishing of people but desires all people to come to salvation. Even though God does not desire our perishing, He uses suffering to bring people to salvation.
What Truth about God Should We Hold Fast to during This Time?
God, in His infinite wisdom and power, planned the salvation of the world to come through suffering and death. The cross of Christ was not a surprise. It was not a wild turn in the story that God felt confused by. The God-Man, Jesus Christ, stood before a judge, completely innocent, and allowed the world to put Him to death for our sake (Acts 4:27-28). God is not only sovereign over all suffering and death, but He uses it for good purpose. Christ’s sacrifice made the way for us to become children of God. All our sin is forgiven, and we are freed from the sting of death. In the midst of the Coronavirus, we must cling to the cross, knowing that our God did not suffer and die in vain, but that all should come to know Him.
We do not know what specific purposes God is intending for the Coronavirus. For our thoughts are not His thoughts, and our ways not His ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). But we do know that God has a very clear purpose to bring people into His kingdom; to humble humanity and bring about repentance. John 3:16 says:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
God sacrificed His own son, for the sake of our eternal life. Jesus underwent immense anxiety as He sweat blood, awaiting death by suffocation on the cross. He experienced earthly temptation, and the death of loved ones (John 11). He is not a God who leaves us in our pain but empathizes with us. It is in these gracious acts that we are humbled by His deep sacrifice as He calls us to “repent and believe” (Matthew 4:17). Jesus alone offers the hope we need during these uncertain times:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30
In times of darkness and despair, we remember that the cross both calls us to repentance and renders right action.
The Pleasure of Grace and Good Works
As I meditated on Psalm 135:6, I was continually reminded of my own hospital isolation. My youngest daughter was admitted with a virus at two months old, which landed us in an isolation room for two weeks. Separated from my husband, eldest daughter, and community, I wrestled with why this sickness was taking place. I hurt at the thought of my daughter’s tiny sick body, being pleasing to the Lord. I cannot tell you the exact purposes that God has in this global pandemic, but from experience and scripture, I can tell you that God uses all suffering for good (Genesis 50:20). My two-week hospital stay was not easy or fun—watching someone you love suffer is quite excruciating. However, without that time of solitude, I would not be writing this today. I started my very first blog in that hospital room. God took that suffering and began to apply His gospel salve to my broken and cracked heart. He reminded me of His grace, and provided me the time and space to process my pain through words on a page. We may not always see immediate results from our suffering, but we can always trust that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
The world may be sitting in fear, isolation, and anxiety, but we don’t have to. We can rest in the fact that God is sovereignly reigning over our lives and calling people to repentance. We can and are called to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10). I encourage you, friends, do not let this time go to waste. If you are suffering, suffer well by clinging to the promises of God. If you are working and well, pick up groceries for those who have lost a job. Call and pray with those who are completely housebound. Check on your isolated neighbor, or give away your extra masks to healthcare workers who are in need. We need not live as the world during this time, but rather, rest in the fact that “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).
His Pleasure Becomes our Treasure
Friends do not let His good pleasure in the coronavirus, or any other matter, scare you away or harden your hearts in anger. Rather, let His good pleasure mold your heart to His—let it help you see the greatness of who God is.
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” – Hebrews 4:16
Allow these times to humble you, to bring you to action, and to trust and rest in the treasure that God is. There is nothing on this earth—not money, relationship, freedom, food, entertainment, or exercise that can replace the pleasure that God provides for us in Himself. Let the pleasure of who He is, become your ultimate treasure during this uncertain and stagnantly strange time.
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” – Psalm 16:11
- The Pleasures of God – Desiring God
- Surprised by Suffering – Ligonier Ministries
- Coronavirus and Christ – John Piper
- All Things from His Heavenly Hand – Kevin DeYoung
- God’s Sovereignty and Personal Compassion in Public Tragedy – Ask Pastor John
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/AvigatorPhotographer
Stephanie Englehart is a Seattle native, church planter’s wife, mama, and lover of all things coffee, the great outdoors, and fine (easy to make) food. Stephanie is passionate about allowing God to use her honest thoughts and confessions to bring gospel application to life. You can read more of what she writes on the Ever Sing blog at stephaniemenglehart.com or follow her on Instagram: @stephaniemenglehart.