Where is God when life hurts?
This is one of life's most profound questions for both believers and non-believers.
Believers wonder where God's goodness and grace is, as they patiently wait on it to appear.
Non-believers find this to be one of the biggest hang-ups to accepting God's offer of grace in Christ.
I have heard these questions frequently from people:
- How could a good God allow evil to happen?
- Why does God allow children to starve in other parts of the world?
- Why does God allow tragedy, pain and death to take away those we love?
- Why am I taking so long to grow more like Christ?
All of us encounter pain and suffering.
And as our world grows more globally connected, we hear about pain and suffering in other parts of the world more than any other generation in history.
It can be easy to be overwhelmed and discouraged by all of it. It is possible for our faith to suffer because of it.
Here are 5 helpful answers to these important questions, and more:
1. God told us this life would hurt
God did not set up our world to be utopia. He made heaven for that. He gives each of us a choice on this earth - to choose His ways and walk in His peace, or to choose our own way, which leads to destruction and pain.
God isn't the author of most of the pain and destruction in our world. Most of that comes from the world, the flesh and the devil.
So much of the pain and tragedy in this world is caused by our collective sin. But too often we don't see our sin well enough. Psalm 36:2 says, "In their own eyes they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their sin."
We need to realize that we are good at messing things up. God is good at cleaning things up.
Many tragedies in this world are caused by the enemy of our souls, the devil, who "goes around like a roaring lion," and spends all his time trying to "steal, kill and destroy." The devil would just love for us to blame all the chaos and destruction he causes in our world on God.
God told us this life would hurt, but he also sent us a Savior who will comfort us like no one else can, and God is always working in our lives to make all things new, if we only allow Him in.
2. There's more to life than this life
We were not made for this life alone. We were made to live forever. This is why every person on earth knows deep in their bones that they have "eternity in their hearts." We all sense this in our core.
This world is not our home, we're just passing through. There's more to life than this life.
So we can't judge God's justice or goodness by this life alone. We have to consider His goodness for all of eternity.
Eternity... where those who trusted in Jesus... even those who faced pain, hunger, tragedy and death in life - will enter into eternal joy in the presence of God forever:
"He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)
3. Sometimes it's difficult to see what God is doing
Even while we know this earth will not be perfect, we yearn for God to respond to our prayers, and bring wholeness. And often he does over time.
But in a single difficult moment, it can be hard to see what God is doing.
Open the Psalms and read a few chapters, and you will quickly see it's been the cry of God's people for thousands of years to question and plead for God to bring justice, healing, answers to prayers.
But we don't always see the answers to our prayers quickly. And sometimes stories even end in tragedy or death - making it difficult at times to see what God is doing.
Paul said, "Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely." (1 Corinthians 13:12)
In moments where it is difficult to see what God is doing, we must trust in God's past faithfulness, and future promises.
4. there's always more positive than negative
Don't get stuck in the negative. See the good too.
Even while this earth is full of pain and death, it is also overflowing with the love and goodness of God. (see Psalm 33:5)
Paul reminds us to spend our lives focusing on the things that are "lovely, pure, noble, and of good report."
Victor Frankyl showed in Man's Search for Meaning that someone can face the greatest horrors in history, and still choose to see the good in any given set of circumstances.
Don't spend all your time focusing on the negative. You don't need to deny it, or lie about it, but allow grace, the pure grace of God, to consume your soul far more than anything.
God doesn't always give us the answers we seek, but He does always give us more of Himself.
As Matt Chandler has said, "The good news of the gospel is that you get Jesus, regardless of your circumstances." And for those of us who have experienced Jesus, there is nothing better, even in the midst of the confusion of this world.
5. God has called on you
It's not enough to complain. We must be the answer to these problems. We can't say God is silent when our Bible is closed. God has called on us over and over and over in His Word to answer the cries of the hungry, the broken and those in need of help.
Sometimes God intervenes miraculously in people's lives, but all of the time God has called on us to intervene and bring help in His Name.
Children starving? Let's be the hands and feet of Jesus and bring food. I just had the privilege to do this in Nicaragua, one of the poorest countries in our hemisphere - bringing nutritious food to 80 families, including children, that spend their days in the city dump - looking for leftover food scraps to eat, and recyclables to sell. We brought them food, and the organization we went with, feedONE, is working on bringing children just like them food and education in feeding themselves sustainably so future generations always have enough food to eat. feedONE's motto is from Mother Theresa: "If you can't feed one hundred people, then just feed one." Mother Theresa has also said, "Every one of us can do something to help the poor." You can provide life saving food and nutrition to a hungry child in some of the poorest areas of the world for just $10 a month. I'm not sure of many of us who wouldn't be able to do this - but how many of us are? Just start with what you can do.
People dying? Let's use the untapped minds God's entrusted to us to come up with vaccines and solutions to the diseases that plague our world. This has been the history of science and medicine in our world. It has often been Christ followers who believed God had commissioned them in His Word to meet needs, that have come up with most of the medical and scientific breakthroughs in human history.
So many needs around the world are being met, while yet so many more remain and spring up.
One thing I know, we simply cannot remain complacent, and blame God, when He has clearly called on us, and most of us could easily do more about the pressing needs around the world.