Saturday, August 11, 2012
Where Is God in All This Suffering?
For those who are hurting, who have suffered loss, have had their hearts broken, or have experienced devastation in their lives, where can one find real comfort? To the mother of three young children who is facing a double mastectomy and months of chemotherapy and radiation; or the young couple whose child was killed in a tragic car accident; or the family who lost everything they own in a house fire; or the young wife whose husband drowns in the ocean on their honeymoon... What words of comfort can we offer? What can we say to the homeless, the starving, imprisoned, impoverished, or abused to bring hope in such situations? Words can seem so empty, and God can seem so elusive at times. "How can you say that God is a merciful and loving God if He allowed this to happen to me?" you might ask. "How do I even know He is real?"
Well, this is quite a concept to tackle, but I can say without a doubt that yes, God is real, and He is a merciful and loving God. He is sovereign, and His ways are awesome beyond comprehension. He is our comforter, our peace, and our helper in times of trouble or sorrow. It is not He who has failed us when we suffer, but He is the one who comforts us and brings us through our pain. He turns the suffering into something magnificent in our lives, if we let Him. Where the rubber meets the road is in how we preceive our suffering. The way we choose to respond to life's unfairness is what determines how we make it through. Grieving is a natural process that takes time, but we must see the bigger picture in suffering and pain in our lives to have the proper perspective. Before I tackle this topic, the important thing to remember is that "This too shall pass." It is just a temporary setback, and you will make it through. God will never leave you; His comfort is readily available; and He has a perfect plan for you.
Some do not find it difficult to accept that when sin entered the world, death and destruction accompanied it. John 10:10 reminds us that Satan's purpose in this world is to "steal, kill, and destroy." That is what he is all about, and he will stop at nothing to bring misery into your life. He is the root of all evil, pain, sickness, tragedy, fear, and sadness. However, what gets difficult to understand is that nothing happens without God allowing it. Everything we experience is filtered through a loving God. But, how can that be? Does that even make sense? Certainly He never causes grief or sorrow, so why would He allow it if He is truly a loving God?
Here is where the big picture comes in. Once you understand what the root cause of suffering is and that God is never the source of it, then you can understand God's ultimate plan a little more clearly. Suffering is merely a result of living in a fallen world. When man was created, he was given a free will, and God loves us enough to not to interfere with our free will. He allows man to choose life or death, blessings or cursings. In the beginning, when Adam and Eve chose to disobey God and eat of the forbidden fruit, they relinquished control to the devil. That gave him the power to wreak havoc in the world, causing all tragedy, sickness, and death. Unfortunately, innocent victims are also hurt in the process.
So, where is the hope in this? First of all, God warned us that we would have difficulties in this world, but not to lose heart because He has won the victory in this world. Again, He is not the cause of suffering, but He has made a way to overcome it. John 16:33 says, "I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” Because He has overcome, we will too. What hope that brings! However, not only does God give hope for future victory, but utmost comfort in the middle all of our trials as well.
He sees and understands all that we go through. He identifies with everything we experience in our lives because Jesus came to the earth to experience it all first hand. He knows loss and grief personally; therefore, He knows exactly how to comfort us. He has promised to walk with us and to never leave or forsake us. He holds us in His arms and carries us through it. He lovingly caresses us when we hurt. It is only He that can heal our hearts. "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed." Psalms 34:18. Now that is a loving and merciful God!
The hope and comfort He brings is not only while we are in the midst of our trouble, but the big picture includes an eternal perspective of suffering. While we are in the depth of our pain, it is sometimes difficult to see beyond it, and we can feel that we have been abandoned. However, the love and mercy of the Lord is that He not only comforts us when we hurt, but He continues to do a far greater work in us through it. While He allows us to experience sorrow, He promises that it will ultimately bring good into our lives. He is more concerned with our character than our comfort, and He understands that sometimes it is necessary to endure and overcome a struggle so that He can show His love to us and bring about victory, character growth and development, and enduring glory into our lives. After all, if we had never had a problem, how would we know that God could solve it? If we never hurt, how would we know that God can comfort us? Romans 8:28 says, "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." 2 Corinthians 4:17. "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." Romans 8:18.
Those words bring so much comfort to me, knowing that ultimately, everything I go through will work out for my good. I am so encouraged to know that no matter how bad it gets here on earth, He is working something so much better in us through it. In the big picture, suffering ends and a much greater glory is revealed in us. James admonishes us in chapter 1, verses 2-4, "Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing." So, don't lose heart, and don't look at your problems through such a finite lens. See your life through a Godly perspective, and allow Him to complete the work in you. He is doing something good in your life. He really is! You may not see it now, but you will one day.
Remember that His purpose is eternal, and the temporary troubles we face today will one day end forever. He has promised to "wipe away all tears." Isaiah 25:8. He has promised that "Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning." Psalms 30:5. The ultimate purpose in all of this is that through everything we endure, we will be "conformed to the likeness of His Son." Romans 8:29. What could be better?
So, don't doubt God when life doesn't make sense. Whatever you have gone through, or whatever horror you have witnessed on this earth, don't lose perspective. God is a good God. His love and mercy endure forever. Rather than turning to Him in anger, turn to Him for comfort. He is everything you need and more. And one day, you will be able to comfort someone else with the very same comfort you received from the Holy Spirit. 2 Corinthians 1:4.