Why does God allow pain? Why does evil so often seem to win? If God is so powerful and so good, why doesn’t He just stop all the mass shootings or sexual abuse or chronic pain or never-ending sickness? Can’t He see what’s going on? Does He even care? Why does He allow us to suffer?
In the past 2 months, one of my former team members and closest friends died in a car accident. He had a wife and 1-year-old son. He was serving God with his whole heart and had an incredibly contagious passion to reach everyone with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The week after his funeral, a deputy from my county was ambushed and killed. He also had a wife and 2 little girls. Since then, there have been at least 11 other officers shot and killed in the U.S. And then there are the mass shootings. 17 dead at a high school in Florida yesterday afternoon, apparently because the shooter had been expelled from the school.
Maybe you’re like me and going through a chronic sickness on top of the national events. Some have answers and diagnosis of the pain. Some, like me, don’t. Some can get relief through meds or diet. Some can’t. Many are praying that God would heal – scripture says God is the Healer of all.
So why doesn’t He?
Why does He seem so far away or silent? Why can’t He just stop the criminals before they pull out a gun and shoot? Why doesn’t He just take away the pain? Why did God have to take someone’s life—how does that possibly bring Him even more glory?
The psalmists had similar questions.
Awake! Why do You sleep, O Lord? Arise! Do not cast us off forever. Why do You hide Your face, and forget our affliction and our oppression? For our soul is bowed down to the dust; our body clings to the ground. Arise for our help, and redeem us for Your mercies’ sake.Psalm 77:1-10a
I cried out to God with my voice—to God with my voice; and he gave ear to me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: my hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing: my soul refused to be comforted. I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah.You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times. I call to remembrance my song in the night: I meditate within my heart, and my spirit makes diligent search.Will the Lord cast off forever? And will He be favorable no more? Has His mercy ceased forever? Has His promise failed forevermore? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies? Selah. And I said, “This is my anguish…”
We all want answers. We all think we know the best way or how things should be. We all want relief from the pain and suffering. But I have come to realize an intensely sweet fellowship that comes through the suffering. Philippians 3:10 says, “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection.” Many of us stop there. Yes, I want to know Christ and the power that comes through God raising Jesus from the dead! (If you don’t know Christ, I beg you: know your God. He is a God of love and only does what is right and best, even when we don’t feel it sometimes.)
But the verse doesn’t stop there. “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed (or made like Him) in His death.” It is a privilege to suffer, because we actually get to have a companionship with Jesus that others just don’t understand. With my chronic sickness, I can’t tell you how real Jesus has become to me. It’s no longer just facts that I know about God or reading my Bible every day. I literally have no other hope. In Christ ALONE my hope is found. He is my light, my strength, my song. He is the One who heals. He is the One who is with me in the pain. He is with Matt’s wife. He is with the officers’ families. He is with the school kids’ families and other students. God. Is. Here.
God allows us to see the evil and pain and suffering in this world to cause us to long for Heaven—yearn for the day when all will be made right. In the mean time, we wait. We cry. We suffer. We sin. But we still trust in the God Who is Sovereign over all.
Sometimes the psalmists get answers. Psalm 73 is full of the whys and where are yous. And Asaph was overwhelmed until he prayed and went into the sanctuary of God. Then he understood. He concludes with praising God for Who He is.
Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, That I may declare all Your works.
Sometimes, no answers or explanation is given. Yet still, the psalmists chose to set their eyes on the One who never changes and always does good. They chose to remember God’s blessings, His mighty works. They chose to see the good and meditate on that, when all the good around them seemed to crumble. And they chose to believe that there is no one and no thing as great as our God. We may not have answers to our questions, and we may never get them until Heaven. But we can still choose to trust.
…but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High. I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will also meditate on all Your work, and talk of Your deeds. Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary: who is so great a God as our God?
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