Last week, I asked the question, “If God is loving, why is the world so evil?” For those of us who have suffered greatly, we may be asking God more personal questions, such as: “Why did you allow this to happen to me?” and “Where were you when I experienced this?” And, quite possibly, this one: “Why didn’t you prevent it?” How does the Bible answer these wrenching questions? Philip Yancey has written a book entitled The Question That Never Goes Away: What Is God Up to in a World of Such Tragedy and Pain?* In his book, Yancey gives three answers to this question:
Answer #1: God is on the side of those who suffer.
He didn’t leave us alone in our suffering. Instead, He sent His Son to earth to redeem it.
Jesus didn’t come to earth with a great display of power, but came instead as a vulnerable child. During His life, Jesus saw all kinds of suffering, but He didn’t give theories about why suffering exists. Instead, He forgave sin, healed the hurting, cast out evil, and even overcame death.
Yancey writes: “For whatever reason, God has chosen to let history take its course.” He doesn’t wave a magic wand; He absorbs suffering in the person of His son, Jesus. Words don’t help during suffering; we need a suffering God. Jesus’ crucifixion was the worst crime in history. So why do we call it Good Friday? Jesus said He could have called on legions of angels to prevent the crucifixion, but He didn’t.
God’s redemption of suffering goes through pain, not around it. Tweet This
Romans 8:28 teaches us about God redeeming suffering:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
This verse can seem horribly insensitive when you are in anguish. Yancey doesn’t believe (as some do) that God sends us suffering to build our character. Instead, He redeems (recycles) the suffering we encounter in the evil world we live in. For example, when I send my used pop cans to the recycling center, I am hoping they will make something useful out of my trash. In a similar way, I am hoping God will make something useful out of the “trash” of the abuse I’ve suffered.
When we are in anguish, we can’t see how God could make anything good out of our tragedy. How will God recycle the abuse you have experienced? This will look different for each person. Many people attest that they felt closest to God when they were suffering the most. I remember feeling very close to God when I was terrified of my first husband. He was my only consolation at a time when my life seemed so dark. For some, God will use your tragedy to be a blessing to others in the future who are experiencing similar pain (2 Corinthians 1:4). For some, we will never know how God uses our pain until we see him in heaven.
Answer #2: “Where is God when we hurt?” He is in the church, God’s delegated presence on earth.
God designed His church to be a place of hope on earth. Unfortunately for many abuse victims, too often the church does not relieve suffering, but only makes it worse. I experienced this when leaving my abusive husband. However, if the church does its job correctly, it can be a real arm of healing. Many churches have abuse survivor support groups and food pantries; others sponsor women’s crisis centers and homeless shelters for women and children. If you are a member of a thriving, loving church community, you will have the opportunity to feel God’s love surrounding you through the arms of His people.
If you have experienced pain or confusion after looking for support from your church, I am so sorry. I know how sad this is. This is not the way God designed the church to work. Churches are made up of people, which means they are full of sinners. Though one or more individual church bodies may have hurt you, I hope you won’t give up on God’s global church.
Finding a group of Christians with whom you can be real will help you heal. This might be a support group, life group, Bible study group, or adult Sunday school class. The format of the group doesn’t matter as long as each member feels safe to let others see who they really are. In the group, hopefully, you will confess your sins to each other (James 5:16), be emotionally honest about your joys and sorrows (Romans 12:15), give and receive love (Romans 16:16), meet each other’s needs (Acts 2:45, Galatians 6:2), pray for each other (James 5:16), challenge each other (1 Thessalonians 5:14), and help each other if you fall into sin (Galatians 6:1).
You may need to search to find a group like this, but you will be blessed by it. It will begin to heal your relationship with God, others, and yourself. I personally recommend Community Bible Study (CBS), of which I was a member for many years. This is a structured Bible study with a lot of great fellowship built-in. I recommend you try it if there is a class near you. (Go to www.communitybiblestudy.org to learn more.) If you can’t find a CBS class near you, look for a Bible study at your church or a church nearby.
Answer #3: “What is God up to?” He is in Heaven, preparing a better place for us.
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus told His disciples that He was going to prepare a place for them (John 14:2). He didn’t describe it in detail, but if you take a look at the book of Revelation, you can see we will live together with Jesus, and we will worship Him forever in a place too beautiful to describe.
God Himself will wipe away our tears, there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, and He will make everything new (Revelation 21:1-5). Tweet This
On days when I feel fearful, sad, lonely, or angry, I try to imagine how wonderful it will be to live there with Jesus. I try to remember that my years on earth will be brief in comparison to the amount of time I will live there. Imagining eternity is hard for me. To put it in perspective, I picture a ruler laying on the beach in California.
I picture my life here on earth as one inch of that ruler. Then I picture my time in eternity with Jesus as the rest of the continental United States, all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.
How wonderful and infinite that will be! Praise You, Lord!
What do we do when we are angry at God? Tell Him. He can take it. Be honest about how you feel and wrestle with Him.
Question: Have you experienced anger with God? How did you handle this?
In John 14:1-3, Jesus told us,
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
I pray for peace in your hearts today.
*Philip Yancey, The Question That Never Goes Away: What Is God Up to in a World of Such Tragedy and Pain? (London, England: Hodder and Stoughton, 2013), page 30.