The speed of communication these days will not allow us to ignore or be ignorant of the pain and hurt that is in our world.
Where is God in all this tragedy and heartache, in the brokenness of life, sickness and suffering?
Why do bad things happen?
We often default to cliché answers in response to these large, uncomfortable questions. Some common ones include:
- It must be God’s will
- God knows best
- Everything happens for a reason
- God is teaching us something
- We are being tested
- We are being punished
- God won’t give us more than we can bear
I too have heard myself giving some of these answers over years of supporting others going through hardship.
While they hold some truth, the problem with these responses is that when there is no rhyme or reason to hardship, we are left high and dry, with little comfort in our present-day pain. When our circumstances do feel more than we can bear, we could become disheartened in our suffering.
What’s more, they appear to be conditional on our performance, in that once we learn the lesson, or once we pass the test, the trial will end. Too many times, this is not the case.
When any of these responses are given in isolation or as the universal answer to all suffering – they may only distance us from God at the place of our tragedy, suffering, sickness and heartache.
These answers can leave us blaming ourselves, feeling guilt, or open to manipulation to perform one way or another.
Instead, the very nature of Christ and His message is grace, not blame, guilt or manipulation. Unlike Karma, the goods news of the gospel is that we don’t get what we deserve!
Psalm 46:1 says:
God is our refuge and strength; a very present help in trouble.
And Psalm 121:1-2 says:
I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.
Instead of asking “WHY” trouble, David asks, “WHERE” does my help come?
Because David had a relationship with God, he turned to God as his refuge and strength. Relationship enables us to focus on where our help is found and in turn causes us to live through our suffering.
This tells me that when suffering happens, you and I have a choice to make.
Will we deny it, pretend it doesn’t exist, fake it, isolate ourselves, stay numb, get angry, play the blame game or will we seek God’s help and choose to LIVE through it?
Here’s a few thoughts on how we can live through pain and suffering:
1. With God’s help
God sends help in the form of others. People need consolation more than explanation when going through tragedy.
Caring and loving people can cause us to endure pain longer, better, and more courageously than if we were alone.
2. By redeeming the tragedy
Many bad things that happen to us do not have meaning attached to them, they do not happen for any good reason which would cause us to accept them willingly. BUT we can give them meaning! We can impose meaning to them.
Don’t ask, why did this happen? Or, what did I do to deserve this? A better question is, now that this has happened to me, what am I going to do about it?
Why not ask, how can I take what was meant for evil and turn it around for good?
3. By having an eternal perspective
Romans 8:18 says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
You cannot remove the suffering you face now from the glory that is yours in the future.
If you could put all the difficulties of your life on one side of the scale, and the glory that will someday be revealed to you through Christ on the other side of the scale, the glory would be so much heavier than your present sufferings.
Glory actually has the meaning of being “the weight of Gods presence”.
4. By living with the presence of Jesus
The reality of a relationship with Jesus is that He is with us in each and every circumstance of life. He promised He would never leave us. When we are weak, Jesus is our strength. When we are confused, Jesus is our comfort. When we are fearful, Jesus is our peace. When we are sick, Jesus is our healer.
God loves you, He sees what you are going through and He cares – let Him be your help today.
[Blog originally posted 26 Dec 2013, as “Is ‘Why’ the question?”]