Weekly Bulletin Articles
By Rick Brumback
So often during times of crisis, despair, or when the obstacles of life seem to overwhelm us, we wonder where God is, and if He knows or cares what we face. Each think of a time, and it may even be today, when we have felt buffeted by the forces of life that threaten to swallow us. It becomes difficult to function; we dread the prospect of a new day with its troubles and wonder if it all matters.
The atheist should have no trouble because survival of the fittest is the rule. Those who look to God (or some “higher being”) struggle to reconcile the existence of evil and suffering with the presence of God. The argument usually goes something like this: If God is all powerful, and If God is all loving, Why do evil and suffering persist? There have been many theories, called “theodicies,” and books to try to give an answer. You might recall such a book: Why Bad Things Happen to Good People. But the ultimate, correct answer will only come from God’s thoughts and inspired Word.
The truth is that people can and do choose poorly, and that is the source of trouble. First, our poor choices, aka. sins, take their toll on us (Prov. 13:15). Second, the sins of others affect us (Ex. 20:5). But we can rightly ask why our parent, or our child, is afflicted with a terrible disease. Did they do something to merit this? That was the view of the ancients (Cf. Job 4:7-8; Luke 13:1-5; John 9:13). But there must be a better answer. We live in a realm characterized by sin. From the Garden of Eden sin has tainted everything it touched because perfection was ruined. That is why Joshua said “I go the way of all the earth” (Josh. 23:14). The result is that none escapes the touch of evil or pain (Ecc. 9:1-2, 11-12). But it would be wrong to say that we are hopeless.
Often people try to make sense by considering themselves, and then everything else in relation to them. But perhaps there is another way. Instead, let us try to look at God and then all existence in relation to Him. Our questions are not new; God has heard them before. But what have others seen in response to these questions (Psalm. 4;39;49)?
How should we react to problems? Let’s look at the case of Job. His faithfulness was tested by the loss of property, family and health (1:8-19; 2:7). This testing is allowed as a demonstration of his commitment to God. Job did not understand all that was behind this suffering, and he wished God would explain. But the reality is that God did not explain Himself, He expected Job to know that His ways are ultimately inscrutable and that one need only be confident in His wisdom and ability (40:1-2; 42:1-b). But one thing is certain; Job did not lose integrity or faith in his God (1:20-22;2:9-10).
Perhaps we forget that there may be value to suffering. It helps us realize that we should not be satisfied with life here. It affords opportunity to demonstrate our integrity and confidence in God. It teaches us that we can win with God even when times are tough. (Heb. 12:3-13;1 Pet. 1:6-7). And while we may not seek occasions of suffering, we should not be overcome when such come. There are some things we know and are to remember I can decrease the trouble in my life by choosing to follow God’s good ways rather than indulging in wrongdoing. And even if we choose this course, not one of us is immune from other troubles. We help one another to bear up (Gal.6:2), because we share a common challenge and a common bond. The presence of absence of evil is not to be equated thoughtlessly with our spiritual faithfulness of God’s concern for us. Therefore we should not make the mistake of speaking for God by saying, “God just wanted her to come home” and other phrases of “comfort.” It places blame on God for all evil, when it really belongs with Satan and the presence of sin in an imperfect world. God does not intend to spare us all challenges or troubles; they can serve a purpose if we will let them. The real battle is not in our flesh, or our careers, or family health. The real battle is in our minds as we are determined to maintain our integrity and not charge God foolishly.
This all started with the question, “Where is God when I need Him?” Is He listening to my cries? Does He care? The answer to these questions is thus: God is right here hurting with us, wishing things were perfect and that sin did not exist. God has walked in our shoes and cares about us. What’s more, God was at the cross, suffering, so that we could escape to a place that is perfect.