Every time something bad happens, a disaster, a death, an illness, or a financial catastrophe, many people either ask “Why would God allow this to happen” or why did God do this”? When things happen that don’t appear to make sense, or go against what we think is good, we say God did it or allowed. It probably doesn’t surprise you that many Christians who don’t like Donald Trump or voted for him try to rationalize it by saying that “God put him in”. I’ve heard that very thing more times than you think. We say that God does or allows bad stuff because we don’t understand how a God that we know loves us can allow us go through situations that stretch our abilities as human beings to handle or understand. Why are we struck with a debilitating illness in the prime of life, why does one of our children die young, or why do we lose a job right after we sign a big mortgage? What about facing foreclosure because we haven’t been able to find a job? Why is your spouse stricken with a chronic illness ending in death? When these things happen in succession we search for answers. When we Christians say that God does or allows these things, without any explanation, why would anybody want to become a Christian? Think about it. If on the one hand we say that God is love, merciful, faithful, compassionate, and forgiving, and on the other hand say that God took a loved one, or caused a natural disaster just to punish, or teach us a lesson what kind of message are we sending?
Christians and non believers alike might wonder, “What do you think they did to deserve cancer?” If someone’s wife walks out, insensitive churchgoers might think, “If he had been a better spiritual leader, his wife wouldn’t have done that.” If a teenager is rebellious, hardened onlookers might privately reflect, “If that kid’s parents had been more involved, this never would have happened.” When we are going through a tough time, or have a tragic loss our well-meaning Christian friends say “This was God’s will,” and that, “we don’t always understand why God does what God does, but we must accept God’s will.” What a terrible thing to say! I don’t believe that it is God’s will that we face disaster. I haven’t been able to find anywhere in the Bible that God wants His children to suffer.
1 Thessalonians 5:9 (NLT) For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us.
How about turning the question around and asking "Why would an all-good, all-knowing, and all-powerful God allow good things to happen to bad people?" After all, if seeing good people suffer is horrible, it's not much fun seeing evil people having fun either.
Being a Christian doesn't exempt you from suffering. Jesus Himself assured us that there will be trouble in our lives.
John 16:33 (NKJV)33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
1 Peter 4:12 (NKJV)12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you;
The Bible tells us that no matter the situation we are never alone.
Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Hebrews 13:5-6 NIV Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”
Psalm 34:19 NIV The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all;
However when troubles linger lingers and even more trouble comes we may may start to wonder it anybody hears or really cares. When it get to that point we need to be reminded that God who made those promises loves us.
1 John 4:7-11 NIV Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
He’s left us reminders of that love!
Reminder #1 Creation
The creation itself should remind us of how all powerful God is. It is also evidence that He does, in fact, exist. The very fact that he created the universe and then allowed us to be masters over the earth should remind us that there is somebody out there who is bigger than we are.
Romans 1:20 (NLT)20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.
These things about God’s creation remind us of how big God is, His faithfulness, and proof that He loves you.
● The next time you see a sunrise, remind yourself, God is faithful.
● The next time you see snow-covered mountains with their peaks pointing toward the sky, remind yourself, God is faithful.
● The next time you see flowers that have burst into bloom because winter couldn’t stop them from developing in the hidden places, remind yourself, God is faithful.
● The next time you hold a soft-skinned baby in your arms, remind yourself, God is faithful.
And the biggest thing of all is that we are made in God’s image.
Genesis 1:26 (NLT)26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like ourselves. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”
Reminder #2: The People We Meet
God uses what we may consider chance meetings or encounters to benefit us later. God had plans for you before you were born. Like the prophet Jeremiah
Jeremiah 1:5 (NLT) “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.”
You’ve never met anybody by accident.
Psalms 37:23 NLT The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.
Reminder #3: The Circumstances We Go Through
Our circumstances change and they change us. For example moving from one city to another is a change in location or circumstance. There are two possibilities. We can be put in a situation where it is more expensive to live than where we were before and that creates stress. That’s a change for the worse, at least for a while. On the other hand we move from one city to another and we get a huge increase in income, that’s a change of circumstance that is for the good. But in either case it the change in circumstance changes us.
Reminder #4: Jesus - The Greatest Reminder
Jesus is the greatest reminder of all of God’s love. When things seem so overwhelming we need to change our focus. When we realize that God gave His Son Jesus so that He could pay the ransom for mankind and take the punishment of sin we know that God loves us. Jesus came and willingly laid down His life as our sacrifice He then sent the Holy Spirit by and through whom we are able to live a life that is pleasing to God.
When you wrestle with anxiety and stress especially in situations where you have no control remember all that He went through for you. Remember the agony in the garden of Gethsemane, the humiliation at His trial, the paid of the beatings and finally His crucifixion. It looked as if He had no control over any of this but on the third day He rose from the dead to show that God never lost control. Jesus is the Great Reminder that God loves you.
In addition to these reminders that God loves you there are other certainties about God and His relationship with the believer.
6 Certainties to Give You Hope in Times of Suffering
*Scriptures inserted by me
When times of heartache and trouble come our way, don’t we begin to trade certainties that we have never doubted for the uncertainties and unknowns that may or may not even exist?
You lose your job and your mind immediately races to I’ll never get hired again. But that’s an uncertainty. Don’t trade the fact God is your provider for uncertainties that may or may not be the case.
Your relationship fractures and you assume I’ll never meet anyone else who could make me happy again. But again, that’s an uncertainty. Don’t trade the fact that God knows and wants what is best for you for uncertainties that may or may not reflect reality.
Certainty #1—Suffering is universal and unavoidable.
Suffering comes in all shapes and sizes. It doesn’t matter where you are from—Jesus was from eternity, after all—what ethnicity you may be, how much you have or don’t have. We live in a fallen world; we all suffer. No one is immune to it. But like Jesus, we can use it as an opportunity to meet with God on the mountain.
Certainty #2—Suffering is not a judgment for sin.
This is perhaps the biggest lie we believe when we go through times of suffering. When we experience difficulty in life or go through a trial of some kind, it is very easy to think that God is judging us for our sin.
As believers, this could not be further from the truth. We may suffer due to the consequences of sinful decisions we make. If we choose to rebel against God or make a decision that is contrary to his Word and outside his will, we will reap what we sow. And sometimes the consequences of reaping what we sow are severe. God disciplines those he loves and chastises those whom he considers sons and daughters. But God does not send suffering as judgment for our sin. Jesus took our judgment with him to the cross.
Certainty #3—Suffering is temporary.
Though it doesn’t make it easier in the moment, it’s good to remember that all suffering is temporary. Scripture says that we will suffer “a little while” (1 Peter 5:10), that we suffer only “light momentary affliction” (2 Corinthians 4:17), and that our sufferings are only for the “present time”
Romans 8:18 ESV For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
At times we may think we’ll never see light again. While we’re in the middle of the dark night, though we may feel completely lost and utterly hopeless, we trust that Christ can resurrect anything. Just as Jesus was on the cross for six hours and in the grave for three days, there is a set limit to our suffering. It is temporary.
Certainty #4—God loves me and has not forgotten me.
It’s so easy to forget this truth when we are enduring hardship or are confronted with a tragedy of some kind. I offer you this certainty from God’s Word. I used personal pronouns so that you could own its truth. God loves you and he has not forgotten you.
Romans 8:35, 37-39 ESV Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Certainty #5—God empathizes with me in my suffering.
Perhaps we don’t often consider that God the Father suffered in the garden as well. This was not a one-sided affair. The Father and the Son shared intimate fellowship from all eternity. God was able to empathize because this suffering was a shared experience. And if God empathized with Christ, if he made a way for Christ, won’t he make a way for us too?
Certainty #6—When we suffer, it’s okay to ask “Why?”
Earlier I said that “Why?” isn’t always the most helpful question. But it is usually the most human. We see the humanity of Jesus on display in the garden as he essentially asks, “If there is another way . . . Why is there not another way?”
It’s also okay to not understand why we are having to endure suffering. God’s ways are not our ways.
Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord . For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
And even if God explained what we were going through and gave us his reasoning, it’s likely we wouldn’t understand, let alone agree with it.
Asking “Why?” does not show a lack of faith but reveals faith. It’s acknowledging that God alone has the answers to questions we desperately desire answers to. There may be more from this mountain garden story, but there are at least six certainties that we can hold to and embrace by faith when we walk through dark and lonely times. Let’s never trade what we know for what we don’t know.
Adapted from The Mountains Are Calling: Making the Climb for a Clearer View of God and Ourselves. Copyright © 2018 by Jarrett Stephens. Used by permission of Multnomah, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.
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Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.