Everyone doubts God at one point or another. Some outsmart God. Their knowledge of “science” or humanity becomes so deep and broad that the idea of a creator becomes nonsense to them. Many simply choose “love” as their God. I understand this, since God is love and love is God. Most of us still believe that God exists, but nothing brings doubt like the problem of pain and suffering.
We hear daily stories of profound natural disasters that wipe out massive amounts of people in a matter of minutes. On the other side of the sea we hear of a group named ISIS that tortures and kills people seemingly for the fun of it. We try to wrap our brains around the fact that all around the world humans are being sold into slavery so that other humans can do whatever they want to them sexually.
We try to advocate for the suffering of others. We try to fight against injustice, inequality, and the pain of others; but if we are honest, suffering knocks us down too. Our loved ones get sick and die. Parents sometimes outlive their children. Many of us suffer with chronic pain and illnesses. Poverty steals from our present and our future. Depression and anxiety runs through our veins. Families break apart. Hearts are stomped on and people are thrown away like they are garbage.
Isn’t it true that life often feels like we are drowning in an ocean of despair? The waves pull us under. We choke on salt water and we try not to allow the bitter taste to sink into our souls. We hope to God that He will throw us a life jacket or a raft just so we can rest for a few minutes, but sometimes it seems that He never comes.
We try to be brave. We wipe away the tears, put big plastic smiles on our faces, and push through. We mask our pain with whatever we can find. Anything not to feel. We wonder to ourselves, where is my God? Where is the one I have put all my hope in? Why are you silent? Have you left me? Were you ever real? Was I a fool to trust in you? And just like that our faith is shattered and our hearts are broken.
We often become afraid to question God or tell Him when we are angry at Him, so we remain silent. We are taught that doubt is inexcusable and that if we will just stay positive, God will come through for us and give us what we want. “Keep the faith,” we are told. “Hang in there, God is going to turn this around.” So we wait. We wonder. We hope. We have no choice but to hope. It is either lay down and die or hope for better days.
There are not a lot of answers when it comes to the topic of “God and Suffering.” In fact, it is this very topic that motivates many to give up on the existence of God. I understand that. I have had those thoughts too. We wonder if prayer does anything at all. We truly ask ourselves, sometimes bitterly, “what is the point of life?”
C.S. Lewis writes,
The human spirit will not even begin to try to surrender self-will as long as all seems to be well with it. Now error and sin both have this property, that the deeper they are the less their victim suspects their existence; they are masked evil. Pain is unmasked, unmistakable evil; every man knows that something is wrong when he is being hurt.
Oh, the wisdom in such words. Suffering is a clear evil – a sign that something has gone wrong within the human soul. There is no way to get around pain. It does not matter how much money one has or how happy one seems; trouble will seek and find everyone at some point. Perhaps God allows such chaos to erupt in hopes of us discovering our need for Him. The human who “has it all” has little to no need for God.
When faced with trauma and suffering we have three choices. One, we can choose to deny the very existence of God. Two, we can grow bitter towards God and walk away from Him. Or three, we can choose to trust that God is good despite the storm. The third option is for true soldiers of Christ – the ones who can and will overcome any battle. They are the true children of God; the ones who find springs in the desert.
Let’s call them Christians because they follow after the one who said both “God, why have you forsaken me?” and “It is finished” while bearing all the suffering of humanity on the cross.
I’ll make up for the years of the locust,
the great locust devastation—
Locusts savage, locusts deadly,
fierce locusts, locusts of doom,
That great locust invasion
I sent your way.
You’ll eat your fill of good food.
You’ll be full of praises to your God,
The God who has set you back on your heels in wonder.
Never again will my people be despised.
You’ll know without question
that I’m in the thick of life with Israel,
That I’m your God, yes, your God,
the one and only real God.
Never again will my people be despised.
Joel 2:25-27 (MSG)
The time is coming when God will restore all that has been lost to both you and I. I won’t pretend to know when or what that looks like. I am hoping that God makes up for all my years of pain and suffering in this lifetime; that as I grow older, He blesses me with earthly and spiritual wealth and fulfillment. But if He does not, still I will trust in Him. Where would I go? He is the only love I have ever known.
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