How do you respond when someone says “If God is good then why did my sister die, why does he let people suffer and why does he let all these bad things happen in the world?”
You know, I’ve read tons of books on God’s goodness — even one that was over 500 pages long — with tons of great arguments and stories and victories and apologetic defenses, and I always agree with all the points. I’ve heard great sermons about God being in control and I can “amen” them all day long.
But when the hard times roll in: all my ideas about the goodness of God fall flat. When the trials come, my rock-solid theology evaporates. When life suckerpunches me in the gut, I double over and don’t get up for a long time.
In the face of real pain, life gets too messy for pat answers, cold comfort, and even well-meaning doctrine. Life in the moment tends to throw the Bible out the window.
If someone were to ask me, “If God is good then why did —?” … I would not even TRY to answer that one, because we’re not looking for some kind of logical rationale.
Oh, there are good answers for that one, and I believe them all, and we could sit down over coffee in our comfortable sweatpants in an air-conditioned room and discuss those reasons in calm collected voices: but when you experience the cancer, the car accident, and the phone call that changes everything, you’re not hearing me about God’s mysterious ways.
I say that not to avoid the question, but rather to confess: I am completely inadequate to explain to you every part of God’s Plan for your life. I once preached an entire series on trials, but later deleted it because it felt so trite to explain God’s actions this way.
The truth is, I really don’t know why God makes some of the author’s choices that He does. Not every story ends with a ribbon and bowtie. The Bible is the same way. We don’t get to see all of God’s reasons in this lifetime. Sometimes life just sucks, our hearts hurt, bad things happen, and it’s okay to be pissed off.
Do you know who else is pissed at the injustice of the world? God is. Maybe that’s no comfort to you, but God is right there in your struggle and He completely understands.
This world is broken, fractured, fallen, and hostile. We live in a condition called sin that was not part of our original design, and we feel the effects of it everyday. God is angry FOR you, He hates injustice as much as you do, and He hurts when you hurt. In the worst moment of your life, your Heavenly Dad is cradling you with all grace available to you, even if you reject Him.
BUT: None of this is God’s “Plan B.” Somehow, God is sovereign and writing this story from beginning to end. He’s not falling asleep at the control deck and He’s working all things together for a powerful, glorious good. Even though God did NOT cause any of this evil, He still lets some things happen for a reason.
We can’t always see that reason, and even if we could, I don’t know if that would be enough to satisfy you. I myself have a ton of questions about this life when I get to Heaven, and I believe God will answer them generously. I am much too small to make ultimatums on God, but I believe God is fair enough to answer my Ultimate Questions.
The most important thing here is that if your friend is struggling, to NOT list the “Ten Reasons Why God Is Good.” Don’t be the guy who carpet-bombs with cliches to rush along the process of healing. Too many preachers do this too quickly, pack up their little sermon notes, and hope that we can store this backpocket theology for a rainy day — when all the while, the hurting congregation just needs someone to be there.
Your mission is to simply be there in the flesh for your friend and be hurt right along with them. Get Romans 12:15 all over that.
Jesus did the same. He suffered what we suffer in solidarity with us. He was crushed not only to exchange our sins for joy, but also to heal our hearts with a peace beyond our circumstances. He reminds us in his resurrection that this world is not our final home. And we’re called to go at our friends with this kind of love, hope, patience, and wisdom — because your presence is really enough.
When life gets hard, often the only thing I really have is this simple shred of belief that God is with me: that He came to rescue me from this broken body and is daily ushering His Kingdom into my weary soul. And God has blessed me with a community to reinforce His work in me. I have an amazing group of friends to hear me vent and weep and hurt, to encourage me and cheer me on and cry with me, and I’m reminded of how Jesus made us His Body to experience loving fellowship: and it’s this Body that points me to the simple presence of Jesus, which is just enough for one more step.
We are not short of reasonable theology for the goodness of God, but when it comes to the gritty ordeal of life — the best theology is you.
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. — Romans 8:18
And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. — 1 Thessalonians 5:14
15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. — Ephesians 4:15-16