“But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted;
you consider their grief and take it in hand.
The victims commit themselves to you;
you are the helper of the fatherless” (Psalm 10:14).
“Why does God let bad things happen” is a very different question from “Why did God let this happen to me” or, worse yet, “to my baby”. What do we say to people — or to ourselves — when their world has just collapsed on them?
Suffering can either push you away from God or draw you near to him. Let it make you draw near to God.
Yesterday you knew God was good. You knew God was sovereign. You trusted that he had a plan that he is working out in this broken world. All of that is still true. God is still good. And he still loves you.
How can we believe God loves us in the midst of the pain? Our feelings will lie to us and tell us he doesn’t. We have to remind ourselves of the truth:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).a
The cross proves God’s love. Don’t let the Devil tell you that God doesn’t love you, because you know he does. He loves you more than you can understand.
When you lose your job, your heavenly Father loves you. When your house burns down, he loves you. When your life burns down, he loves you. When he takes your baby to heaven far earlier than you wanted, he loves you. And he loves your child more than you do.
People will offer suggestions for why this has happened. Don’t listen to them. They don’t know. No one knows but God, and he rarely tells us why. But you know it’s not because God doesn’t love you and your family. You can trust his heart in the plan he is working out.
Job is the quintessential sufferer. We all know what befell him. As Sproul said, “Ultimately the only answer God gave to Job was a revelation of Himself. It was as if God said to him, 'Job, I am your answer.' Job was not asked to trust a plan but a person, a personal God who is sovereign, wise, and good. It was as if God said to Job: 'Learn who I am. When you know me, you know enough to handle anything.'”1
We have to remind ourselves when things are easy and when things are hard: God is powerful, God is sovereign, and God is good. He does not promise that we won't have hardship, but he promises that nothing will be wasted and he will see us through. And one day, he will make beauty from the ashes.
There’s another thing people will say you shouldn’t listen to: “God never gives us more than we can handle.” He absolutely does. When these things happen, God doesn’t want you to lean on your own strength because he thinks you can handle it. He knows you can’t. He wants you to lean on him. His grace is sufficient for you; his power is made perfect in weakness (2Cor 12:9).
God never promised not to give us more than we can handle. His promise is, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb 13:5).
What do you read when your world’s falling apart? The Bible. God has given us a treasure trove of comfort in his word. Many people turn to the Psalms of lament, like Psalm 10, 13, 22, 88, or 102 (among many others). I find more comfort in the passages that magnify our vision of God: for example, Psalm 23, 46, or 139 or the ending of Job (38-42) or Isaiah 40-45. Perhaps a little bit of both would be helpful.
a If someone wants more like this to meditate on, consider Rom 5:8, Gal 2:20, 1John 4:9-10.
1 RC Sproul, Surprised by Suffering
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Part of Christianity 101