In difficult times the thoughts of most people, Christian or not, turn to God in some way. Why is this happening to me? Why does God allow suffering?
As Christians we can feel that it is wrong to question God and those questions remain unasked festering away in the recesses of our minds. The problem is that the questions don’t just go away, they keep playing like a tape in our heads and work against us receiving the help we need from God. We need to ask Him. These are some of the questions the Psalmist Asaph addresses to God:
“Will the Lord spurn for ever,
and never again be favourable?
8 Has his steadfast love for ever ceased?
Are his promises at an end for all time?
9 Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” (Ps. 77:7-9)
Questions lying beneath the surface might be “Don’t you know what’s going on” Do you see me? Do you hear me? If you’re in control why don’t you do something? Why is this happening to me? Why are you doing this to me? All these questions are fundamentally asking “Is God trustworthy?” and “Can I trust Him with my life?” If we can’t resolve this we will never truly trust God nor will we be able to experience His love for us because that requires opening ourselves up to God and we won’t do that if we don’t trust Him.
Lying underneath the “Why? question is the notion that we don’t deserve this. We expect our lives to be plain sailing and question God when they are not. “What have I done to deserve this? If we haven’t done anything “wrong” then we can make the deduction that God must be fickle or a hard task master who must be appeased. If we distort who God is – that He is an evil tyrant then in turn we distort who we are. Instead of beloved children we behave as slaves working away through our performance to earn God’s approval or love as a means of dealing with our pain.
Sometimes, because we are suffering, we believe lies about ourselves . There is a faulty logic which says that if bad things happen to me I must deserve it and therefore I am in some way unlovable or undeserving of God’s love. This is where wrong thinking can compound our suffering so we are dealing not only with the source of pain but also with the lies we believe about ourselves. This can also lead to unhelpful behaviour where we try to deaden our pain with comfort-eating, drink, drugs, performance or denial etc
Suffering can produce a ripple effect in our lives. There is the initial pain but there can be ripples that go on and on throughout our lives. Some of those ripples are the consequences of what happened to us, maybe a relationship ended or we lost our job, some of the ripples are where we have compounded our own suffering with believing lies and adopting sinful behaviour which in turn produce more ripples of pain/suffering.
Often we don’t want to face our pain with God because it is so painful for us. Painful to talk about and/or painful to face up to where we have compounded it with our own behaviour. If we can’t go to God we are shutting ourselves off from the very one who can help us.
So how do we answer those questions? We need to take them to God. We need to remember what we already know about God and to remind ourselves that our circumstances do not change the nature of God. He is the same, yesterday, today and forever. We need to listen to Him and to those around us as they encourage us with truth.
God IS with us in our suffering. He sees us, He hears us and He understands. How do we know this? Because Jesus came to earth and identified with us. He suffered AND took all our sin and shame on Him. He suffered mockery, rejection, betrayal, physical abuse, and isolation. He has suffered more than we ever will.
Jesus gives us an example of how to cope in times of suffering. When He was in the Garden of Gethsemane praying and knowing that he was about to be betrayed, beaten and crucified he cried out to God, “Abba!” The name a child calls their father, Daddy. It speaks of intimacy and trust. He was able to pray “not my will but thine be done” because he trusted in the goodness of His father.
Jesus has sent his Holy Spirit to us by whom we can now cry “Abba!” because we have been adopted into His family as His children. Even if we cannot find the words, the Holy Spirit is interceding for us.
If life is difficult right now, or if you are in pain as a result of suffering in the past. There is hope for you. Hope for healing and hope for change.
When I went through a difficult season in my life what sustained me and helped me through was knowing that God is always good towards me. He will always be good to me, He will always be good to you because He cannot change. Our circumstances change, sometimes they are good, sometimes they are not, but God does not change and He is always for you.
How about you? Do you really know that God is good?.
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Photo credits: all images are from pixabay