Each of us experiences some level of pain throughout our lives, each with a different cause. However, while the causes may be different, the pain feels the same. It hurts and leaves us all asking the same question, “why, God?”
Have you ever grabbed a rose thinking the thorns had been removed? Or go to tackle those pesky weeds taking over your lawn or garden? The result is a pins-and-needles poke followed by a throbbing reminder of your mistake. The throbbing lasts for hours and seems like it will never cease.
Paul. Where do we start with him? A man who experienced such pain in his life from loss of family, persecution, imprisonment, and finally execution. Yet, he remained steadfast in his devotion to God and his task.
In his letters to the church in Corinth, Paul talks about the pain he is going through and past struggles. He describes how pain and weakness were not seldom occurrences of weakness but rather a steady companion. Paul explains the trial he was going through was given to him as a strategy to poke a hole in his ego. Suffering so that God’s work could not be claimed as his own. In essence, his perpetual pain was a gift revealing God’s nature. Pain reveals God’s “together-strength” that transforms our failure into His perfection.
When God seemed inattentive to Paul’s pain, he could have assumed God was either absent or abusive. Instead, he recognized that pain put him in good company.
Think of the last time you questioned God. What were the thorns and weeds like? What were the flowers and garden like after going through the thorns and weeds?
Change the perspective. Instead of removing the trial before you, seek how God’s strength can be revealed.
A family in the United States is without power due to a tornado. Another family in Africa has no power, or savings, or easy way to get food. Another family in America is always living at friends’ houses, or in motels—at least when they’re not on the street. In Europe, fear grips people in the wake of a terrorist attack as they go about there daily lives. In the Middle East, a family looks over the remains of their village due to a long civil war. In impoverished regions of the world, thousands of children are expected to die due to lack of food and clean water.
If God’s existence were determined by His prevention of our world’s pain, then He’d be done with the next natural disaster or the pain of hunger. “God, this doesn’t make sense.”
We’re not the first ones to let difficulty cause us to doubt whether or not God is who He says He is and we will not be the last. John The Baptist ended up wrongly imprisoned after spending his whole life for God and preparing the way for Jesus. While in prison he was basically stating how little sense all of this was making when dispatching his own disciples if whether Jesus was the one. “Are you the one and if so, come break me out of jail.”
Well, Jesus did not save him from prison or his execution, stating instead that He is the saviour and John was truly blessed. Ok, so what then? Whether or not God diverts your struggle does not determine whether or not He is God. And, proof of how God feels about you might not be happening right now but consider the following, “We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”
We tend to follow a dangerous line of thinking and rationalizing to describe every difficulty as something God intended to make us grow, but it’s equally risky to say that God never puts us through a trial to strengthen us. And yet, “God, how could you let this happen?”
Perhaps when God doesn’t make sense, maybe it’s okay. It may not seem like it during the heat of the moment or the chilling wake after but He is God with Us.
When something terrible happens and we don’t see God intervene, we sometimes wonder whether He’s really there at all. In the wake of worldly turmoil, political scandals, a self centered materialistic culture, and terrorist attacks on innocent people I am sure there are many asking, “how is this part of the plan? This doesn’t make sense.”
We’re not alone. Scores of believers have run into these times and non-believers take these events as justification. Even King David experienced a time when God seemed inattentive, his own conflict is evident with varying takes on God’s place in his struggles.
Think about the last time you questioned God’s existence. When the smallest inclining of doubt rushed through like a tsunami against the tower of your faith.
In the coming days we will examine people who faced tragedy, pain, and disappointment. We will look to find God and the tools He equipped us with for these moments.