Friday, February 8, 2013

Where is God When Bad Things Happen? Finding Understanding Through Job, Part 1 - Asking Hard Questions

Part I – Asking Hard Questions

Where is God when our greatest fears become a reality?

When tragedy strikes or the unthinkable happens, where is God? 

Does God hear us when we beg and plead Him to prevent something bad from occurring in our lives?

Is God aware of the terrible things that go on in this world every single day? 

Why doesn’t He stop them?

Doesn’t God care about the evil in this world or the tragedies that take place?

When we face trials that overwhelm us, where is God? 

Where is He when we face suffering and trials that feel way too much for us to bear?

Why doesn’t God relieve us from our sufferings?

Is the world and mankind’s behavior spinning round and round out of His control?

Why doesn’t God put an end to evil once and for all?

I do not propose these questions lightly.  I believe people all over the world ask these questions and do so often.  Many are convinced God can’t possibly exist if pain, suffering, and evil are in the world.  Or if He does exist, He must not care or is utterly helpless to stop it.  Or, if He can stop it and does not, He must be some kind of sick monster.

There are people all around me facing extremely difficult trials in their lives.  We don’t have to watch the news long to catch a glimpse of the agonizing tragedies and horrendous evil that occur all the time. 

In writing this, I have no intentions of offering pat answers or mere, unhelpful clichés.  I have faced my own share of difficulties; therefore, also truly despise clichés being spoken to me as if they will be the solution to all my problems and my pain.  I write this post with respectful seriousness and a sober heart for the reality of the world in which we live and the heart breaking tragedies people experience each and every day.  In writing this, I hope to offer truthful answers to the questions and to reassure anyone who might be asking those questions:

God does exist
God is aware
God does care
God intends to, one day, ultimately and completely, set everything right

When tragedy strikes or our worst fears become a reality, God is right there.  He is aware.  He knows our pain, He cares, and He will comfort us.

When we pray and cry out to God pleading our case or the case of others we care about, God listens.

When we are feeling despair and agony, He knows our need and will provide for it.

Every minute, when evil happens somewhere, some place, God is aware, and He has His ultimate redemption in mind.

God will be bringing about an ultimate redemption to all things—in His perfect way and at the perfect time. 

In John 16:33, Jesus told the disciples, “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

What Jesus expressed is very true.  In this earthly life, we will undoubtedly face trials and suffering.  That is an unavoidable aspect of living.  We were never promised a pain free, trial free earthly existence.  To be human means to face adversity.  To be human means to face pain and sorrow along with joy and comfort.  Soon after the moment when Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden, humans have faced tribulation.  Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of some tree and gained the knowledge of good and evil,  passing that same knowledge, along with death, onto the rest of humanity.  Their act brought the knowledge of joy and sorrow.  The consequence of their actions in gaining that knowledge was that we would all also face death.  “For the wages of sin is death...”  (Romans 6:23)  We must face death for missing the mark of perfection.

Within every human being is this constant hope that suffering can be averted—that somehow, if we do things just right, we can avoid going through challenging trials.  Standing on the brink of suffering, we’d rather make an about face and run in the opposite direction rather than submit and embrace the it.   However, in this world there will be good and evil, and there is no escape from enduring both.  God is very aware of the situation because He ordained it that way. 

“For to vanity was the creation subjected, not voluntarily, but because of Him Who subjects it...”  (Romans 8:20)

“I am YHWH and there is no other; Except for Me, there is no Elohim…there is no one apart from Me; I am YHWH, and there is no other. Former of light and Creator of darkness, Maker of good and Creator of evil, I, YHWH, make all these things…I Myself made the earth and created humanity on it; I, My hands stretched out the heavens, and all their hosts have I instructed…there is no other Elohim apart from Me; a righteous El and a Savior; There is none except Me. Turn toward Me and be saved, all the limits of the earth, for I am El, and there is no other…”  (Isaiah 45:5-7, 12, 21-22)

The truth is that God Himself purposefully subjected His entire creation to “vanity”.  We live with sorrow, pain, lies, frailty, and depravity in this world because God has subjected His creation to those things.  It was not a failure on His part.  He designed it that way.  We are clearly told that God ordained it to be that way.

God, Himself, created good along with evil.  He created the earth and all that is beautiful about it.  He formed man and woman and made them with the ability to sin (to fall short of perfection).  God created the Adversary (the Devil, Satan) to be a liar, murderer, and a doer and promoter of evil.  He was meant to be an opponent to God. The Adversary, “He was a man killer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, for truth is not in him.  Whenever he may be speaking a lie, he is speaking of his own, for he is a liar, and the father of it.”  (John 8:44) 

Contrary to some popular teachings, the Adversary was not once a perfectly good angelic being who suddenly went “bad to the bone”.  That is one of his greatest lies—to convince people that God created him to be a perfectly good being who had the choice to rebel and, by his own free will, become a destroyer.  If the Adversary can convince us of that lie, we will also be deceived into believing another lie proposing God must have blundered in His creation, that He made a mistake (sinned) when He created the Adversary.  If God had intended for this angelic being to be perfectly good, then God missed His own mark of perfection (sin).  The deception that God must have made an error in creating the Adversary, leads people to believe that God is not in complete control of His entire creation.  This would mean that everything is spinning out of His control and He must not be truly sovereign.  Ultimately, all these lies make God out to be some weakling, wringing His hands in frustration, and portray the Adversary to be the more powerful of the two.

Yet God says, “I have created the destroyer to ruin.”  (Isaiah 54:16)

God does not perform evil acts and He does not sin (make mistakes or misses the mark of perfection), but He is ultimately responsible for both.  God created the Adversary—the one who opposes God—and he (the Adversary) and all his helpers do evil.  Long ago, God set the world and good and evil into motion.  God knew very well we could not value good without evil.  Such is the importance of contrast.  We cannot appreciate one extreme without another. 

What is the value of heat without cold? 
What is the value of joy without sorrow? 
What is the value of love without hate? 
What is the value of truth without lies?
What is the value of good moments in life without bad moments in life?
What is the value of wisdom without foolishness?
What is the value of light without darkness? 
What is the value of power without weakness? 
What is the value of salvation without bondage? 
What is the value of life if there is no death?  
What is the value of Christ, the Savior, if there is no Adversary to be saved from?  

Each one of these is of no value to us without its contrast. 

God is ultimately responsible for evil? 
He set it into motion? 
How can that be?
You’ve got to be kidding me!

This is no easy pill to swallow.  It feels like an elephant sized pill in my throat.  Some days, I feel it is impossible to swallow.  When I seek God for answers about it, I am often reminded of this verse and what it tells me:

“For I am reckoning that the sufferings of the current era do not deserve the glory about to be revealed for us.”  (Romans 8:18)

The sufferings we face today cannot even compare to the vast glory that will be revealed to us in the future.   That glory will overcome whatever sufferings we experienced in this earthly life.

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