Lately my heart has been weighed down by stories of incredible pain – stories of unthinkable suffering among people throughout Africa, of a family losing three loved ones in rapid succession while dealing with life-threatening health challenges, of a newly adopted baby given little hope of quality of life or even longterm survival, of a mother and toddler both facing cancer.
Each day brings new hardships and horrors. How does the concept of a good God make sense in the face of such trials?
I think of Daniel. In a dark pit with hungry lions, Daniel had cause to lose hope. But God sealed shut the lions’ mouths, leading King Darius to issue a decree about “the living God . . . (who) endures forever.” (See Daniel 6.)
I think of Daniel’s friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who were thrown into a fiery furnace whose thermostat was cranked up to seven times the usual temperature. But God Himself stood with them in that furnace, shielding their bodies from the flames so that their clothes didn’t even smell of smoke when they emerged unscathed. (See Daniel 3.)
I think of Joseph, who was sold by his own brothers as a slave but who emerged as second-in-command of all Egypt after multiple setbacks, none of his own doing. When his brothers discovered they had to rely upon their betrayed brother for their family’s survival, Joseph already had his eyes on the big picture: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).
I think of David spending years fleeing Saul’s army while awaiting his own right to claim the throne of Israel. In those dark days that spanned many dark years, David would put his pain and praise to song, penning much of our Psalms. (For an example, see Psalm 86.) The Bible tells us that “day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands” (1 Samuel 23:15).
I think about Jesus, who took the punishment for my sins and yours to the grave. “But God raised Him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him” (Acts 2:24).
I think about myself, a sinner who desperately needed a Savior. How would God love me? I often wondered. “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
I think about the Goliaths in my life who threaten to defeat me. “But God drags away the mighty by His power; though they become established, they have no assurance of life” (Job 24:22).
I think about the winding down of this earthly tent as I draw closer to my forever home. “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26).
I think about a broken relationship with someone I love dearly who now has, to my knowledge, no other Christian witness in his life. “But God’s word is not chained” (2 Timothy 2:9).
I think of a young man raised in a Christian home who has intellectualized his way out of believing in God. “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong” (1 Corinthians 1:27).
I think about so many for whom every day brings persecution, hunger, pain and fear. But God, if they trust Him, will someday “wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
Our sufferings are real and they’re awful. But God is greater. To revisit a favorite verse, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).
Think about that. Think about the African mother who watches her child die from malnutrition. Think about the mother who lies helpless, weakened by her own chemo, as her 1-year-old screams in pain. Think about the adoptive family who tries to make their new baby comfortable while holding out little hope for enduring life.
We can’t bear to think about it all. But God tells us that even as awful as all those situations are, they aren’t worth comparing with that greater glory we someday will experience. That must be some seriously great glory.
If you’re facing a horrible reality, I want you to try something. State your circumstance out loud, and then follow it up with “But God . . . “ You may not know how to finish that sentence. He does. And He will offer a glorious resolution in His time.
I’m facing a sea of uncertainty. But God . . .