Is God There?
Emma was a sweet, four-and-one-half year old girl, the utter delight of her parents. Now, she is with the Lord. Emma was killed in a tragic automobile accident. Many grieving souls, with sincere faith, struggle with these sorts of tragedies.
Does God hear our pleas when we pray for the protection of our loved ones? Does he intervene providentially on behalf of his children? If so, why do these heartbreaking things happen? Why?!
Our souls agonize with those who are subjected to such horrors. How do we assist them? It is not easy, but here are some principles that may help.
Instead of trying to make sense of individual episodes of tragedy, we need to focus upon several fundamental truths.
In God We Trust
It is absolutely paramount that we establish our confidence in the testimony of the Scriptures. Unless we are convinced that the Bible is true, and we can trust its message, there is nowhere to go for any meaningful resolution.
We must, therefore, immerse ourselves in the evidences that build faith in the integrity of the Word of God. This will be the foundation upon which all else rests. If we desert our faith, we have solved nothing. Rather than having a single problem, we then will have two; and infidelity is of far greater consequence.
God Listens To Our Prayers
Is the Creator sensitive to out prayers? Yes. Jesus himself depended upon prayer (cf. Lk. 22:44). He prayed that if God so willed, the “cup” of suffering might pass from him; but it did not. There was a higher purpose to be served (Heb. 5:8-9).
Though Christ taught that the Father lovingly listens to us (Jn. 15:7; cf. Jas. 5:16-18; 1 Pet. 3:12; 1 Jn. 5:14), that does not mean we will be immune to the common difficulties of life. Were that the case, no child of God would ever die!
We are citizens of a planet cursed by evil, and we, like all others, are heir to its hardships. Prayer will provide the Christian with comfort and the strength to endure, but it does not exempt us from trials.
Is it true that God is able to intervene in the lives of his people to bring about, in a providential (i.e., non-miraculous) fashion what is best for them? Yes.
If we could only see “behind the scenes,” we might understand that what is now perceived to be quite “bad,” from our limited vantage point, may turn out to be “good” in the final analysis.
That is why Joseph ultimately could say to his brothers, after much heartache, “And as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good . . .” (Gen. 50:20). The events of our lives must be measured in terms of eternity, not time.
Paul petitioned the Lord that he might he able to visit the saints in Rome (Rom. 1:9-10; cf. 15:30-32). God moved in mysterious ways to bring about the apostle’s request; it actually involved Paul spending four years as a prisoner (Acts 24:27; 28:30).
It is very clear that our Father can operate in our lives. But precisely when he is directing matters, we cannot know (cf. Philem. 15). God can intervene; but some things may “just happen.” We can only resolve to glorify the Lord—under any circumstance.
The Bible makes it clear that it is not possible for us to scrutinize the ways of our Maker and subject them to meaningful analysis. “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past tracing out!” (Rom. 11:33).
We are not qualified to be the Lord’s “counsellor” or to tender judgment upon what he is doing (vs. 34). This was a major lesson that Job, the patriarch of Uz, had to learn (cf. 42:1-3).
We Do Not Suffer Alone
We are not the first to struggle with the mysteries of crushing blows in our lives. The early saints were similarly confronted with such hardships, and yet they maintained their faith.
During the reign of Herod Agrippa I, James, the brother of John was killed for the cause of Christ, and yet, Peter, on the same occasion was delivered from prison and spared the malicious intent of the ruler (Acts 12:1ff). Why? Surely the Jerusalem Christians puzzled over this matter.
Four companions in the gospel—Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke—arrive in the city of Philippi to do mission work. Two of them—Paul and Silas—are whipped and thrown into prison. The other two remain untouched. Who can explain it?
Why was it the case that Epaphroditus, Paul’s helper in Rome, who had become so desperately ill, was delivered from his illness (Phil. 2:25-27), while Paul himself, who was afflicted with some grievous “thorn in the flesh,” was informed that he must abide in that condition (2 Cor. 12:7-9)?
Why these seeming inequities? We do not know. But the New Testament writers record these events with no apology. We will never be able to “figure out” why some of us today appear to have it so well, while others are forced to endure agonies. We must simply have confidence that out Father is working a plan that he knows far better than we. We must wait for the clearer picture.
God Always Does What Is Right
Based upon what we know of God’s goodness, as revealed in the Scriptures, we must conclude that whatever he does, or allows to happen, ultimately is “right” (Gen. 18:25). The life of faith is a life of trust. We are not promised exemptions from suffering; we are promised that whatever bad happens in our lives, through it all the Lord loves us supremely (Rom. 8:35ff).
This World Is Not Our Home
Finally, whatever the difficulties and mysteries of this life, we can take hope in the fact that the trials we now endure are but a prelude to glory (Rom. 8:18ff). We will understand things much better in the “sweet bye-and-bye.”
But we are not there yet! We’re still in the hard here-and-now.