When tragedies occur, it is easy to say, “Where is God; does He not care; is He punishing me?” It seems the human default is to feel God is far and away, cold and indifferent to the suffering of the world. Nothing could be further from the truth. Did you know that God suffers along with all humanity and especially with those who He has adopted through their faith in Christ?
In all their affliction, he was afflicted… (Isaiah 63:9)
The truth about God is He has never grown used to the presence of evil and death and suffering in the world. Mankind grows indifferent to these things but not God. From the beginning, He has allowed mankind to choose. All of us have chosen evil at one time or another. We choose the wrong, because our hearts are wrong, not God’s. He has had to endure ages of happenings He never wanted to see in our world. Every pain, sorrow, abuse, and loneliness has fallen on Him. Truly, God has suffered more than any, because He has suffered all the hurts and wrongs of the entire world for all time past. He’ll suffer even more in the future.
Isaiah 53 explains that Jesus, “bore all our griefs and carried our sorrows.” He was despised, slandered, and rejected; mocked, tortured, and put to death for our sins. He did all this so that our sicknesses of sin and body could be taken away. He spent all to rescue us and did it with joy, because He knew all who believe would be saved and God the Father would be pleased.
Bad things happen in the world not because God does not care or is Himself evil, but because this is a fallen world of our own making where we must mutually suffer the consequences of others’ wrongs. God created us with free will; and He will not take it away, because it is the same free will which can choose well, keep us from being robots and ultimately allow us to choose the Redeemer from all evil.
Evil and misfortune can bring us closer to God if we let it. We must never think we’re alone or that God is singling us out. Even the Creation is under the curse because of man’s sin. It heaves and groans and convulses with fire, earthquakes, winds, and floods. Natural disasters, diseases and other pains happen and are indiscriminate. But, God is there for us through all these things, if we will but feel for Him (Acts 17:27).
Though all sins are paid for by Jesus, and while only the believer has that pardon credited to him; the natural consequences of our wrong-doing or others’ wrong-doing still effect us. We do not live in a vacuum. There are still the laws of God’s universe.
As an example, a drunk decides to break the law and get behind the wheel of a car to drive. He strikes a pedestrian and kills her immediately. Are we to think the unreasonable and blame God, or will we be rational and say the drunk is at fault? Could God have stopped it? Sure. But, He allows people choices. Instead of freeze framing life one tragedy at a time, God is so powerful He can let life unfold according to our choices and weave His divine plan (the bigger picture) into it. We all can endure anything if we know it serves a greater purpose. And, God is that Greater Purpose every time, no matter what the secondary reasons.
One might say, “What about famine in _____?” History records many famines to be the result of corrupt dictators and regimes which hoard and steal from the mouths of the needy. Must we blame God? If the world’s goods were evenly distributed (especially America’s wealth), there would be no need for the next stomach to go empty. But, then, we’d be ‘loving our neighbor as ourselves’… and that is admittedly impossible to do without surrender to the God who wrote those words. On the other hand, many leaders of needy peoples reject “foreign aid,” due to valid concerns with corruption in:
- Western medicine (ex. overmedication, disregard for a priority of natural or alternative medical solutions, market manipulation, faulty safety testing due to corruption factors)
- Western food’s unhealthful fabrication (i.e. GMO, Pesticides, unnatural hybridization, anti-biotic overuse, preventative medicine overuse, growth hormones, etc.)
- Western economics (ex. foreign aid rendered creates compromise of economic sovereignty for the aided, sanctions, etc.)
As many records as there are of tragedy, there are just as many records of miracles and of Divine rescues. What is more, God’s peace can flood the heart. He calls Himself the God of Peace and says He hears the cry of the oppressed. No trauma is too great that God can’t help sooth it. Jesus was sent to “heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind and to set free those who are oppressed” (Luke 4). That is the heart of Jesus.
Besides, living in a broken world (cursed along with mankind’s sin – Genesis 3) causes natural disasters, pain, suffering, and illness. While these are not judgments per se, they are good reasons to see our need of God in light of life’s frailty, our place amid humanity’s willful independence from God, and the fact He never wanted things as they are. Plus, He provided a remedy through Jesus, His only Son. God cannot be faulted or accused of indifference. For those who believe on this His most precious gift, He promises a new world and all things set right (Revelation 21) – to the smallest detail. In essence, He says, “I have had a plan for not only the wrongs done to you but the wrongs you have done. Trust me in humility, and I will bring a Phoenix out of the ashes.”
Honesty and Humility say, “I don’t know everything. I don’t know what God knows or what He is doing; I have to trust that He is the Judge of all the earth, who will do right – always and in the end.” In some things, the story is not over yet, so God is not judging yet. He suffers long, so that all may come to a change of mind (2 Peter 3:9). Humility and Honesty also say, “Who knows how much evil God holds back.” If we’re honest and humble before the Creator, we must affirm Him to be the only One who is good.
God does not judge (determine as damned) us now. Instead – hardship or ease- everything is a learning opportunity (a chance to change our minds about our sinfulness and need of God). Those who do not respond to God’s love through Jesus now must face the consequences of rejecting Him later. But, the book of Job tells us we can’t look at someone’s life and say “God has it out for you, man!” That is never a true statement.
For the believer and non-believer alike, God never displays unjust anger or disgust or resentment. He does not hold grudges and “make you pay.” While he may allow the natural disasters of a fallen world and the exercise of will from evil persons (including ourselves), none of these allowances are “hateful” or “uncaring” on God’s part. Rather, He suffers with us. He knows that our living in such a world of man’s choosing will cause us to ask life’s ultimate questions, leading us to God alone being good. He does not design the evil, but He knows we’ll ask why the world is so broken if we live in it long enough. When we ask “how did I and the world get this way,” that’s where the gospel comes swooping in.
Sadly, some people just blame God. That just proves that our hearts are so darkened with evil we can’t give God so much as the benefit of the doubt that He’s the one good and fair. We’re (along with the curse fraught world) the ones in need.