When you come the mission field, you can’t go a day without seeing pain. Horrible pain. It’s easy to start ask God ‘WHERE ARE YOU?’ ‘Don’t you love people?’ ‘If you love people why don’t you intervene?’ It’s okay to ask God these questions but it may reveal a lot about where you are in your relationship with Him. So how to do you walk through those thoughts and even doubts about the love of God?
As a side note – It is fascinating that I’ve never been asked this question by people living in India, Thailand, Vietnam or Cambodia who certainly knows a lot more about suffering than we do. Why?
When we ask this question the complaint is against God’s character: ‘Can I really trust God when I see so much pain?’ If you are sure that you can trust Him, regardless of the pain you see or are experiencing , there is no temptation to turn away from Him because He is the only one who can help.
Maybe the reason we question God’s character when bad things happen or we see suffering is that we live lives largely independent from Him. In other words, do we actually trust Him even when things are going well? When life is easy we don’t really need to trust God for anything. I think for many this can cause us to live as Christian Atheists. We are Christians but we live like God doesn’t exist.
As I mentioned, I have never been asked questions about God’s love and suffering by people living in SEA. In fact, when I visit churches in parts of the world where they are faced daily with great pain and suffering, they inspire me. They aren’t asking, “where is God?” They trust God in everything, Suffering is part of life, part of being human and living in a fallen world. They don’t expect life to be perfect, in fact they expect suffering. When times are really hard, they cling to Him because they have already learned to trust Him when things are good and they know when things are bad that there is no other answer but God. They can’t take a pill, get a job, borrow money or run to a government agency for help.
Maybe we struggle with suffering so much in the West because we are so comfortable and ‘safe’ most of the time that we feel we don’t need God. We don’t rely on Him on a daily basis and therefore we don’t really know Him as we should. I think this is at the heart of asking ‘why?’ When suffering comes along, it is not so much that it takes us away from God, but it reveals to us that we haven’t actually had to really trust Him or we haven’t been close to Him in the first place.
What should we do? Often when we are upset by our circumstances the first thing we should do is the last thing we do. The best thing you can do when you are upset or confused is to get into the Word of God and pray. If we aren’t close to Him in the first place, the last thing you want to do is spend time with Him. If you’ve been a Christian for awhile it’s so easy to do and say the right things and not even really believe them. The Word of God is supernatural and spending time hearing the voice of God through the Word helps give you the right perspective and helps you to know who He really is. To know HIm is to love Him. If you aren’t in the Word you can’t remember the truth and start doubting basic things like GOD IS LOVE which is true regardless of the circumstance. The Word reminds you of that on every page. If you don’t feel like reading the Word or praying start by asking God for a hunger and thirst for Him. Ask Him to help you to fall in love with Him. Forcing yourself to read the Bible and pray isn’t the way it was meant to be. If you have to force yourself it probably means your love is waning. Love drives us to be with Him. If we aren’t in love with Him we’re likely living on the fumes of former days where we did vibrantly love Him and that’s why we starting doubting and asking why. Another helpful thing is to talk to people in the midst of suffering who have an unshakeable faith in God. Their joy in their pain helps you understand what faith looks like and that circumstances don’t need to affect faith because God is trustworthy and He never changes.
The good news is. even in the questioning, He loves you – He is used to His children trying to live in their own strength or running from Him and yet , if you cry out – He’s standing right there. Arms outstretched – waiting.