We all have questions, don’t we? Sometimes questions are from those who don’t yet know Christ. Other times, we have our own questions. The most commonly asked question about God – “Why is there pain and suffering in the world?” Many people point to the problem of evil as their reason for not believing in God.
The answer may not be what you’re expecting. If you’re not going through a hard time right now, just wait – you will. That’s the nature of living in a fallen world. Pain is guaranteed for anyone who takes on the task of living. Some of you are in the furnace of suffering right now. Others of you have just come out, and the rest of us will be there sooner or later because if you live long enough, you will suffer.
“If God is all-powerful and also good, then why is there so much pain and suffering?” “What have I done to deserve this kind of treatment?” “Why does God allow this to happen?” We wonder and wrestle while writhing in pain.
These questions become very personal • If God is a God of love, how can He watch while I suffer? • Why does God take our loved ones before we’re ready to let them go? It hurts SO much!
The Bible doesn’t run away from these questions - Psalm 10: 1 “Why, O LORD, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” Habakkuk 1: 2 “O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear?”
Reasons for Bad Things
We don’t know most of the reasons why we suffer on a micro level – why this way, why now, why this long? But we do know there are macro reasons that help us find some purpose in our problems.
1. Moral evil has been unleashed
God created Adam and Eve in His image, with the ability to make rational choices. Sometimes we hear people say, “Why didn’t God create a world where tragedy and suffering didn’t exist?” He did...but it didn’t last very long. “God saw everything that he had made, and it was very good.”
God did not create evil. Rather, He created the possibility of evil when He created human beings. God gave Adam and Eve some boundaries and clearly told them what they could and could not do.
By choosing to defy and disobey His standards, ever since that day, every one of us has been born with that same ability to make choices, and with the same rebellious bent for sin.
Sometimes we suffer because of sinful choices we make. When sinful people make decisions, God allows them to play out – and sometimes those consequences result in some bad things happening to us, and to others.
2. The earth is now an environment of disease and death
Before Adam and Eve made their choice to rebel against God, there were no earthquakes, hurricanes, natural disasters or diseases but when they sinned, creation was cursed.
Genetic disorders and multiple diseases were unleashed to do their work of destruction. Pain and death became a part of the human experience. Their sin resulted in personal guilt and shame, alienation from God and others and the disruption of nature.
The entire globe is groaning under the pressure of God’s judgment. This was all set in motion the moment Adam and Eve defied God’s boundaries. Because of Adam and Eve’s sin, every person, along with the whole planet, is suffering.
3. Satan influences people to do evil
Satan is ultimately behind all the hatred, war, oppression and evil in the world. He inflames our passions and prompts us to make bad choices. The 4th reason will be difficult for some of you to swallow, but it’s the key to understanding suffering -
4. God weaves His way and His will through suffering
Listen. God is good even when bad things happen but some of God’s reasons are beyond our capacity to understand. Isaiah 55: 9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
It’s time for each of us to surrender to the sovereignty of God because all things are under the rule and reign of God. Nothing happens without His direction or permission. Romans 8: 28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” God is working all things for His glory and for the ultimate good of those who are called to live out His purposes!
Practical Benefits of Hard Times
1. Hard times can stretch us
If we always get what we want, and cruise through life with no problems, we’ll stay the same and our character won’t change. James 1: 2 - 4 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
2. Hard times can equip us
We go through difficulties so God can comfort us. Once we’re comforted, we can comfort others. 2 Corinthians 1: 4 “The God of all comfort...comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
3. Hard times can teach us
God may use the bad things you are experiencing to teach you something He can’t get through to you any other way.
Hebrews 12: 10, 11“He disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
4. Hard times can reach us
C.S. Lewis - “God whispers to us in our pleasures; speaks in our conscience; but shouts in our pains. It’s His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” God can use hard times to get our attention, to help eternal realities break through.
Jesus gives His answer to the question, “Why Do Bad Things Happen?” His reply is surprising, stunning and quite strong. You might want to buckle up. He says it twice so we don’t miss it. Luke 13: 3, 5 “But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
Here we see the heart of Jesus. He longs for us to repent of the way we’ve been living. We think we somehow deserve good things, that God owes us an easy life. We should be amazed and thankful that we are given another day to live. While there’s still time, Jesus calls us to repentance.
Where is Job When It Hurts?
He lost everything: his job, his possessions, his family, his health and his friends. Hard times were used to stretch him, to equip him, to teach him and to reach him. Job’s trust wavered. He mourned. He protested. He questioned. He even cursed the day he was born. He desperately wanted to know why all these bad things had happened to him. God answered him, but the answer was not what Job expected.
Listen. Job had a much stronger basis for complaint than I’ll ever have so it makes sense to consider his case. If God’s response to Job satisfied him, it should satisfy us. His honest questions are filled with angst and even anger. In chapters 38, 39, Job comes face-to-face with The God of Nature and in chapters 40 - 42, he encounters The Nature of God.
1. The God of Nature Job 38: 1 – 40: 5
38: 1 - You would think at this point God would appear like a gentle shepherd, comforting Job by telling him everything was going to get better. Or, He would begin to answer his specific questions. He does neither. It’s time for God to ask some questions now – v. 2, 3. God then challenges Job to a wrestling match. Job is invited to the mat with the Almighty. God takes Job through a crash course in Theology – v. 4, 5. God is eternal while Job just recently showed up on the scene.
v. 31 - the Almighty has Job gaze at the heavens. If Job can’t move the stars around, then maybe he can make it rain – v. 34, 35.
God then turns to the animal kingdom – 39: 1. God delights in the animals He made from the awkward ostrich to the mighty horse. God wonders if Job can direct the flight path of hawks and eagles like He does.
I count 60 different questions God asks here. After each question, you can almost hear Job, “I’ll pass on that one.” If Job can’t answer 1out of 60, there’s no way he can answer the 60 million other extravagant intricacies involved with sustaining the universe.
Job’s First Response
God and Job don’t shake hands and just go their separate ways. God wants Job to know He is sovereign and wise - 40: 2. God pauses here to allow Job to respond. Reminds me of Romans 9: 20 “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God?”
I picture Job flat on his back. As he looks up he has nothing to say -40: 4, 5. Job was silenced in the presence of God’s power because He’s learning that God’s person and His plans are greater than He can grasp. Round 1 goes to God. The bell for Round 2 goes off before Job can catch his breath -
2. The Nature of God Job 40: 7 – 42: 6
40: 7 - Job has asked enough questions; now God will do the questioning. God grabs him and again puts him on his back. Then God gets to the heart of Job’s problem. This had to hurt – v. 8.
Friend, be careful about condemning God to make yourself look better. Job thought he deserved an answer; that it was somehow his right. What he had done was set himself up as judge over God. If no one can control what God has created, how can man control the Creator?
Job’s Second Response
Job’s response to the Almighty is to say: “I’m powerless compared to your power and your plans” - 42: 2, 3. Don’t miss this. Job doesn’t get all his questions answered but He does get to know the Almighty. He had only heard of God before, but now he sees Him in all His glorious splendour and goodness. Job finally breaks down and in what is really the hinge of the entire book - 42: 5, 6.
Did you catch that? Job repented, which means he changed his mind and went in a different direction and started trusting God again. God not only has great might, He is always right. Job repented of thinking he had the right to judge God.
Ultimately the only answer God gives us is Himself - “I am your answer. Learn who I am. When you know me, you’ll know how to handle anything.” We are asked to trust – not a plan but a Person – a personal God who is in ultimate control and knows what is best for us. The question really is not, “Where is God when it hurts?” Rather, the question is, “Where are you when it hurts? Where am I?” The real question is not our suffering but whether we will trust in the sovereignty of God.
Blaming God got Job nowhere; he needed to decide how he was going to respond. Was he going to get better, or get bitter? His response was his responsibility. Likewise, we can’t change our circumstances, but we can change how we respond to them.
Life Lessons from Job
1. We need a new view of God and a new view of ourselves
God is in control even when He appears not to be. God is greater than we can grasp and we are smaller than we think.
2. God’s good will for each of us includes suffering
Suffering is used to refine us. Job 23: 10 “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.” • God does know our sufferings • We can grow through our sufferings. We’re called to support those who are suffering.
3. God’s silence is not the same as His absence
When God feels far away it usually has more to do with us, or the problems we’re experiencing than with God Himself. It’s at times like this we must have faith in God’s promises even when we don’t feel His presence.
4. Our response needs to be one of repentance
God has the right to do whatever He wants with His creation. Instead of defending our right to be right, let’s start defending the right God has to be right. He’s the God of nature and the nature of God is that He is powerfully present and sovereign over the world He has created.
The God of the whirlwind took on human flesh and came to die on the cross. The mystery of suffering and sin should always take us to the Saviour. If you have not yet put your faith and trust in Him for forgiveness of sins, it’s time to do so right now.
God created us with the freedom to choose our actions, and then extended forgiveness to us. God’s ultimate answer to suffering isn’t an explanation; it’s the incarnation! The best answer to the problem of evil is Jesus Christ. God isn’t a detached, distant and disinterested deity. He sent His Son who entered our world of suffering, evil and pain. He took the worst of it for me and for you. He died as your substitute, was raised to life as victor, ascended to Heaven as the conqueror and is coming again in glorious triumph!
When we suffer, we really have only 2 choices: • We can hurt with God or • We can hurt without Him.
Prayer -“God Almighty, I confess I have been angry in my search for answers. Like Job, I put my hand over my mouth and repent of my thoughts, my attitudes, my words and my behaviour. Help me to live with my sufferings, knowing one day You will wipe away every tear from my eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things will have passed away. I surrender now to Your sovereignty for the rest of my life, for You are God and I am not. I know my faith will be shaken but I also know I will never be forsaken because you are always faithful. In Jesus’ mighty name. Amen.”