Written by Arch Hoercher
Have you ever asked the question, “Where are you God?” Why don’t you answer my prayers? My mom is in so much pain, why won’t you help her? My husband has Alzheimer’s, why won’t you heal him? How could you let all those children be killed by that man? Why did you let all those innocent people die because of that tsunami? Where are you God, did you go on vacation?
This is one of the most difficult questions to answer, “Why God”? Often, people will get all puffed up and say, “Well, God must have his reasons.” Others will say, “It is because of your sin or society’s sin that this has occurred”. What kind of God are you? Don’t you know that this is happening? Don’t you have the power to stop it? Why did you let it happen in the first place?
Why did you allow the holocaust against the Jewish people by the Nazi nation to go on for so long? Aren’t the Jews your chosen people? Why do you let Christians in certain areas of Africa to be hacked to death? Why do you allow the atrocities of the civil war in Sarajevo to happen at all? Atrocities so vial that many would become ill just thinking about it. Why do you allow this type of evil to exist?
Why? It is the most difficult of all questions to answer. Many times the only answer is, “I don’t know”.
Lets look at a couple of the characters in the Bible and what God has to say about this question. We will look first to Job. When we first meet Job he his successful with worldly goods and many children and good health. Within a very short amount of time he lost everything, including his health. He was grieving over the loss of his children and in severe pain because of his current state of health. His friends show up to give him comfort and support but still point an accusing finger at Job and tell him it must be because of some horrible sin that he did. Job then starts into one of the longest dissertations in the Bible. He continually asks God “why” and describes who God is, as if he really knows. Job 38:1 – “Then God spoke to Job.” When God speaks, you listen. He begins to ask Job questions. Job 38:4-6 – Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone – “. Job 38: 31-35 – “ Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades? Can you loosen Orion’s belt? Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs? Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth? Can you raise your voice to the clouds and cover yourself with a flood of water? Do you send the lightning bolts on their way? Do they report to you, “Here we are?”.
After God finishes with His questions to Job, Job gets it. God did not answer any of the why questions Job asked. He did not need to. God does not need to explain Himself. Job has no understanding whatsoever of whom God is. God is beyond anyone’s understanding. We can no more understand who God is or understand His ways than we can understand how He created the universe. What we know of God is what He has revealed to us in His Word. Job understands this now and says that he is not much more than a pile of dirt. He humbles himself before God and stops asking questions and states that what he needs to do is trust Him. That is what God wants from all His children and that is to trust Him, no matter what is going on in one’s life.
Job did have one thing right for sure. Job speaks of a redeemer and a resurrection – something rarely mentioned in the Old Testament. Job 19: 25-27 – “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes – I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me.” That is what God has promised His children – new life with a body that will no longer feel pain or become sick. We will have no sorrow or tears. That promise is for the time of our resurrection. Comfort comes with trusting God.
So what about this “trusting” God? It is a difficult concept: To trust in Him is to respond in faith to His faithfulness. Psalm 37:39-40: “The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; He is their stronghold in time of trouble. The Lord helps them and delivers them; He delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in Him.” Again, to trust in Him is to respond in faith to His faithfulness. Dr. Gardner Taylor, a professor at Beeson Divinity School, had once been assigned to a rural church in Louisiana. The sanctuary was lit by only a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling. One night he was preaching the Gospel when suddenly the power went out. Doctor Taylor was kind of stumbling around in the dark and did not really know what to do. An elderly deacon cried out, “Preach on, brother! We can still see Jesus in the dark!” It is with faith that we can see Him in the dark. In our hardest and darkest times, it may be difficult if not impossible for us to see Him in the dark, but the truth of the Gospel is that He can see us, no matter how dark it might be.
Psalm 37:4 – “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” We may be in a situation or a very painful time in our lives (emotionally or physically) when we see nothing very “delightful”. When we are facing loss or oppression of any kind, these things do not define us because we trust in God. The more we can trust in Him, the more inner joy we can find in Him – outside our circumstance. When the world is falling down around our ears and when we find it very difficult to find delight in anything, the amazing truth of scripture is that God finds delight in us. There is never a time when I am not filled with joy when I see my grandchildren. God has the same feelings about His children. Our children and grandchildren delight in us, we should respond in the same way to God, our Father. Not because we should but because there is no deeper joy in life.
“He will give us the desires of our hearts”, this is not a shortcut to wealth and prosperity. We do not delight in the Lord SO THAT He will give us what we want. If we do, that confuses greed with faith. This scripture is about gaining intimacy with Him. As we gain intimacy with Him, we begin to live in His will, not our own. As we follow the Lord of joy, we find that we enter into His joy. And His joy has no limitations or end. When circumstances in our lives have thrown us into the deepest and darkest pit, the more we struggle with the discouragement, the deeper we are digging the pit. It isn’t easy, but the promise is there, the more we trust God – no matter what is going on in our lives; His joy will become our fortress.
Now let’s look at the second character in the Bible who had to deal with pain and suffering. It is the Apostle Paul. There was hardly a day that went by that Paul did not experience pain or suffering and every now and then some real persecution. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Paul writes: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who 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.” So what does that ever mean? Specific pain enables us to comfort others specifically. In other words, if you have had or have cancer, you are able to comfort someone who is suffering from cancer better than someone who has not, because you have been there and have gone through it yourself. That is how God works. I have never had cancer. I could not offer the depth of comfort you could if you have had that disease.
This little fact is even more astonishing. The Apostle Paul writes, “For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life.” 2 Corinthians 1:8. Paul despaired of life?? This man that God used in a great and powerful way, a man full of faith, - he no longer wanted to live! Then Paul wrote, “In my despairing of life, I learned to trust, and God showed me His remarkable power – the same power He used to raise His Son, Jesus, from the grave.” Trust – just as Job learned – trust in God to see you through. His promises are real.
The Apostle Paul also wrote: 2 Corinthians 11: 24-27 – “Five times I received from the Jews forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.” On top of this Paul had a “thorn in the flesh”. A source of constant pain. 2 Corinthians 12: 8-9 – “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” Paul was a man who knows what suffering is. He was one of the Apostles and he probably had a whole lot more faith than I have. Paul prayed and petitioned God to take the “thorn” away from him. God did not, but it will be removed in the next life. God’s answer to Paul was, “My grace is sufficient for you.” No matter what our situation is, if it is sickness or pain or suffering or persecution – His grace is sufficient. God’s grace carries with it all the promises that He has made to His children.
So, does God ever take a vacation? The answer is no. He never takes a vacation or a day off or even a nap. God is always there – by your side. Will He answer you prayer? Yes He will – it could be today or the next day or the next week or the next year or the next life – but your prayers will be answered. What must we do? Keep on praying and trusting in God. Keep on studying His Word, because the closer we get to God the more joy, peace, and comfort we will realize. We must remember that He is God and there is no way that we can ever understand His ways. We can no more understand God’s ways than we can understand the creation of the universe. One thing we must do as Christians is offer support, help, compassion and comfort to those who are suffering. We might be asked why God is not helping them, all we can say is “I don’t know, but I will keep on praying for you.” And keep on helping them the best way that we can. What is needed is that people see in us Jesus Christ, for God’s grace is sufficient for us all.