A common side-effect of adversity is looking inward, and skyward, for answers to life’s most challenging questions. In times of unthinkable tragedy, it’s not uncommon to ask if God truly is there for us, or to ponder on the existence and value of suffering itself.
These aren’t new or inherently Christian questions. Believer or not, many of us have asked the same ones while weathering two world wars, navigating past pandemics, or enduring persecution. It is safe to say that these big questions are fundamentally human, especially during difficult seasons.
On the question of whether or not God is truly there for us, there exists a theory that he isn’t. The theory claims that God’s role in human history is a detached one. Not unlike rolling a stone down a hill, the theory posits that God set humanity in motion and has since resigned us to our trajectory.
In a particularly poignant episode of Grow on the Go, host Donna Carter rejects this theory with scripture, citing Psalms 139:13-16 as proof of the theory’s illegitimacy.
“You made all of the delicate inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex. Your workmanship is marvellous. How well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion. As I was woven together in the dark of the womb, you saw me when I was born and every day was recorded in your book, every moment was laid out before a single day was past.”– Psalms 139: 13-16
All of this is to say that the God of the Bible is decidedly hands-on. He’s there for us, in good times and in bad.
But if God is always there for us and has penned all of human history, how can we explain the existence and persistence of suffering?
In a video titled “Where is Your God Now?”, theology buff Matt Whitman took that question at face value.
He illustrates, “The only way [for God to end suffering] would be to purge every agent of suffering.” The problem there is that all of us are, in essence, agents of suffering. Individuals can sin, wreak havoc and cause suffering all on their own. Following that through to the end, Whitman concludes that “for God to end suffering, he would have to remove us from the equation.”
Even if it is hard for us to understand the “why” of suffering, we must learn to have faith in God’s plan. Perhaps the best analogy to use is the relationship between a parent and a child.
As a child, we rarely understand the methodologies of our parents. In fact, we often protest when their decisions interfere with our lives in uncomfortable ways. But, as so often happens, the passage of time uncovers the wisdom of our parents. We weren’t allowed to eat more cake, as it was bad for our health. We weren’t allowed to visit with our friends as their home was unsafe. This list goes on.
The same logic can be followed when discussing God’s plan for us. Humans can’t begin to fathom the complexities of His big picture. But we can take solace in its life-shaping significance.
An example of this is Joanne Moody, whose real-life story shows There is Purpose in Your Suffering.
Following the birth of her son, Moody was sidled with the burden of unfathomable physical pain. It was a journey that saw her undergo countless surgeries and ponder the value of life itself. Today though, she credits her experience with helping re-forge her connection with God. “I had to figure out how to live supernaturally,” Moody said, “because life was steeped in physical torment.”
Today, Joanne Moody spearheads her very own healing ministry and has penned an unforgettable memoir called Minute By Minute detailing her incredible struggle.
In the “There Is Purpose in Your Suffering” episode of Hugs From Heaven that highlights Moody’s story, host Moira Brown also shares a quote that is of particular significance today.
“Believing soul, if you are in the dark, you are near the King’s cellars where the well-defined wines on the racks are stored. You are in the Lord’s pavilion, and you may speak with him.”– Charles Spurgeon
But when it comes to understanding the balance between comfort and suffering, as well as what our response to it should be as Christians, there is no better place to turn than God’s Word.
2 Corinthians 1:3-7
Praise to the God of All Comfort
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.