Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
February 15, 2015
Trusting God even in the worst of times
When things go well we can vigorously declare, “God is good – All the time!” When the bottom falls out we struggle to believe that God really cares. Sooner or later each of us will ask the haunting question, “Why has this happened to me?”
That is a question we seldom ask when something good happens. We assume good things should happen to us because God is good. So we take God’s goodness for granted and often fail to thank Him for the good that comes our way.
But when tragedy occurs we blame God for failing to protect us – even if we do not believe God caused the tragedy. Conclusion: God must not be good since he does not stop bad things from happening. I have thought like this. When our young son died at age three I did not curse God. I feared God too much to curse him. But I did curse the darkness. I cursed the heavens. There boiled up within me fierce anger that God would let my son die and refuse to answer my heartrending cry for help.
I was ready to drink the cup of bitterness and give up on God. How could a loving God allow a beautiful little boy to die? It made no sense. I prayed for my son to be healed and God let him die. Did God really care about human suffering? Was God simply a name given to some oblong blur or figment of human imagination?
At long last I concluded that God did care. What convinced me was his coming to us on the morning that David died. He showed up. We did not see him but we knew he was there. He came to us in a man – a kindly man who came to our home within an hour after our son died. He put his arms around us and spoke words that we felt came from God. He said, “I have come to tell you this morning that God hurts like you hurt. He hurts with you and he shares your sorrow.”
Those words pierced my rebellious, angry heart. I knew that almighty God had spoken those words through this man directly to me. I had been ready to throw down what little faith I had. Why believe in a God of love if he lets little children die? Either he is not love or he is an impersonal Creator who is indifferent to human suffering. I could see no point in loving or serving a God like that.
My friend’s words put a new face on God for me. If God hurts like I hurt, then he understands my pain. He did not make our boy sick. It was not his will for David to get sick and die. His heart was broken too. I could love a God like that. I could serve such a God. This stunning revelation did not answer all my questions. I still had no clue why a loving God would allow disease to take the life of an innocent child. But I could love a God who hurts with people and helps them find healing for their grief.
So for 60 years my wife and I have loved this God who hurts like we hurt. I have continued asking why. But I have not asked in anger. I believe God is a loving Father who truly cares about the pain his children suffer in this world of sin and tragedy. And there are obviously some questions for which there are no answers this side of heaven.
The Bible tells about a man named Job who refused to curse God when death claimed his children. He did curse the day he was born. He wished he had died at birth. I have known such pathos. I have wallowed in despair and self-pity because of my troubles. Once or twice I have wished I was dead. But in all those ugly bottomless pits of hell, the God who hurts came to me. He refused to let me stay in the pit of angst. He has hurt with me, restored my hope and given me the grace to smile again and embrace life with new zeal.
Job posed a piercing question: “Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” Look at his situation. Satan had afflicted Job with ugly boils from his feet to his head. Seeing this, his wife ridiculed his unwavering trust in God and railed at Job saying, “Curse God and die!” This Job refused to do and reminded his wife that we should be willing to receive the bad as well as the good from the hand of God.
Job’s question jabs the heart wide awake. It jolts us with the realization that the God who gives us good things is the same God who allows bad things to happen. If we are willing to learn, God will teach us to accept the bad with the good and to trust his judgment. He uses tragedy to teach us to depend on him and in the process become better people. When the bottom falls out, God’s purposes are often hidden from us though sometimes we may discover later what he had in mind. As we mature we learn to ask a far more important question than why; we learn to ask “Father, what are you trying to teach me in this tragedy?”
God is not angry with us for asking why. As for our anger, God can handle it. We need not be reluctant to express our anger or our deepest disappointments. God understands. He is a Person, a feeling Person. He knows we hurt because he made us with that wonderful capacity. Imagine how terrible our existence would be had God not made us so we can hurt and identify with the hurts of others. We are made in the image of God. That is why we can believe that God hurts like we hurt.
Basic to our understanding that God is good is our acceptance of God’s sovereignty. The world is not out of control. God is in charge. He is God and whatever happens, God allows it to happen. He has his own reasons, some of which our finite minds cannot grasp.
When we are bewildered by our circumstances it helps to cling to this basic biblical truth – God is always working for our good no matter what happens. He loves us. He wants us to love him and to trust him – in good times and in the worst of times. And best of all, he promises to be with us! His presence we can count on – especially when we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death.
One precious insight God gives us as we persevere through our troubles is this – if we are willing God will use us to help others who are hurting. The friend who came to us when our son died had lost a little girl years before -- a daughter who was about the age of our son. We did not know that the morning he came to us. But learning it later we began to realize that we were not the only ones hurting. And as someone has said, “In the army of the Lord the wounded serve best.”
Our lives have added significance when we dry our tears and go to others, sharing with them the good news that rescued us from despair – God hurts like you hurt! To do so is to trust God even in the worst of times. + + +