Where is God When it Hurts?

by Andy Wood on May 7, 2009

in Insight,Life Currency,LV Cycle,Waiting

drowningYears ago I led a high-school junior to Christ with the promise that He would make her life easier and her circumstances better.

He didn’t.

A few months later she wrote something to this effect in a letter to me:  “Why is it that all this trouble started after I became a Christian?  Before I was saved, I never had this kind of trouble.”  How would you respond?

Following the tragic and untimely death of his son, a grieving father looked directly at me and said, “God is punishing me for not taking my boy to church.”  What would you tell him?

Ever since Cain killed Abel, and Job lost nearly everything dear to him, the universal question of the race has been, “Why?”  None of us seems to have much of a problem with the wicked getting what’s coming to them, but why do good people have to hurt?  Why is it that those who are healthy enough to come to church stay away, and some of those who most want to come cannot?  Why does it seem, at least for a season, that those who are most faithful with their finances are tested the most with hard times?  Why does it seem that pain is reserved precisely for those who have already endured all they can stand?

Unless we understand our situation from God’s perspective, we can give in to a cynical and bitter attitude.  But fortunately, the Bible does deal with the issue.  It’s the dominant theme of Job, and is also dealt with in Isaiah and Psalms, among other books.  Four principles speak to my heart from what the Bible says about suffering:

1.  God does have a plan.

Whether or not you can see it at the time, coincidences don’t exist for a follower of Christ.  We serve a purposeful God, who has promised to finish what He has started in you.  Difficult or painful circumstances build patient endurance in us, help mature us spiritually, further the gospel, and even inspire or challenge others.  While they do subject us to temptation, they also expose what is in our hearts.  And they are a vivid demonstration of how desperately we need something only God can give – grace for the moment.

2.   It’s O.K. to ask God why.

Maybe you’ve been led to believe that “questioning God” is dangerous and sinful, and maybe a it is under certain conditions.  But if asking God, “why” is a sin, then a lot of prophets, kings and heroes in the Bible must have stayed in trouble.  Jeremiah called God a liar.  Moses railed at Him because of the army of stiffnecks God had asked Him to lead.  David repeatedly complained to God about his situations.  And Job?  He challenged God to a duel of words.  Trash talked Him!  Yet in all these cases and more, they all lived to tell about it.  And God never rebuked any of them for asking, “Why?”

3.  God is not obligated to answer all our questions.

Picture Tom Cruise (that’s you) demanding the truth from Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men. “You can’t handle the truth!”  Yes, hindsight is (often) 20/20.  And sometimes we can look closely and see God’s hand in our times of suffering.  But He never offers us simplistic formulas or a theology of clichés.  Check out God’s reply to Job.  Even though God didn’t condemn his questions, He didn’t answer them, either! He just blessed Job for hanging in there.  I would caution you to beware of anyone who acts like he has more answers than God.  There are times when answers aren’t enough – or you can’t handle the answers that are.

4.   No Christian has ever suffered alone.

“I am with you always,” Jesus said.  “I will never leave you, or forsake you.”  Some things in the Christian walk can only be learned through suffering.  There is also a level of intimacy with God that can only be gained through those times.  Think about it:  would you rather suffer in the presence of Jesus, or live in prosperity without Him?

One thing is sure.  Nobody will ever be able to point a finger at Jesus and say, “You have no idea how I felt!”  Is it not interesting that when God came to identify completely with the human race, the ultimate expression of that took place on a cross?

You still want to talk about what’s fair or what you deserve?

If you’re in a world of hurt, there is most likely no way to say to you, “I understand how you feel.”  But I can say with absolute confidence – Jesus does.  And He’s waiting to have that talk with you.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

vinal December 30, 2009 at 6:02 am

hi
thank you for the post. it was a real help to me and when i needed.thank you once again and God bless you. keep writing!

Moses. November 3, 2010 at 10:16 pm

You know what, this is Churchy stuff! You can write this when all is going on just fine! when you are middle of what am dealing with right now after being in the faith for a long time, trust me this does not help! I am sorry if i sound cynical.

Andy Wood November 3, 2010 at 10:36 pm

Moses,
The last thing I want to sound is churchy! The fact is, it wasn’t written when everything was going just fine.

I am very sorry you are going through what is obviously a very painful time. I completely understand the cynicism, as well as the futility of man’s words to fix the hurts. That said, neither your cynicism nor your pain changes the truth that while I may have no clue what you feel, Jesus does. He has felt the feeling of our infirmities. He “gets you!”

I have also learned (the hard way) that the Lord invites our brutal honesty when we are hurting. Just read Psalms – not much of it is “churchy” or even Sermon on the Mount material.

I hope things get better. Truly.

FABIAN ALDERMAN April 1, 2011 at 4:43 pm

CHRISTIAN UNDER CONSTRUCTION APRIL 01-2011

I believe what you wrote was awesome! And once people realize that
it”s ALL ABOUT GOD and nothing about us,they can begin their journey
through life understanding the concept of the suffering of the “cross,” so
they can walk more in the spirit than in the flesh.

Jo May 14, 2012 at 3:43 pm

That was really inspiring and encouraging. Thank you. Are you on Twitter?

Andy Wood May 15, 2012 at 9:18 am

Not yet, Jo. :-)

Melvin July 11, 2012 at 6:23 am

Very encouraging and inspirational… May God continue to use you to be a mighty vessel of truth for we’ve learned, what we overcome, God will make us ruler over…

Andy Wood July 11, 2012 at 7:51 am

Thanks, Melvin. And you’re right. The Lord has really challenged me recently to get the word “overwhelmed” out of my vocabulary. We may be in pain, but we don’t have to give pain the final word.

Irv November 23, 2012 at 10:19 pm

OK, so Jesus knows what we’re feeling. If He is God and God can do anything, then Jesus knowing how we feel and not lifting a finger sounds a bit hollow. If my earthly father knew I was going thru something very hurtful and he could do anything…HE WOULD! Could it be we have been completely deceived about God? That He has declared “hands off” for us in this world? This stuff we hear hundreds if not thousands of times that God is just and God loves us but when His people become involved in situations which are very hurtful He does ABSOLUTELY NOTHING is a MAJOR DISCREPANCY in the Bible!

Irv November 24, 2012 at 7:31 am

Its been several hours since I wrote the above and as I sit here now and read my words, I can see how I hit the nail directly on the head for most real Christians in the real world. If you’ve never experienced the kind of hurt and disappointment I’m talking about, then hearing the constant “God is with you in your hard times” then you just don’t know where I’m “coming from” and cannot feel my pain and frustration. Then we have the “professionals” preaching to us from perspectives they cannot feel and the frustration gets worse. For example, you hear these guys preaching about money and how tough it is to make ends meet and how they “understand”. Really? Right, sure. A megachurch pastor making hundreds of thousands per year, driving a luxury car, living in a mansion behind iron gates “understands”??? The problems I cited in my first posting are not money related but the basis of this post is very simple. Its easy for somebody who isn’t “in the trenches” to spout off platitudes and repeat what the megachurch pastor’s say…(the guys who are isolated from real world problems) . If you are a happy, smiling Christian you better get down on your knees right this second and thank Him that you aren’t currently dealing with the problems some of us are. Otherwise, you’ll be in the exact same mental state many of us are! “God is with you and He understands what you’re going thru!” Really? For well over a decade I’ve been praying, fasting at times, getting others to pray and this situation just gets worsev and worse and worse, as if He’s just playing a game with me. “God is with me?” OK, God if you’re with me, why not solve this problem once and for all????????????????

Andy Wood November 25, 2012 at 9:30 am

Hi Irv,

First, let me say that regardless of the details of the pain you have been experiencing for so long, I would never presume to say “I know how you’re feeling.” However, many of the emotions and thoughts you expressed, if not all of them, are things I have said or felt myself in relation to my own circumstances. I think Christians do others a great disservice to pretend they never face problems or pain. And I lost count of the number of times I have written in my journal something about God playing a “sick joke” or “playing games with me.” God, you’re doing it for everybody else, why not me?

In all of that, at least for me, there are three certainties. First, I’m not God, so I can’t see the larger plan. I either have to trust Him or decide to depend on my own resources. Second, the end of the story hasn’t been told. Not about me. Not about you. Third, the cross has forever settled for me that God loves me when I don’t deserve it. So why doesn’t God change my circumstances when I am desperate for Him to? I don’t know. There are many things I won’t know about until I see Him face to face. But I made a choice, even in the desperation, to trust Him as best I could – both with what I couldn’t understand and with what I didn’t think I could STAND anymore. And I have done that horribly imperfectly.

Please know that I am praying for you and your situation, and that I care. And thanks for feeling the freedom to share your heart so candidly.

Robert December 23, 2012 at 6:57 pm

I have been trawling the internet for DAYS looking for a way out of my present situation. I have failed my family, I have failed in life, I have failed God and I have failed myself. I can see no sense in trying to go on. For all of my 57 years I have happily accepted that I did not need to know the plan, even when it stacked against me. I have no fight left in me now, its Christmas eve and I am done. God is not “coming to the rescue” even God telling me now ” I am with you” would mean nothing. I know I will end up in Hell, but oddly, I think that has been the plan all along. I hope God cares for my family more than he did for me. Thanks.

Sky December 23, 2012 at 11:39 pm

Robert, I really hope you see this comment sooner then later. I do not know your situation but I am more then willing to listen. Know one can truly understand or appreciate what you are feeling, only you thats the lonely part, however I am willing to listen and help you best I can. I won’t be able to produce a miracle which I’m sure you feel is the only thing that you feel can save you right now but I can give my time and attention. However please do not give up on your life. More people can relate to you in that area then we could ever imagine, including me. Email me at kbmusicjunki@gmail.com and we can go from there.

Andy Wood December 23, 2012 at 11:47 pm

HI Robert,
I would be more than presumptuous to assume to know what has led to your despair. But I do know something about despair, being completely alone at Christmas, and having no one to blame for it but me because of my own failures. Sometimes I still deal with that. But in the process, I have learned that despite my being convinced He was playing games with me, or believing he loved everybody else but me, the honest truth is that Jesus died for my sin, too. And His love for me is settled, whether I can see it in the circumstances or not. Again, I don’t know what “I have no fight left in me now” means in your case. But I can say from mine that when I quit fighting – even in the despair, somehow God showed up. Was I suddenly thrilled? Nope. But over time, God began healing some pretty shattered pieces of my life.

Please know I care. And I’m praying.

Jo Radcliffe December 24, 2012 at 3:15 am

Robert, I’m praying for you too. We all mess up. Bible heroes messed up spectacularly. Although it probably doesn’t help to know that. I’m also praying for Sky and Andy as God uses them to work through.

David December 24, 2012 at 3:32 am

Hi Robert, I wont pretend to have any idea of what you are going thru, however I have also felt exactly as you do! What I would say is things can change and tomorrow is a new day! Check out Stan Tookie Williams his life changed completely. We are human and designed to fail, show me someone who has not messed up and i will show you a liar! We all do and sometimes real bad! Take care Robert.

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