Believe in God, But…Heartless God
Where was God? Why did He let this happen? These are questions as old as human tragedy. They echoed in the terrorism of the September 11, 2001, attack in New York. They haunted the devastation of the tsunami that struck Southeast Asia. They forever hang over the horror of the Holocaust. They perplex people dealing with the loss of children, wives, brothers, parents, and friends. These questions challenge our faith. With every new catastrophe, we try to reconcile tragedy and evil with a loving, in-control God. Why must innocent people suffer? Why can’t evil people be thwarted? Why does God let it happen? During this week, we will explore this common distortion of God as being heartless, indifferent and uncaring.
Something To Talk About:
Where is God in all the hurt and tragedy of this life? This has been a hard truth for me to wrap my mind around — one that I may never fully understand. It’s a truth that has caused many to reject God altogether, claiming it’s just too hard to accept. How could the mass destruction caused by a typhoon be good? How could the brutal murders of innocent school children be good? Of course they weren’t. They were horrendous, devastating, and heart-breaking. The Bible doesn’t say they were good. But it does say that “…God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Romans 8:28). If you reflect for a moment, you will see that it does not say that all things are good. It says that God works all things for good. There’s a big difference. Let’s look at two points on this subject:
- God has a purpose in your pain: Things are going well – life is grand. Then bang, everything starts to unravel, and rather quickly. The first question I always found myself asking when these things happened was why God? Why me? We wonder why God didn’t prevent the suffering in our life and once it started why didn’t He turn it around. In everything that God allows there is always purpose. Because God is sovereign, there are no random, out-of-control happenings. God’s purposes may be hidden from us, but we can be assured that every event has a reason behind it. The important thing to always remember is although God does not cause everything to happen, He allows it. God is always at work in the lives of His people, and in His goodness will bring them to a good end. Philippians 1:6 tells us, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” The events that define our lives are not simply products of natural causes or random chance. They are ordained by God and are intended for our good. We often fail to sense God’s hidden guidance or protection as events in our lives unfold. But, when we look back at past events, we are able to see His hand more clearly, even in times of tragedy.
- God is present in your pain: Dealing with pain in our lives is difficult. You may be thinking, I don’t know how I could ever get through this. Or you may be battling powerful feelings of despair, suffering, confusion, fear, worry, and even anger. These are all normal responses to tragedy. The good news is we are not alone. God is with us in the fire. He knows what it’s like to live through the miseries of this world—He understands. He is near. He walks with us. And He understands. The Bible says, “Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.” (Hebrews 2:17-18) Whatever we endure, His care is certain, His love is unfailing, and His promises are secure.
- Have you ever asked God, “How could You let this happen?” What life events led to your question? What is your definition of all-powerful and all-good?
- Do you think that major physical tragedies should be called “acts of God?” Why or why not?
- If you were God, what would you do to deal with suffering and pain today? If you intervened supernaturally to eliminate evil, where would you draw the line? If you remove suffering or evil and tinker with people’s free will, in your design, what do you think the consequences would be? How would people form character in your world? How would people be motivated to seek God?
- God doesn’t always cause the pain, but God can always use it. How have you seen this play out?
- How does trust and patience fit into this discussion?
- Discuss the following statement: To judge God as unloving or unjust by the evil of this world would be a tragic mistake when we create most of it by ignoring God’s will. If anything, the evil should drive us toward God, because He loves us and wants to deliver us from its deceptive grip.
- What can we do this week to better trust God in every aspect of our life?
Take One Thing Home with You:
God is in control. He is trustworthy. But, God doesn’t promise deliverance from or avoidance of all pain. He does not always intervene to keep us far from hurt or harm. The Apostle Paul pleaded with God three times to take away the thorn in his flesh. Joseph pleaded with Pharaoh’s cupbearer to “get me out of this prison.” (Genesis 40:14). And the writer of Hebrews very honestly states, “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! ” (Hebrews 12:11). God doesn’t deny that we live in a world deeply marred and broken. Instead he draws closer and enters into it with us. Our hurts can become the very places where we meet God and experience the intimacy of His comforting presence. Isaiah 43:2 says, “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.”
But in the times when we do hurt, He comforts us in the midst of our troubles. Sometimes He bolsters us through the kindness of others. Sometimes He brings a sense of peace that we could never conjure or sustain on our own. Sometimes, through a glimpse of beauty or a well-timed word of encouragement, He reassures us that we’re going to be okay, that we are loved. And that He is sovereign.