(Adapted from Jimmy’s newest book, When Life Hurts)
There are some topics that pastors rarely tackle head-on, and one of them is the ancient question about God’s goodness: Why does God allow tragedy?
When a typhoon destroys cities and kills thousands as it did recently in the Philippines, we are left reeling in the chaos and devastation, asking “Why didn’t a God who controls the wind and the waves do something?”
When a father loses his son at the hands of a drunk driver, he agonizes with pain, asking, “Where were you, God? Why didn’t you stop this?”
When the terrorist attacks of 9-11 brought down the World Trade Center in New York City, voices across the country rose up in anger and frustration, asking “Why did God let this happen?”
The seemingly endless tragedies of life leave us confused and baffled. We’ve all wondered in our hearts how a good and loving God can allow such pain.
I’ve heard many well-meaning pastors and ministers sidestep the issue with canned Christian responses. His ways are not our ways, they say. It will all make sense in eternity. Or, What Satan planned for harm, God will use for His purposes.
I believe those are true statements, but they still aren’t really satisfying answers, are they?
Let’s be completely honest with each other. We know that God doesn’t cause tragedy, but He does allow it to happen. He could stop it if He wanted to. He could have stopped the drunk driver. He could have stopped the typhoon. He could have topped the terrorists before they boarded the planes.
If He was unable to stop these things, then He’s not the all-powerful God we believe in. So why doesn’t He?
As harsh as it sounds, maybe God allows tragedy to come into our lives because tragedy is often the only thing that engages us with God. Maybe God allows heartbreak and chaos and confusion because through those things we finally begin to wake from our apathy.
Tragedy forces us to struggle with God. We’re shaken out of our indifference and roused to engage in the relationship—many of us for the very first time.
“Struggle with God is the essence of relationship with God,” writes James Emery White. The struggle to make sense of the world leads us to the foot of God’s throne. In the midst of that struggle is where we find Him.
But if we give up that struggle, we find ourselves in a state of indifference. When we stop fighting—when we stop engaging with God, asking questions, pursuing His truth—then our faith become stale and stagnant.
Through struggle, God brings us closer to Himself. He uses our spiritual and emotional struggles (and our theological struggles, too) to make us into the people He longs for us to become.
God could deliver us from pain, but instead He often chooses to deliver us through it. When you experience tragedy or have questions, take them to God. Engage Him. Don’t be afraid to struggle. God brings beauty from our ashes.