The psalmist said:
“yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:5).
It is clear that troubles can consume our lives and the lives of others. Grief overwhelms, and brings us to a point where we do not want to go any further. We may even cry out against God in despair. We come to a place and notice the horrors this fallen world brings and can only wonder, “Why God?” I do not wish to address the problem of evil 1 here, except to say we do live in a fallen world. We all rebelled against God’s holiness and His goodness in Adam’s sin (Romans 5), and the consequences of that sin have led us to a world where death and grief are as natural to life as breathing. But we still struggle with the why. Why did this horrific incident occur, why this trial, this pain, this heart break? These are questions not seeking a philosophical reconciliation between good and evil, but a cry of desperation. It is this grief I wish to address.
All hope may seem lost for many, but there is still hope. God never granted a full answer to the question of why. Remember Job? He lost everything in a short amount of time. His children died. His home and business were ruined. His health failed. His friends accused him repeatedly of sin. Even his wife abandoned him to torment. He had no hope. Yet it was here God met him. When he lost everything:
“the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, ‘Who is this who darkens my counsel by words without knowledge?’” (Job 38:1-2)
God didn’t give Job an answer to the question of why. He makes clear Job did not understand who God was. Job in his grief forgot the counsel of God. Job darkened, made obscure what God was doing. When evil hit God still had a purpose. Even though if it seemed senseless there was a reason. Job had forgotten, and came to a place without hope. But it was then that the Lord met him. The rest of the book which bears the sufferers name entails God revealing Himself to Job. He is the One who created the world and the One who sustains every intimate detail. Job thought God had forgotten or not seen. But God knew, and it is at the midnight of hope that God met Job. God had a purpose for Job… to demonstrate Job’s faithfulness over against Satan’s lies (Job 1), but He still spoke into Job’s life when all hope seemed lost. Job was never abandoned nor are we even in the most gut wrenching of circumstances.
But what is the point? Why do we have to go through all of it? I don’t know the express reason for every trial or every pain in a person’s life. But I am reminded of what God speaks to His people during their captivity in Babylon. In a letter written by Jeremiah, God tells His people Israel:
“I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:11-13)
Unlike certain teachers who abuse this to say life will be nothing but rainbows, sunshine, and all the lies prosperity gospel teaches. Rather the passage is written to Jews, who were living under judgment. Their nation had been destroyed at the hands of brutal and merciless conquerors. They lost everything. It is in these verses though that we see a reason for the pain. Simply, it would push them to seek the Lord. While the nation had sinned and needed to be restored; it is interesting to see that God took tribulation to reconcile His people. His plans of hope included restoration, but His primary purpose was to draw His people to Him. In seeking Him they would be found by Him. He would meet them just like He met Job. Am I saying all bad events are judgment? NO! Rather, whether judgment or grief, death or sickness, trial or trouble, or whatever, one of reason behind all of it is to cause us to turn and seek God’s face. When this happens, God will meet us there. He promises those who seek Him will find Him. There are no qualifiers. He meets us where we are.
This is the hope for a Christian. We are not abandoned. When we see the pain that a few men wrought upon a nation, we should not be surprised. The night before the cross, Jesus told His disciples:
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world,” (John 16:33)
There is tribulation and trouble on every side. Grief will grab everyone one day. But it is here Jesus reminds His disciples He has overcome – there is peace in Him. It is only in Him there is peace. Without Jesus there is no lasting comfort or any eternal hope. Jesus will meet anyone where they are if they would seek Him. Christian, do not lose heart. Jesus has overcome all trouble – this you know. Hopelessness is undone in Him. He has beaten death itself, and has made a way of life to whoever will believe. Knowing this then we cannot lay down and be quiet. We must pray for all people, and to be ready to speak to all without hope. Even though death casts a long shadow, Jesus has overcome. Evil should not be feared for hope is alive in Jesus to all who will believe.
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- see Groothius, Douglas Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith. IVP Academic. Nottingham, England. 2011, Pgs. 614-652. and Geisler, Norman L. and Feinberg, Paul D. Introduction to Philosophy: A Christian Perspective. Baker Academic. Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1980. Pgs. 321-336. ↩