During hard times we often find ourselves asking, “Why, God? Why is this happening to me?” We don’t understand why a loving God would allow such tragedy, sickness, evil, or death to rock our world. Suffering seems dealt by a God with the power to intervene, but the unwillingness to take His hands out of His pockets to act. He doesn’t seem to care what happens to us. On the other hand, we might decide He is willing, but just doesn’t have what it takes to change things.
I’m slowly learning that most times I look at things backwards when it comes to matters of faith. Rather than asking “why this suffering?” maybe the question needs to be “why these blessings?” After all, I’ve never done a bloomin’ thing that deserves God’s grace. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. But He’s given it to me – free of charge. Every mistake I’ve ever made, or will make, is covered under his grace policy. It’s through our trials and suffering, not our works, that our faith is proved genuine. (1 Peter 1:6-7) Our reaction to pain is our loudest testimony.
Another commodity that comes standard with genuine faith is mercy. Oh, heaven help us all if we got what we truly deserved from God! All those who think they’ve done enough good to be exempt from paying their own sin bill, please stand on your left ears, and let me shout to your souls, “You ain’t that good!” None of us are.
The reason we receive mercy is the very same reason for grace. For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. God sent Jesus to pay our sin bill so we can live in His presence now and in the hereafter. Ecclesiastes tells us that eternity is set in our hearts. We innately know there’s something much better available and on the way.
So, rather than understanding “why?” I believe what we really want is to simply be in the presence of God. We are like little children who wander, jump, or fall into trouble. We lift high our hands, weary from trying to fix our mess, hoping someone bigger will reach down, grab hold of us, and pull us out. We want to hear, “It’s gonna be okay.” Or maybe we resist being molded into the shape of Jesus the way we resist the remedy for setting a broken bone. I know from experience (and so do many of you), absolutely NOTHING makes us more aware of His presence than crying out to Him in the midst of suffering! Suffering’s nastiness begins to wither the moment we step into the presence of God.
Psalm 107 describes four distinct groups of sufferers – the wanderers (v. 4-9), the prisoners (v. 10-16), the sick (v. 17-22), and the overwhelmed (v.23-32). Take a good look at it sometime this week. No doubt you’ll identify with one of those white-knuckled groups clinging to a common thread of hope. Every single group “cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.” I’m not so sure it was their situations that changed, but rather being in the presence of God that changed them. They know, and I do to, that His presence satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry. It breaks down the gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron. His presence heals and rescues from the grave, and His presence stills storms and hushes waves.
And all that’s left to say is what David said:
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story— those he redeemed from the hand of the foe, those he gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south.” Psalm 107:1-3
And all the former pit-dwellers shouted, “AMEN!”