I often hear people ask this question, and others like it: “If God is so loving, why does he allow small children to get cancer?” And the truth is that from individual situation to individual situation, I don’t know. I do not always know God’s specific purposes in a situation. But I do know what God’s big-picture plans are. I also know what God’s motivations are behind the circumstances He allows in our individual lives. Those motivations teach me that I should trust Him, even when it hurts. I will save you the discovery of my inadequacies and tell you upfront that there are times when I cannot possibly fathom how God can bring anything good from a set of circumstances, but He DOES! And that is good enough for me. I trust in Him, ESPECIALLY when I don’t understand.
Is God unfair?
First, let’s be honest. Our sense of justice isn’t exactly dependable. What we think is fair or reasonable isn’t exactly reliable. Let us not fool ourselves into thinking what is fair, reasonable, or just. To pretend we know what is best in a situation is not only incredibly naive, but it is rebellion. To see circumstances unfold in a way that displeases us, and to then shake our fist at The High King of Heaven, in disapproval, demonstrates a desire (whether conscious or subconscious) to place ourselves on the throne of God, dictating how things, we cannot possibly begin to fathom, should unfold.
God created us for the sole purpose of loving us
God created man (and woman) for one reason, to love us. Our sole reason for existing is to have the extravagant love of God poured out on us. But mankind wasn’t satisfied with that. We wanted to be like God. In attempting to accomplish that we invited, and welcomed, sin into the world never realizing the permanent chasm it would fix between God and us. Never again (in this life) would we be able to walk face to face with God in the cool of the day, through the garden of Eden He created for our pleasure and sustenance. God knew all of this would happen. He also knew that the only way to repair it after we broke it was through sacrifice.
God is not exempt from suffering, but His is voluntary
God knew that the only way to repair what man had broken (His relationship with us) was to send His only son, Jesus Christ to suffer and die for our sins. He also knew this before the first word of creation was ever spoken.
1 Peter 1:18-20 – For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but now in these last days he has been revealed for your sake.
God, whose only desire, ever, was to love us, knew we would rebel and create a situation that could only be repaired by the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. Knowing this, He created us anyway because He wanted to show His love that much. He sent His Son to be used, abused, betrayed, beaten, tortured, spit on, mocked, nailed to a cross, and killed, to save the very people who were responsible for all of the aforementioned abuse. God walked into suffering unjustly, unfairly, and He did so voluntarily because He loves us. So let us not consider anything we suffer unfair because we do not know the meaning of the word. It may BE unfair according to our standards, but our standards are flawed.
Why we suffer
Pain always has a purpose. Pain in the body exists to alert us to some abnormality in our physical person. It exists so that we will recognize there is a problem, allowing us to address and rectify the cause. Emotional, mental, and spiritual pain exist for the exact same purpose. God’s purpose is always to help us realize a life fulfilled. He wants us to be the very best we can be. He knows what that REALLY looks like. We just think we know. God knows that the very best thing for us is to live a life in perfect union with Him, walking in faith, submission, and obedience. Everything He does, or allows, is for the purpose of drawing us, and others, back into union with Him. I may not see how life’s circumstances accomplish that, but I don’t have to. His goal is always restoration, even when it doesn’t look like that.
I have a good friend, Chuck D. A while back he broke his wrist. He returned for a follow up visit several weeks after his initial visit. The doctor came into the room and Chuck said “How’s everything looking doc?” The doctor looked at him and said “Chuck, I’m going to re-break your wrist.” I can imagine Chuck’s fear, hesitation, and doubt. I can imagine him thinking “man i came to you to fix my wrist not break it worse. I don’t think this is a good idea. I mean, it would hurt, and i couldn’t use my wrist for even longer.” Imagine if Chuck had run out of the room at that point, screaming, warning everyone about this sadistic doctor that lived to torture people. But Chuck didn’t do that. He allowed the doctor to explain that Chuck’s wrist wasn’t healing correctly. If left as it was it could cause even more pain in the long run. It might even cost Chuck the correct usage of that wrist and hand, maybe permanently. God is the same way.
Our pain has a purpose
Our pain ALWAYS has a purpose. Sometimes the purpose is to prepare us for some greater trial we will face down the road. Just like athletes workout, train, and practice all offseason long so that when the season starts, they will be in top form to play the games that count. God sees all of the trials that await us in this life. He helps us to build, strength, endurance, and faith now so that when the actual test gets here, we will be prepared. The other purpose is to disciple.
Hebrews 12:5-6 – And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said, “My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.”
When we make bad choices, He disciplines us to correct us, to bring us back into a closer walk with Him. He is trying to lead us to a place that will satisfy us, whether we realize it or not.
Pain is one of His greatest blessings
When I was three years old, I was diagnosed with migraine headaches. I had them off and on throughout my childhood. They were debilitating. I could not function when one hit. As I entered puberty, they began to slowly increase in frequency. In my senior year of High School, they began to rapidly increase in frequency and severity. I ended up in the emergency room about once a week until finally, my head hurt all day every day. I am now almost 38 years old. This past December (2016) made 20 years that I have had a migraine headache almost every single day (i can count about five days in those 20 years that I didn’t have a headache). My addiction grew out of treatment under a doctor’s care for the headaches. Has there ever been a temptation to be angry at God? Yes. The thought has crossed my mind if He hadn’t allowed me to be born with this condition I wouldn’t have gotten addicted and caused all of the pain and heartache I caused. That’s a great thought. But there’s no guarantee I wouldn’t have developed the addiction through a broken tooth, or a kidney stone or something else. Had I not battled addiction, I would never have gone to the Home of Grace and had David Caminiti as my counselor. He wouldn’t have been able to help me identify issues that had crippled me emotionally my entire life, and would have continued to do so for the rest of my life had they not been identified and addressed. My physical pain, my emotional pain, and my addiction have given me life experiences to be able to understand the mind of an addict in a way only an addict can. It has helped me to understand and truly empathize with the addict and their family. It has opened doors for ministry. I would never have been able to walk through without my life unfolding exactly how it has. I had a guy comment to me this week about how some of the things I have written had helped him in his walk. Well, it isn’t me; it’s God. My very best efforts got me to the Home of Grace, but the fact that God allows me to participate with him in ministry makes everything I’ve ever been through worth it. I am not saying I have arrived yet because I haven’t. I do know this, though: I would never have scripted my life this way when I was 16. But I really like the way it’s going now. Yes, I went through 15 years of hell, as did most of the people around me. But I can speak for all of them when I say that this life I’m living now, it was worth all of it. I firmly believe God will accomplish the exact same outcome in each of our lives if we will trust and abide in him, even through the pain, especially through the pain.
Lord, I lift up to you all of those who today are walking through pain. Some of them may be walking through unbearable valleys of suffering that I couldn’t begin to comprehend. I ask for your comfort for them. I ask that you reveal your love to them in ways they might have never known before. I pray for your encouragement and grace to sustain them during this season of sorrow. I ask that you would bring people alongside them to comfort and help sustain them. I ask that you strengthen their faith to trust that you have plans to prosper them, plans to give them hope and a future. I ask that you help them to trust that the outcome might not be what they planned, but it will be so much better because you planned it. Thank you for your voluntary suffering, which rescues us. I ask these things in Jesus’ name, amen.