by Michael Warden, Board Member
Anytime we are faced with widespread suffering, the first question that always comes up is “Where is God in all of this?” The good news is that the answer remains that God is where He always has been, on His throne, and in complete control.
At first, this can seem disheartening. If bad stuff can happen, even when God is in control, why should I trust God? But consider the reverse. If God were incapable of stopping bad things from happening, would that make you feel better or worse about the situation?
The reality is that we as believers can feel confident through hard times precisely because we know that our God will use this situation for our good and His glory.
Disease and Death Enter the World
Let’s back up. Scientists believe Coronavirus first infected humans in a market in Wuhan, China, but where did this virus come from, spiritually speaking?
God did not create the world for death and suffering. After God had finished making Eve so that Adam would not be lonely, Genesis 1:31 says:
And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (ESV)
But Adam and Eve sinned in Genesis 3, and through that sin, we see that death and suffering enter the world. We were not made to separated from the ones we love, or to suffer through painful disease, and so the emotional and spiritual tolls are often as great as the physical ones.
God Uses Suffering for Our Good and His Glory
But God, being all-powerful and all-knowing, did not just leave His children to suffer in vain. The pattern in scripture is clear. He is Lord, even in our sufferings. We can see the promise made in Romans 8:28, among other places.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (ESV)- Romans 8:28
But this promise is not idle. Repeatedly throughout scripture, God fulfills His purposes for the good of His people through trying times. In Genesis, Joseph is sold into slavery, sent to Egypt, only to redeem His people by leading Egypt through a tremendous famine. In the end, Joseph declares:
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (ESV) – Genesis 50:20
In Job, God allows Satan to take everything away from Job but his life. His possession and his children are destroyed. In the end, Job confesses:
“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (ESV)- Job 42:2–6
In this case, God restores Job’s family and possessions to him, and, in fact, doubles them, but more importantly, Job trusts God through all of His suffering, and through that trust, it is counted righteousness to Him through Jesus Christ.
We could take nearly endless other examples of suffering from the Bible to make similar points, from Jonah, to Paul, but the most obvious example is Jesus Himself. Through Jesus’ suffering, God reconciled the world to Himself. Jesus’ death on the cross was not Satan’s defeat of God, as the men on the road Emmaus wondered (Luke 24:13-17), but God’s defeat of Satan once and for all (John 19:30- “It is finished.”).
For the Unbeliever
The reality is that the world is like this, full of disease, suffering, and death, whether you believe there is a merciful God on the throne or whether you believe that this is also just random chance. The difference between the two outlooks is whether the reality of the current world will produce hope or dismay.
For the unbeliever, suffering and loss in the only time you believe you have could easily lead to dismay. This world, you believe, is as good as anything ever gets. If it’s not so good to you, what hope might you have for something better?
For the believer, however, we are included in the promise of Romans 8:28. All things work together for our good, whether in this life or eternity, and this world is the worst we must endure. All things will be made new.
If you have not yet put your faith in Christ, this is an opportunity to enter into His promises. Ask us how.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (ESV)- Revelation 21:3–5
How are we as Christians called to respond?
As believers, because we can be confident in the promises of God even in the midst of suffering, we do not have to respond from a place of fear. We are free to demonstrate God’s love for us, by loving others. Ministering to people’s physical, social, emotional, and spiritual needs continues to be our response.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. (ESV)- Romans 12:15
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. (ESV) – John 21:15–17
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. (ESV)- James 1:12