As the sermon ended, my 7 year old daughter leaned over and whispered, “Is it the truth, Momma? Is everything he just said the truth?” “Yes, baby, of course, what the preacher just said is the truth,” I replied, not really sure where this was going. Then she said, “even the part about the 5 year old dying?”
Exhale… she’d really been paying attention. “Yes, sweetheart, it is true that a 5 year old, her parents and her siblings all died in that car wreck. But it’s also true that God was there by their side and and God is present and walking alongside all those who grieve the loss.”
Where is God in our suffering?
The sermon was focused on the question of “why does God allow pain and suffering?” A deep one this week, yet one of the questions I think we all wrestle with at some point. Where is God when young families are killed in car wrecks on their way home from church? Where is God when children are dying from cancer? Where is God when wars break out, terrorists execute innocents, and natural disasters wipe out entire communities?
It’s a lot for a 7 year old to wrap her head around – and it’s still a lot for most adults to comprehend. We’ve all been experienced pain and suffering at some level – some more than others – and haven’t you wondered where is God in my loneliness, my grief, the emptiness in my heart that doesn’t seem to have an end?
I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous; I have overcome the world.” ~John 16:33 AMP
The truth: We live in a broken, human world
The truth is we live in a broken, human world. We have evil in our midst. People make poor choices that lead to bad things. Children get sick and die. The unthinkable happens and we are left to grapple for answers and a way forward.
I remember being shaken the morning that sweet family was killed and I didn’t even know them. I’m shaken nearly every time I watch the news of so many horrific acts of violence around the world. I’ve felt the bottom fall out of my own world and I’ve walked through the valley of suffering.
If we again ask the question, “Why does God allow evil and suffering to continue?” and we look at the cross of Jesus, we still do not know what the answer is. However, now we know what the answer isn’t. It can’t be that he doesn’t love us. It can’t be that he is indifferent or detached from our condition. God takes our misery and suffering so seriously that he was willing to take it on himself. (Tim Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism)
The truth: God is present with us in our suffering
The truth we heard this morning – and the truth I believe because I’ve experienced it myself – is that God is with us every step. He doesn’t always intervene to prevent the pain, but He is in our midst to walk us through the darkness and to strengthen us through the process. God is ever by our side waiting for us to reach out our hand and ask Him to help. He’s present and waiting to hold us tight and carry us through whatever we’re facing.
When pain and suffering come, all I can do is call out to God in prayer to be present and carry me through. I lean on the truth that God is walking by my side and His heart breaks for what breaks mine. When the sadness is too much and I can’t find the words, I trust the Holy Spirit to intercede and pray through the groaning of my heart.
Not only so, but also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. ~Romans 5:3-5 NIV
So, yes, sweetheart, it’s all the truth. The world is a hard place, full of pain and suffering. Full of illness, death, evil acts, accidents, and more. But the world is also full of God and He is present in your life if you’ll only let Him in. When pain and suffering comes – and as much as I pray to protect you, I know someday you’ll be there – call out for God. Get on your knees in prayer and ask Him to carry you through and you’ll find out just how true these words are.
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that you of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. ~Ephesians 3:14-19 NIV
Click HERE to hear the sermon that sparked this conversation with my daughter. Maybe it’ll offer additional hope to you as you wrestle with this question of “where is God in my pain and suffering?”