Why am I disabled?
Why does my sister have cancer?
Why did a drunk driver kill my best friend?
Many of us have experienced tragedy in our lives. And if we haven’t been directly hit by such circumstances, we know plenty of people around us who have. When faced with a calamity, the age-old question arises: Why does God let bad things happen?
The Unresolved Debate
There are those who believe God has a plan for each one of us, and events, both good and bad, happen for a reason. Sometimes this theory is comforting – it is often easier to accept our suffering if we believe there is significance associated with it. Other times, this logic makes us angry – how can an all-powerful and just God allow suffering to occur?
Others believe God does not direct the tragedies that occur in this world. God created an Earth that is evolving based on laws of nature and the decisions of its inhabitants, not a pre-determined script. Bad things happen; people make evil choices. God is as outraged and saddened as we are when these things happen. This thinking gives us confidence that our God is kind and merciful, yet it is disconcerting to accept He is not calling all the shots.
The Bible does not offer a definitive answer to this debate, perhaps signaling us not to dwell on why bad things happen in our lives. On the other hand, the Bible offers plenty of insight about what God does for us once tragedy strikes. Focusing on how to move forward when faced with struggles will lead us to the strength, courage and resources we need during difficult times.
Where Do We Turn?
We should start by asking for God’s help. Sometimes we may ask for something specific: God, help me cope with my Dad’s death; God, help me recover from my accident; God, take away the anger and jealousy I feel. Sometimes we are so distraught we don’t know what to ask for. That’s OK, a simple, 'God, help me' is all we need.
God’s help can come in many different forms. Sometimes it comes through the words and actions of those around us. Sometimes it comes in the form of an insight. Sometimes it is just an inner feeling we get. We need to recognize these events as support and direction from God – signs that He is with us and on our side. We must do our part by being open to them, reflecting on them, and allowing them to alter our thinking.
So often, our first reaction is to reject gut feelings or the words of others. But this is how God works in our lives. There are only a handful of people in history who have had the privilege of hearing directly from God. Yet there are millions who know God’s comfort and feel his support through the many signs and messages He sends.
Not every inner feeling, nor every word spoken will be a message from God. Some instincts will be born out of fear, and some people will do and say things that hurt rather than help. But these are not God’s messages. We will recognize God’s messages from the peaceful, comforting or insightful perspective they provide.
Ask And You Shall Receive
If we turn to God we will receive His help. We may not receive the specific miracle we are asking for ('God, please make my illness disappear'), but we will receive whatever we need to persevere.
Many people assume tragedy strikes only those who can handle it. Yet most people who faced dreadful circumstances – the death of a child, a debilitating illness, the unexpected break-up of a marriage -- were initially scared, angry and overwhelmed, wondering how they would cope. And then miraculously, they found strength they didn’t know they had. Well guess what? Their reservoirs of strength and courage probably were not initially large enough to sustain them through their hardship. But God refilled their reservoirs, and everyone around them is in awe: “What an amazing person!” “Where does she find her strength?” “How does he handle it?” Whether they realize it or not, these people are in awe because they are witnessing God at work.
photo credit: Graur Razvan Ionut on FreeDigitalPhotos.net