I hear this question a lot. I’ve even wrestled with the “why God?” question myself.
This morning, while reading St. James I had a thought about this matter.
Let me show you what I read and then I’ll share the thought:
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. (James 1:2-4 NLT)
So here’s what I thought…
When we ask the “Why does God let this happen?” question we make one or more assumptions:
- This life/world is all there is.
- I’m as good as I can get.
Let’s break them down.
This life/world is all there is.
The “why God” question works if this life and this world is it… beginning and end. “Why would you let my one shot at life be this awful?” is a fair question if this is all there is.
However, Christians, and other faiths, believe that this life/world is NOT all there is! There is something after this life: experiences to be had, relationships to be enjoyed, and rewards to be received. The opposite of these is true as well. In short, the Scriptures teach us that there is more after this life.
Christians live our lives in this world with the hope that this is NOT all there is! There is more, and that faith helps us navigate suffering, evil, and death. While we grieve and feel pain we are never without hope… because we know there is more.
I’m as good as I can get.
St. James teaches us that suffering and hard times make us stronger. Anyone who goes to the gym understands this. In fact, we’ve immortalized this idea with a slogan: “No pain, no gain!”
Once again, we see that what is true in the gym is also true in life! Pain makes us stronger… at least it has the potential too if we navigate it well.
For those who say “Why God?” may I suggest that this pain may in fact be your path to a better you? Pain is the flashing light on the dashboard of our lives that finally gets our attention!
C.S. Lewis famously said:
“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
As I was processing these thoughts this morning I spent some time journaling and ended with this note:
Suffering, pain, and even evil may actually be the doorway through which we pass into eternal life or a better life.
So, I think that both of these assumptions are wrong: this life/world is all there is, and/or I am as good as I can be.
I believe, on the other hand that…
This life/world is NOT the end for us. There is something else… so an end here is the first step into there.
I am NOT as good as I can be. I need to get better… and then do it again which means I will need pain and suffering… often delivered in the hands of evil.
If you are in that place… suffering… St. James tells us what to do in the sentences immediately proceeding his instruction on suffering. He writes:
If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do. (James 1:5-8 NLT)