My wife and I losing our first child was one of the hardest times I've faced so far in my life. As I hold my less than two month old daughter, I always remember that this is my third child, not my second. Losing a baby is just one hard thing about living in a broken world, but as we go through life we face many hard and difficult things.
These things rightly cause us to ask hard questions about the God we say we believe in. I've asked and heard others ask many difficult questions like, "If God is in control, why would He allow this to happen?" or "Isn't God powerful enough to stop this?" or "If God is there, how can He be good?"
These questions are amplified when mass tragedies occur, such as natural disasters or school shootings. "Wouldn't God want to stop something like that?" "Was He sleeping?" "Does God even exist?" These are all legitimate questions that rattle through the minds of hurting people longing for hope.
Where do we turn when we encounter such hardship? What do we hang our hat on? How do we counsel others who are hurting or find comfort ourselves?
A Broken World
Can I just be clear in saying that what follows are truths for comfort after someone has grieved. I don’t say these things lightly, but they are not appropriate to just flippantly tell someone when they are hurting. When someone is hurting you listen to them. You do not casually say, “Well, God will work this for good.” You say, “I’m sorry. This is so hard.” If these are things you know already then you do find comfort in them when you are hurting, but for someone who doesn’t know this, it won’t be received well in the moment. Just wait. That being said…
First, we need to understand this world is broken. When Adam and Eve sinned against God it was not just humans who came under a curse, but all of creation. Because of human transgression, death entered into a once perfect world. Having children became painful, marriage became work (Genesis 3:16), working to provide became hard, creation rallies against those trying to subdue it (vs.17-18), and we all will die (vs. 19).
This means natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes will occur. This means not every pregnancy produces a healthy, thriving baby. This means just as Adam and Eve sinned in the garden against God, so we too sin against God and one another. This is not how things were meant to be and we painfully experience that fact more than most of us are even willing to admit to one another.
Do not think that God is caught off guard or out of control though. If this were the case then He would not be much of a God and we would not have any hope. It is just the contrary however. God is all knowing, completely wise, and completely in control. Romans 8:28 promises us that God is working all things for the good of those who love Him. Job believed this even though He lost everything but his wife. Joseph believed this even though he was unjustly accused of assault and spent years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
Jesus believed this as He entered sinful humanity, but did not sin Himself. He was then crucified, but had committed no crime. Upon that cross He bore the wrath of God for sin and experienced horrors that none of us have ever come close to experiencing ourselves even though He, Himself never sinned. He did this because He knew that God was good and had a good plan to make His glory known and save sinners. Jesus voluntarily endured this because He was God’s goodness in the flesh on display for all humanity to see.
God isn’t out of control. He is using bad things to work good things for His glory and to redeem both creation and humanity. Even when we feel the effects of sin and brokenness, we can take heart that God is working for good all of the things that make us ask, “Why?” or “God, where are you?” It is in the cross that He has told us, “I’m right here.”