Today mourners came by the thousands in France, and in Israel, to cry, to honor, to grieve, and to never forget, finding unity in remembrance of beloved sons and daughters who became terrorist targets in three irrational attacks last week in France. They died at the hands of three Islamist extremists who tried to use religion to justify their senseless slaughter. There are so many tragic stories, so much pain in the world today it seems many of us have the same unanswered question. Without fail our inquisitive nature seems to engage immediately after every tragedy, after every natural disaster, after any heartbreaking story the skeptics, spectators, and the speculators come together. Although on opposite sides of the spectrum some even align themselves in unity to ask very specific questions surrounding individual events, all wanting to know “why”. Why has a particular thing been allowed to happen, or why is it happening. Unfortunately, this world will not, because it cannot, provide a complete answer. We simply can’t understand everything from our finite perspective. Never the less, one day we will see with comprehensive clarity, but until then, things will continue to remain a bit foggy as we attempt to resolve the question of “Why” this from the age old discussion of God’s role in this world, a world that is so corroded with evil and suffering.
It is not unusual for a life altering tragedy, or even a natural disaster to be followed by a plethora of discussions about God’s role in it. In John 9:1-4 even the disciples questioned Jesus as to “Why” a man had been blind from birth, thinking him or his parents must have sinned. On one hand, some people speculate whatever the event it must be God’s judgment for some evil they believe was perpetrated by the victims. We cannot know with certainty whether God’s judgment was involved in any particular disaster, without specific, authoritative revelation from God. On the other hand, some see the anguish of the victims and ask, “Why doesn’t God prevent suffering” or in short simply “Why”. This is an important question, and answering it properly and to the satisfaction of those who ask it is one of the most difficult tasks for any believer.
There are so many reasons for suffering. Sometimes we believe we can see a connection between godless behavior and harsh repercussions. Sometimes God will even allow, and use pain to get our attention, because we don’t listen to Him otherwise. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 7:9, “I am glad not because it hurts you, but because the pain turns you to God.” Sometimes it takes pain to get us to do what God wants us to do. Sometimes God allows hardship so He can be glorified through it.
Many will say they don’t believe in God because of a tragedy that happened to them in life. Maybe something harsh happened to them. Maybe their parents divorced when they were young. Or maybe someone very close to them died and they have held that against God their entire lives. They want to know how God could have allowed such a thing. Our human intellect and notions of fairness reject the apparent contradiction between a loving God and a world of pain. We either believe that God is all-loving, but not all-powerful, and therefore He can’t stop evil, or He is all-powerful, but He is not all loving, therefore He won’t stop evil. The general tendency is to put everything on God, to blame everything on the All Mighty. Remember pain and suffering will not create character, it only reveals it.
If you’ve never asked why our world is diseased with pain and suffering, you will. Remember, Jesus said in John 16:33, “You will have suffering in this world.” He didn’t say you might—he said you can count on it. So when tragedy strikes, as it will; when suffering comes, as it will; when you’re wrestling with pain, as you will. You will also need to make a decision, people react in different ways to a crisis. It seems you either turn to the Lord, or turn against Him, your decision will result in you getting bitter or better. If your choice is to run into His arms, you’ll find peace to deal with the present, courage to deal with your future, and you’ll find the incredible promise of eternal life in heaven, much like the apostle Paul who wrote in Romans 8:18: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed.