Why Can't God Fix This?

Read Psalm 22.

You'll get the sense of David's pain real quick -- Jesus's, too. Many of the Psalms were written out of great pain. As any artist will tell you, the soul awakens in adversity. Much of our Scriptures were also written in the middle of some pretty severe suffering.

There's nothing like suffering to get us to question things. We question "what?" (what's happening to me?), "why?" (why is this happening to me?), and we question "who?" (as in "who is letting this happen to me?). If God loves me, why do we suffer?

I once had a close friend and mentor named Brian. We geeked out together on theology and spirituality as we met together monthly following his retirement from nearly 50 years of pastoral ministry. I loved our time together. His friendship was such a great gift to me. Shortly after his retirement, he was diagnosed with ALS. [Look it up if you want to know just how debilitating and cruel this disease is.] In a matter of months, he lost all independence as he was confined to a wheelchair and dependent on a machine to breathe for him.

People used to ask him the reason for suffering. "Why is God raining on your parade, Brian?" He'd simply answer, "A water-laden cloud passed overhead, that's all." He understood the random and universal nature of pain and suffering; he also understood the temporary nature of suffering.

Pain is a universal fact of life. The oldest book in our Bible -- Job -- grapples with human suffering. The opening sequence of Job describes in detail the losses of the man named Job and the accusation he received from his wife and friends. The bulk of the book is a series of conversations Job had with his friends as he answered their accusation and wrestled with his suffering. Finally, at the end of the book, Job got his chance to speak with God. "Why is there suffering in the world?" God simply responds by telling Job he doesn't have sufficient knowledge about how our world works.

The world is good, but it is not perfect.

The world is ordered, but it is wild.

The world is beautiful, but it is dangerous.

Funny enough, God never answers Job's question. Job simply accepts there are things he cannot comprehend and chooses to trust God instead: "I know you can do all things and no purpose of yours can be thwarted. I spoke about things I didn't understand, things too wonderful for me to know. My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes see you" (Job 42).

Psalm 22 is both experiential and prophetic. It contains the thoughts of David in poetic form in response to his own agony, but it also tells of the suffering Jesus would endure some 1,000 years later. As we read these words, we know Jesus felt what we feel. He, too, felt abandoned by God in his suffering. But we also know the rest of the story! Suffering doesn't last forever. God raises us.

Some say the presence of pain means the absence of God -- or that there is no God at all. I say, in the presence of pain, we are reminded there is a God -- and he is good! It is the thief that comes to steal, kill, and destroy; Jesus brings life.

God never tried to explain away suffering; so I don't think I should either. Rule #1 in preacher school is: "There is a God, and I am not him." I could give you dozens of reasons why there is suffering in this would, but it wouldn't change your suffering. When we are suffering, we are suffering -- and the reasons for it won't help ease it.

So we focus on hope instead.

For the believer, suffering produces intimacy with God (Job 42:5), refines us (Isaiah 48:10), matures us (James 1:2-4),  and equips us to be merciful (2 Corinthians 1:3-5). When we are suffering, we remember all things can be redeemed for good and that our suffering is temporary in the eternal love of God.

I will not trivialize your suffering here or try to explain it with cliché. I will, however, encourage you to look around and see that you are in good company, and I will encourage you to look to God in Whose presence our former sufferings will one day be forgotten.