If you’ve swum in Christian circles for long enough, you would have heard the question or asked it yourself – “if God is so good, why does that happen?” Covering everything from why do wars start to why do babies die, from good people encountering hardships to bad people living great lives, and the overwhelming notion of a sovereign God in a fallen world, we can often feel, simply, abandoned.
My mum has a severe disability which only gets worse as she gets older. It means she can’t walk so well, and now has a wheelchair but this leads to greater problems- she could only have one child, and sometimes can’t go to church or spend time window shopping. When she cries, as someone who loves her, I cry. And the question is asked, if God is so powerful, why does that happen? As a Christian, I ask furthermore, why does he let that happen? Because he has the power to stop it, but also, the nature to want to stop it. I guess that calls into question the two fundamentals of Christianity, though- does God really have the power, and is he really good?
There many stories in the bible of Jesus healing people. Often he turns around and he says it is because of their faith. People will then say Jesus’ motive – the secret ingredient – was their faith. Have enough faith, pray enough, and you’ll get healed. Pastor Chris Mendez, famous within my church (and I’m guessing to quite a few people who will read this) once said that God doesn’t respond to need, he responds to faith. My dad and I went into the parking lot and wept. As a family, we have faith. As husband and wife, my parents have faith. As a Christian, my mother has faith. And yet she is not healed. It is not because we don’t have enough faith. It is not because we have not asked.
If you ask any of us, and indeed many Christians, we will say without missing a beat that yes, God does have the power to- it’s revealed in those miracles performed in the bible, and it’s done even sometimes today. God has the power to heal- he created this world and he can restore what he pleases. That leaves us with the much more troubling question- so why doesn’t he?
As human beings, we are hard wired to feel pain. Even if something hasn’t happened to us, soon enough empathy will get a hold of you and you will feel pain for someone else. Even though I don’t have any sort of disability, I can still feel the pain for my mum. My heart still aches, because I love her. And so I wonder why God wouldn’t heal her. Make it better, just for a little while. I don’t have to explain to you pain- the mother who can’t conceive, the boy dealing with a pornography addiction as it tears apart his relationships, the sibling that has a degenerative disease, the loved one who died. But something that stopped me in my tracks of feeling rage at a God who would allow this is a God who also experienced this. When Jesus’ mate died, he wept. When he looked at the poverty, depravity and wickedness of his people, he cried out for their salvation and when he himself was on the cross, he calls out to God- “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani?” Or, “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And this confounds me even more! Because why would God himself go through such pain? He loves us, so he must also hurt for us. On the cross, people mocked Jesus because he had the power to get off the cross, but he didn’t. I have no doubt God could heal my mum of disability, me of anxiety, my dad of his disability but he doesn’t. Does this make him super bad, or is there more?
So, pain. It undeniably exists, and God clearly has the power to fix it, but he doesn’t, and why? I realise that, strangely, instead of pushing me away from him, pain has drawn me closer. I note the difference between those who come out of hardship with Christ, and have an inexplicable sense of hope and peace, and those who come out of hardship without him. I don’t know what the purpose is, but when you know there is one, it makes the process easier. If you’re a piece of marble being chipped away at, you know you’ll be a masterpiece soon enough. The bible says its like we’re gold, being refined in the fire. Mum says that her disability has made her evermore grateful to have a family when she was told she would never have one. She knows she has heaven to look forward to, where every body is perfect. Dad knows many people have been touched through his story, and it led him to be a counsellor. Yes, everyone goes through suffering. No, it doesn’t always end. But with Christ, there’s a hope, and a future. And we’ll only know the full extent when we reach heaven.
To conclude, it’s my belief that God never abandons us. Although it may seem like that, he is right beside us, going through every heart break and crying every tear. If he is willing to do that, it must be worth something. Even on the cross, God was separated but still there, watching over it all, and enduring it because he knew what it would mean.
“Even when the world caves
Even when the fight calls
Even when the wars waged
I’ll take heart
I know you are greater
Forever you are saviour
I will sing your praise
With all that I have, with all that I am Lord.”