During the Second World War two young Jewish boys were hung in a German concentration camp for stealing a few bites of food. The entire camp of inmates were forced to watch the slow and agonizing death of the two teens so that they would understand what happens to anyone who dared break a rule in the prison.
As the men stood watching the horrific scene one man in the crowd mumbled “Where is God, where is God in all this?” This man had the courage to speak what was on the mind of most of the men staring at the agonizing, torturous, slow death of the two boys. How could God allow this to happen? Where was He in this storm when the lives of every man in the camp were being tossed about in destruction and hopelessness?
An old Rabbi who had experienced persecution, prejudice and hatred most of his life heard the mans question “where is God” as the two boys choked out their final breath, but from long experience he knew something about God that the other men didn’t. “You want to know where God is,” he said, “He is up there hanging with those two boys, that is where God is.”
I don’t understand why some of us in this world are the recipients of so much pain in our lives. Why do some people seem to have one crisis after another break over them? I know we can give glib answers to try and explain it all away, but that is not fair to the person who is suffering. Their pain is real and intense and they need real answers and support. As Christians, they believe there is a God, and that He is love, but they just don’t know where He is when they need Him the most.
Here are a few things I do know about suffering and I pray will be a bit of encouragement for you. First of all, suffering is universal in this life and please don’t believe for a minute you have been centered out for special torment. When we read through the Bible pain, suffering and disappointment seem to leap off every page.
David wrote, “be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am pining away; heal me, O Lord, for my bones are dismayed. And my soul is greatly dismayed; but you, O Lord-how long?” (Psalm 6:2-3) Again he cried out, “Will the Lord reject forever? And will He never be favorable again? Has His loving kindness ceased forever? Has His promise come to an end forever? Has God forgotten to be gracious, or has He in anger withdrawn His compassion?” (Psalm 77:7-9)
Probably the most well known example of the depths of David’s despair is Psalm 22:1, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Of course these are also the same words Jesus cried out from the cross. David knew what it was like to suffer. He saw rebellion in his sons, death of his loved ones, and the guilt of allowing Bathsheba’s husband to be killed because of his lust for her.
Second, the fact that we are angry with God and question where he is when we suffer is nothing to be ashamed of. We just need to remember that God doesn’t bring the suffering. There is a great chasm between wondering where God is when we hurt and blaming God for that hurt.
We suffer in life because we live in a sinful world where junk happens to us. I developed MS because I live in a world that is fallen, and diseases, accidents, crime and all the other garbage of this broken planet happens. We will not be free of the effects of a diminished world on our lives until heaven.
Third, I know that my disease is no fault of my own. God doesn’t choose some people to suffer more than others. It is true, however, that some of us, by wrong choices in life, bring problems on ourselves that wouldn’t be there otherwise but it is never of God’s doing.
It wouldn’t be fair if God only allowed non-Christians to suffer while He put a hedge around us. No, we all live here in what Paul calls, “the present evil age,” (Galatians 1:4) and the ravages of life hit us all regardless of privilege or status. But God will and does intervene on our behalf when we seek Him out through prayer. We may feel that He doesn’t hear or like David believe He doesn’t answer, but our feelings don’t negate the reality of God’s caring about us.
I know what I have written this morning doesn’t help much when you are facing major storms in your life, but I just want you to know you are not alone in your sufferings and God isn’t picking on you and He hasn’t abandoned you. And I want you to know it’s all right to question and call out to God in frustration, but please don’t ever turn away from God because of those discouraging times.
If we believe there is a God that we can be angry with or disappointed in, then we must believe there is evil in the world as well. And it is through the evil that misery and suffering come.
The most difficult thing any Christian can experience or try to wrap their head around is that God is with us when our lives seem to fall apart. I am not saying God brings us troubles, I am only stating that things happen because of the world we live in. But I do believe God never allows us to face them alone. We may feel alone, but we are not. God is with us, because He loves us more than a mother loves her only child.
It is difficult to trust God. It is difficult to say, “God I don’t understand why this is happening to me?” But, in the back of our mind is a still small voice that reminds us “God is love” and He went to the cross for me, and His love was demonstrated the day He hung in agony on the cross.
May I say one more thing? Do not be afraid to ask friends for support. Let them in on what is happening to you and seek out their prayers and advice and allow them to encourage you. Sometimes the pain is greater than it needs to be because we carry it alone. But, the very nature of a Christian community is that we are there for each other. If we don’t know what is happening we can’t pray with authority, or be there to give support.
God bless you all during the holiday season and may God be real in each of our lives throughout the days ahead.
* Please pray for the persecuted Christians around the world – they need our support as brothers and sisters in Christ. Some of their stories can be found at http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/