Why do people blame God for the tragedies that hit them? Why are they quick to point accusing finger to the Almighty when pain and suffering engulf the human soul? And why is it that in times of merrymaking and prosperity, they often exclude Him in the equation? Why do people remember God only in bad times?
Until my conversion, I had counted myself among those at the forefront of a blame game against a cosmic power who I never personally knew. My concept of God was as hazy as the thick fog along Kennon road on a chilly January night, yet I had oftentimes thought of Him as though I knew better. Questions would swirl in my young, topsy-turvy mind. “Why would God allow tragedies?” “Couldn’t he just stop any from happening? Surely he could do that in a snap of finger!” “Why would he allow the innocent to suffer?”
These are universal questions transcending cultures, races and tongues. When it comes to the anguish of the soul, one voice reverberates: “Why?”
Most often than not, this question is lunged, albeit accusatorily, at the One thought of to have either caused it all, or allowed such to happen. The issue of human suffering has, since olden times, cropped up over and over again as man grapples to make sense out of it. One thing is certain though, much of suffering is caused by evil. Going on circles once more, man poses the same question: Why does God allow evil?
Evil, according to Dr. Ravi Zacharias is a “deviation of purpose.” It creeps in when people whether intentionally or unintentionally allow things to be used other than their intended purpose. Sex for instance is beautiful within the bounds of marriage. It becomes profane when done outside of its intended purpose. Guns are weapons for self-defense. But used to snuff lives indiscriminately, they become instruments for evil.
Much of evil is a consequence of man’s abuse of his freewill. When children barely able to tie their shoelaces are peppered by bullets from a stolen shotgun of a merciless teener, we wonder how such could have happened. Parents and relatives of victims cry in anguish, wrenching their hearts out and asking the same worn-out question with no hope for a reasonable answer – why?
As we wade through the maze, helter-skelter and noise of this temporal life, we oftentimes lose sight of our need for inner peace. We revel in the pleasures that are superficial. We chase that which, knowingly or unknowingly, feed our greed and lust, yet all the more heighten our discontent. We are enticed by the rainbows we believe hold a pot of gold ready for our taking – only to find out they are but figments of an overactive imagination.
Then when the reality of pain sets in, we pass the buck. We rationalize. Instead of reflecting on our life and evaluating how far we may have strayed from the right path, we look for others to blame for our misery.
Evil and consequently, suffering is not just an offshoot of one’s choices and actions. The Bible speaks of a proud being–Satan who steals, kills and destroys and uses human agents to establish his purpose. Likewise, the Scriptures also reveals that suffering is also a manifestation of Divine judgment.
British Evangelist G.K. Chesterton, once said: “God whispers to us in our well-being. He shouts to us in our pain.” This is so true. It is in the deep valleys of life that God oftentimes become real.
God is sovereign. He directs the course of history and world events – always for a purpose. Nothing happens beyond his knowledge, permission and control.
…I am the Lord and there is no other. I create the light and make the darkness. I send good times and bad times (calamities). I, the LORD, am the one who does all these things. –Isaiah 45:6-7
In the book of Jeremiah, God sent Judah to captivity and allowed the land to be pillaged and devoured by foreigners who knew him not.
In the book of Amos, chapters 5 & 6 speak of judgments to Israel for its people to turn from their wicked ways and turn back to Him. He sends calamities, famine and pestilence as a warning for people to return to him. And Ezekiel 18:23 and Ezekiel 33:10 speak of God’s heart and reveal the true purpose for the disasters He sends: For His people to repent from their sins and live.
How do we differentiate the destruction caused by the enemy of our soul—that entity shrouded in darkness– and by the Most High, who lives in unapproachable light?
The answer is in the purpose.
The devil comes to steal, kill and destroy. His ultimate goal is decimation and death for the soul. His aim is to thwart the will and plan of God in man, who was created in God’s image.
God’s ultimate purpose is to bring life to the sinner. In his sovereignty, he uses the valleys of death—sufferings, tragedies—to turn hearts of stones into hearts of flesh, to humble the proud and arrogant, and to make men realize their folly and return to the One who alone is the source of wisdom. Yes, at the heart of divine judgment is God’s mercy. Repentance and forgiveness follow divine judgment.
Can God use the evil inflicted by the enemy for His purpose?
He can and He does. The Bible is rife with stories of this kind. The story of Joseph, sold to slavery and imprisoned on a false charge, shows us that God is able to use tragedies in a person’s life not just for his ultimate good but for a higher purpose. Joseph, on account of his position in Egypt, saved his family from famine. His words to his brothers who inflicted his misery, were a reminder of God’s sovereignty over circumstances: “You have intended it for evil, but God intended it for good.”
The story of Job is the ultimate picture of human tragedy. He was highly favored and blessed in every way. One day the enemy sought for a testing and the Almighty gave his permission provided that Job’s life be spared. Tragedy upon tragedy struck the once prosperous Job. A mighty swoop of a whirlwind caused by the enemy wiped out his prized possessions. His properties were destroyed; all his children were killed while feasting. Before he could finish mourning, he found himself in physical anguish, as boils ravaged his body from out of nowhere. Could anything be worse than what he went through? Was it because of sin as his friends believed? No. He contended that he was faultless. His pain ran deeper than the physical. How could a good God allow such undeserved pain and suffering?
I certainly would ask the same thing if I were in Job’s shoes.
Yet while we look at the story as a picture of human helplessness against cosmic forces, we are also led into a deeper understanding of the sovereignty of our Creator. The story of Job is a revelation of God’s character more than a litany of mishaps that befell the man. When God spoke to Job out of the whirlwind and ask him questions no man was capable of answering, his mortal jaw dropped.
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” “Have you been to the storehouses of snow?” “Do you know when the wild goats give birth? Is it your wisdom that makes the hawk soar and spread its wings toward the south? Have you ever commanded the morning to appear and caused the dawn to rise in the east? Who sends rain on a barren land where no one lives? Who directs the movement of stars? Who set the boundaries of the seas? Have you been to its deepest recesses? Do you know where light comes from and where darkness resides? Do you know the laws of the universe? Can you command the thunder and lightning?…
In the midst of the storm, Job learned the one lesson he ever needed to know in his lifetime:
God sits on the throne. Not the slightest movement ever escapes from his eyes; not a single phenomenon takes place beyond his knowledge; not a single sparrow drops to the ground beyond his will.
Like a bolt of lightning, this lesson on God’s sovereignty left him shaken. It was a moment of epiphany, a “Eureka” encounter that forever changed his worldview about life, about man, about suffering. For Job, God knew what he was up to. His suffering was not beyond God’s power. He knew God had a purpose for the situation he was going through.
As a result of this “confrontation,” Job was born into eternal reality. He was born again. And his words of repentance are the very words uttered by every person that has encountered the living God.
“My ears have heard of you. Now, my eyes have seen you.
Now I cover my mouth and repent and dust and ashes.”