Where Was God When I Was Suffering?
Why did God allow the pedophile to assault me? Why did God allow my ex to rape me? Why did God allow me to be cheated on, stolen from, lied to, physically abused.. why God? Where were YOU God.. when all these happened to me? Questions we all have once asked. Full of frustration as we wonder.. how can a good God allow suffering?
At the back of my mind, I knew these were all a result of a broken world, but it's hard to digest the fact that a good God can allow someone He loves to go through such pain. Then God brought me to the book of Job and today I would like to share with you how God spoke to me through this book. (For full reading, you can read the whole book of Job but today I will be focusing on certain verses.)
Job 38:1-4, 32-41
Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:
“Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge?
Brace yourself like a man; I will question you. And you shall answer me.
Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.”
“Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs?
Do you know the laws of heavens?
Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?
Can you raise your voice to the clouds and cover yourself with a flood of water?
Do you send the lightning bolts on their way? Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?
Who gives the ibis wisdom or gives the rooster understanding?
Who has the wisdom to count the clouds?
Who can tip over the water jars of the heavens when the dust becomes hard and the clods of earth stick together?
Do you hunt the prey for the lioness and satisfy the hunger of the lions when they crouch in their dens or lie in wait in a thicket?
Who provides food for the raven when its young cry out to God and wander about for lack of food?”
Job is a book about a righteous man, whom God allowed Satan to test his faith by removing everything he had — family, health, wealth and possessions. If you read the full book of Job you will see Job questioning God and then cry out to Him as he is put through suffering, you start to empathise with him as you read that all that is meaningful is stripped away from his life. Is this fair? God if you are a good God why would you allow this to happen? A common question that gets people to question their faith and what kind of God they are following. A real concern that drives people to be bitter about God.
We might not be exactly like Job but I am sure we have all gone through something that has stripped away some of our happiness, something that has caused us to weep and cry out to God — and maybe even caused thoughts of doubt in God’s goodness in this broken world. For a lot of us, we have fallen victim to other people’s actions or sometimes natural disasters. For some, we have have been the cause to other people’s trauma. Why must one pay for someone else’s mistake? Or some inevitable disaster/disease? Does random chance play a role.
Questions whirl through our minds and just like Job, we are throwing many questions at God. Instead of providing an answer, God responds to Job with a range of questions. It didn’t even stop at chapter 38, but went on for 4 chapters. With each question that God asks, it seems to break us down to ask ourselves — ‘who are we to question God?’. It’s true that sometimes it can be extremely frustrating to see that God has the superior hand, yet what we need to know is that God does not need to justify Himself, and hence he poses the 4 chapters of questions to Job to help us realise, ‘who are we to demand an intellectual explanation from our creator?”. The truth is, I don’t have an intellectual answer about evil and suffering that may satisfy you completely and we may never.
Randy Newman phrases it quite beautifully when he tackles this question, he says,
“Perhaps that puzzling opening sequence is why the book (Job) is so long. It has to be. God wants us to be healed, not informed, and that takes time.”
We see that as the book of Job comes to an end, and God’s questioning comes to an end, Job (Chapter 42) responds to God with:
“I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.
You said, ‘Listen now, I will speak; I will question you and you shall answer me.’
My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”
Job’s response teaches us that with our finite wisdom we may never be able to completely comprehend why we suffer. God’s end goal is not for us to ultimately receive an intellectual satisfaction in an answer to WHY He allowed suffering but to answer the more important question, WHO He is. This leaves us with a choice to choose how to respond in times of suffering. Some may choose to be resentful to God or refuse to believe in His existence or goodness, but how does not having God in the picture make it any better?
After an insightful conversation with Pastor Duncan Robinson (Radio host of Sydney's Christian radio - HOPE 103.2), something He said proved so true. He said,
“Suffering calls into question all the things of value. What is life worth, why do we demand justice, what is right and good. Suffering serves as a reminder that life has value and something has ascribed that with value. Something higher than humanity. Suffering holds a match to our values and questions what we have faith in. Suffering is complex. It’s part of a broken world. It’s also a necessity for faith in something — It’s the great unpleasant fertile soil of faith development.”
Maybe this wasn’t quite the response you were looking for as you search for the answers to suffering and evil in the world, but could you find liberation knowing that you don’t need to know the ‘why’ but as long as you know the ‘who’ to run to in times like this, because He promises that we will have ultimate hope and peace in spite of anything and everything that has and will happen?
Have there been doubts and questions in your mind about suffering that you always wanted to demand an explanation? Or maybe right now you are facing difficulty coping with a loss. In face of suffering, you have a choice — to be bitter at God or reach out to God in faith. As Billy Graham says, “It is better to face something like this with God than without Him.” Jesus understands suffering more than anyone else as He was crucified on the cross. His death and resurrection teaches us that God does not necessarily remove suffering but will always walk with us to overcome it. Take time to meditate and pray, let God walk with you in this journey.