Just a couple of weeks ago I was sitting in the living room of a friend’s home talking to his mother. Her son was in the spare room dying from a brain tumor and she wanted to know “why.” He was a great husband, son, and friend. He worked hard. He was loving and kind. “Why is God letting this happen to my son?”
It was a good question and if you can promise to keep this just between us, it made me defensive. Here’s why: I know that God is faithful and true. I know that God is loving and kind. I know that God is not evil. I know that God does not delight in, or cause, the suffering of his children. These are the things I believe and hold true about God. When people ask these questions, my beliefs about God are challenged and I get defensive. What am I supposed to do when someone asks those kinds of questions?
What usually happens is that I catch myself feeling like I need to step up and defend God’s honor. I feel like God needs me to come up with a good answer so he doesn’t look like a cosmic bad guy. I’m not alone on this. Countless books have been written on the subject of suffering and evil and the existence of God. And this isn’t just a Christian problem; other religions have written about suffering and evil, too. Each has their own answer for this “why” question of life.
If you want to do a little research on the subject, ask a bunch of people how a loving God can allow suffering and evil in the world. Go ahead and ask a Nazarene, Baptist, Lutheran, or Catholic the same question. You’re most likely going to find at least as many different answers as the number of people you ask.
I’ve thought and prayed about this a lot and it occurred to me that I don’t need to defend God. I don’t need to have the answers for the questions people ask when they are experiencing the unfairness and pain life can hand out. That sounds strange, doesn’t it? But I’ve discovered that all I need to do is believe that God is exactly who I believe God to be.
If I truly believe that I am heard when I cry out to God and that God answers prayer, I also need to believe that God can answer those questions better than I can.
When we are drawn together through the inevitable suffering life brings, we need to remember than God is with us right in the middle of it all. We don’t need to answer the questions because God is with us. God is in the tears that we cry and the arms that hold our friends and each other. God is with us and surrounds us. God understands our pain and confusion. God understands our anger and frustration. God understands when we yell, scream, and shout at just how unfair life is and just how unfair God is. Because of this, I’m learning to trust that God is willing and able to answer the “why” questions of life.
So, while these kinds of questions make me defensive, they don’t bother God in the least. The next time you are confronted with the sorrows and injustice of life and want to know why, I hope you will ask God. You don’t have to clean up your language, your attitude, or your emotions. Bring your whole self to God. You can yell, scream, shout, cry, or stomp around. I know that God can take it.