When I get to heaven, after probably about 1,000 years of awe, adoration and worship upon finally seeing God face to face, if there’s a Q&A session of some kind, I might ask something like this: “Lord, with all due respect, when You created mosquitoes and toadstools, could You share exactly what you had in mind?”
In reality, once we leave this life a question like that probably will be moot. At that point, who cares, right?
But aren’t there other questions – tough, serious questions – we’d all like to ask, at least sometimes? Questions that seem to defy answers, ones about things in life that just don’t seem to make sense?
Years ago, author Philip Yancey made his initial splash in the world of spiritual literature when he wrote Where Is God When It Hurts? That book remains a classic today as people continue to wrestle with the problem of pain and hardship, and why God sometimes seems unhearing or disinterested.
Proving how enduring that dilemma remains, decades after his initial book, Yancey has written a follow-up volume, The Question That Never Goes Away, now being released. He wrote this on the heels of the school massacre in Newtown, Conn., when the deaths of so many dear children made absolutely no sense.
Of course, Yancey was not the first to recognize this troublesome and persistent question. One-time atheist turned Christian apologist C.S. Lewis, who watched his dear wife, Joy Gresham, die of cancer, wrote books like A Grief Observed and The Problem of Pain to wrestle with this issue. And there have been many others that attempted to offer perspectives on this unpleasant conundrum.
I’ve always said that I wouldn’t mind pain if it didn’t hurt so much. But it does – and we’d like to do away with it. We have industries devoted to the elimination or at least minimizing of pain. But it doesn’t go away. And why doesn’t God do something about it?
We experience pain ourselves when disease strikes, spouses leave, children stray, natural calamities cause massive destruction, relationships fail, accidents claim loved ones, hopes die. And we share pain when people we love encounter similar struggles. Where is God?
I’ll not pretend to have the answers. With so many books written about the topic, how could solutions be presented in a brief column? But one thing I’m certain of – God knows the answers, and He’s neither absent nor indifferent. And as the apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
We don’t like weakness. We like being strong, feeling in control. But I’ve found the weak, uncontrollable moments are when we can see God most clearly, when we discover in fact that His grace is sufficient and, as He has promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Joshua 1:5 and Hebrews 13:5). This promise was repeated in both the Old and New testaments, perhaps God’s way of saying, “If you missed it the first time, I’ll give it to you again.”
I’ve often found comfort in the assurance God gave through the prophet Jeremiah, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope’” (Jeremiah 29:11). That’s exactly what we need, when the present looks so bleak and hopeless.
Where is God when it hurts? What was He doing when tragedy occurred? These are questions that can be answered only through the eyes of faith.
Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, a former newspaper editor and magazine editor. He is presently vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit focused on mentoring and coaching business and professional leaders. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and has authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” “Business at Its Best,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. He also posts regularly on two blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, and www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.