When There Are No Answers

I claim no insight or wisdom when it comes to suffering and tragedy. I do not know what each of you goes through in your lives and have not walked in your shoes (or boots). However, I hope someone who reads this finds comfort.

Job 3:20-26 20“Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter of soul, 21 to those who long for death that does not come, who search for it more than for hidden treasure, 22 who are filled with gladness and rejoice when they reach the grave? 23 Why is life given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in? 24 For sighing has become my daily food; my groans pour out like water.  25 What I feared has come upon me;  what I dreaded has happened to me. 26 I have no peace, no quietness;     I have no rest, but only turmoil.”

Philosophers, scholars, and theologians have struggled for decades to come to terms with the scale and unspeakable evil of the Nazi holocaust. The extent of the systematic reign of suffering and terror boggles the mind. Between five and six million Jews died. More than three million Soviet prisoners of war died. More than two million Soviet civilians died. More than one million Polish civilians died. More than one million Yugoslav civilians died. About 70,000 men, women, and children with mental and physical handicaps died. More than 200,000 gypsies died. Unknown numbers of political prisoners, resistance fighters, homosexuals and, deportees died. Where was the Lord in the midst of such great suffering? In the face of Hurricane Harvey many people may ask the same questions.

In the book of Job, two chapters of great faith are followed immediately by 35 chapters of questions. Job endured crushing trials as he lost family members, health, prestige, and wealth. Furthermore, his friends accused Job of sinning against the Lord and causing the calamity. In Job chapter three a man of great faith wished that he had never been born. He said that God’s way was hidden. Job did not understand what was happening and why it was happening in his life.

It is easy for us to give simple answers to those who are grieving or to say that we understand their pain. Counselors and pastors have found that the best way to help someone who is dealing with loss is to be there with them and speak only when asked to speak. We often don’t know why someone is going through tough times, but we can be there for them. The church is to be with people in the good and the bad times. We are to love people when they are happy and when they are depressed and hurting. People see who their friends truly are when their lives fall apart.

These times also remind us that we don’t have the answers. God does. We are creations who do not see as the Creator does. We do not know what happens in the Heavenly Court, and we have not seen the end of the story yet. Think about your favorite novels, TV shows, or movies. In the middle of each there is great conflict and uncertainty.

How should we respond to evil and pain? The French philosopher, Albert Camus, famously asserted “we stand in a cold, silent, unfeeling cosmos, unaided by any purposeful power beyond our own resources.”

Paul’s response is to seek contentment and strength in the Lord. Even in the flood waters of Hurricane Harvey or Hurricane Katrina, the Lord is there.

Philippians 4:12-1312 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

What attitude should I have when I am in a crisis? I am only speaking for myself and not trying to tell hurting people how to live. James noted that our suffering produces perseverance and ultimately joy.

James 1: 2-4Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Although we often will not comprehend why we or those we love suffer, we can live in faith through even the toughest times. We know that the King of Kings and Lord of Lords understands what we are going through, because His own Son endured betrayal, rejection, and an excruciating death on the cross flanked by thieves.

Prayer: Abba Father, please comfort me during my times of pain and sorrow. May you give me love, patience, and wisdom to help others when they struggle. Remind me of what Jesus endured, and empower me to live a life radically devoted to You. Amen.

Pastor Nathan