Given the events of the last several months, so many people are falling into despair. Even supposedly devout Christians are starting to wonder and doubt. If God is all-powerful, just, and loves the world He created, why does He let terrible things happen to it? Natural disasters, starvation, killings, persecutions. If God loves us, if God is really there, why do these bad things happen? “Has He abandoned us?” many wonder. “Why doesn’t He answer our prayers?” In this post, we explore these questions and offer you some hope in the midst of the chaos we face.
Because God loves us
The simple, yet somewhat confusing answer to why God lets bad things happen is because He loves us. To most people without faith, this makes little sense. And at times, it doesn’t make sense to those wavering in their faith either. But God does love us. We have seen that love in the way Christ became man and dwelt among us, in the way He willingly endured crucifixion and death for our sake. Moreover, we see it in the way He ascended to God the Father and placed our humanity at His right hand, deifying it. Giving us the path toward salvation.
When bad things happen, God uses these events to draw us closer to Him. He uses pain and suffering to train us in the virtues, so we learn patience, humility, endurance, steadfastness, and unwavering trust. Our loving, merciful God allows these things so we can bring glory to His name and achieve salvation.
Why is there pain and suffering in the first place?
To really understand why God allows bad things to happen to “good” people, we need to go back to the beginning. At the Creation, there was no evil in the world at all, because everything God made was very good (Gen. 1:31). God created mankind with free will, and unfortunately, man made the wrong choice and suffered the consequences of sin and death. The fall of man brought along with it the fall of all creation, because God gave man dominion over it. The world had fallen, but remained, in its essence, good.
Through Christ, mankind can now overcome evil and sin and live eternally in “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21:1). When that blessed time comes, the Lord will “wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more” (Rev. 21:4; c.f. Is. 25:8). In the meantime, this is the land of the enemy, the land of our exile. This temporary life is a test. We need to score well by living as God wants us to, so we can one day pass on to our permanent home.
Do not underestimate God’s power and wisdom
Perhaps the most important thing we can remember through times of tribulation is that God is always in control. He is everywhere present and filling all things. And though at times it may seem like He has left us, He is still there. We’ve merely become blind to His presence, or choose to ignore Him altogether. Even when we go through pain and suffering, He is still there waiting for us to lean on Him.
Moreover, God is not some helpless bystander watching His creation suffer, unable to do anything about it. Everything – even the weeds growing in your garden – is subject to His Wisdom, everything proceeds according to His plan. Even chaos unfolds according to God’s plans. Therefore, if He allows something bad to happen to us or to someone else, we must trust that He allows it for a purpose. Otherwise we would lie when we pray: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 22:4).
We should rejoice in times of pain and suffering
As Christians, we know that there is redeeming value in suffering. Why? Because it identifies us with Christ, who suffered and died for us, because He loved us (John 15:13). Christ first suffered and then entered into His glory. We ought to do the same out of love for Him and our fellow man, so that His glory may be revealed to us and shared by us.
12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.1 Peter 4:12-13
We should have faith that the Lord hears our prayers. Moreover, we must also remember that He spares His people from devastation, suffering and pain they cannot endure. This does not mean that people of faith have perfect health and nothing bad ever happens to them. If anything, in fact, people of faith seem to suffer more than evildoers. But this, too, brothers and sisters, goes according to God’s plan:
20 Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. 21 A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.John 16:20-21
Take up your cross…
In order to partake of God’s glory and attain to the blessed life He promised us, we must die to sin, to the world, and to ourselves. Suffering is the means by which we attain perfection as Christ did (John 19:30). When we embrace suffering, it makes us co-sufferers with Christ and it acquires value. In other words, it brings us redemption. To a believing Orthodox Christian, suffering and pain makes sense. God’s allowance of it makes sense. It would be vain to seek answers to evil and suffering in this life without Christ and outside of Him.
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