My daughter recently came to me crying, “Mommy, my stomach hurts and my hands are bleeding because they are cracking.” “I’m so sorry”, I replied. “I wish I knew how to help you.” Not long after, more complaints, tears, aches, and pains continued to come from each one of my four children. I felt my a deep ache growing in my heart as I struggled to understand why God has given us such overwhelming circumstances. And if our own circumstances of Chronic illness, financial strain, and special needs weren’t enough, the world around us seems to be imploding more each day. It’s easy to wonder, “Where is God in all of this? How can a good God allow such seemingly senseless suffering? How do I teach my children about God’s goodness when I myself am struggling to understand it?"
I imagine we would have wondered something similar if we had been alive in Mary and Joseph’s day. Mixed in with the incredible story of Christ’s birth is this horrific and seemingly senseless tragedy of King Herod commanding innocent babies to be put to death in a failed attempt to kill Jesus (Matthew 2:13-18). And although God’s sovereignty would guard the life of Christ, it’s still hard to grapple with the Lord allowing such incredible suffering at the hand of evil.
The truth is, we will all face these moments in our lives, when what we believe about God comes face to face with circumstances that don’t seem to line up with what we believe; when everything we can see tells us that God is not good to us. At those moments, whether we realize it or not, we ask ourselves this question: Do we believe God is good by what we see or do we believe God is good because of who he is?
I have often tried to shape God into a God who fits with what I can see, reducing him to a God that I am comfortable with and can make sense of, instead of trusting the truth of who he is, and accepting what he has allowed as his good and perfect will.
I appreciate Lydia Brownback’s insight in regard to this struggle-
Living by Faith in the God of the Cross
There is no greater example of this than the cross of Jesus Christ.
God’s plan was to crush his own Son. That certainly doesn’t sound like something a good God would do, until we realize that his will was to crush his own Son in order to save us—sinners in rebellion against him. Although Christ’s death caused him unimaginable pain and sorrow, it was ultimately a part of fulfilling God’s good purpose in defeating sin and death, freeing us from eternal pain and sorrow.
Think about what you would have seen had you been there on the first Good Friday. You would have seen God’s Son crucified in agony, killed by his enemies. You would have seen a Father God not coming to the rescue of his dying Son. You would have seen evil winning. But now think about what you would have known by faith, if you had had Isaiah’s words in your mind. You would have known God’s Son was being crucified in agony as part of the good plan that he and his Father had devised before creation. You would have known that his death was an offering for sin, a perfect sacrifice being made on your behalf, so that you need not face judgment. You would have known that mercy had won.
The very heart of our faith tells us that circumstances will not always make sense and God will not always explain everything to us; that faith often tells a very different, and better and truer, story than sight.
As I saturate myself again with the truth about Christ’s incredible sacrifice on the cross as part of God’s plan to save sinners like me, I’m so thankful that he does what is good in his eyes, and not mine. We may never fully understand the pain we experience while on this earth or the suffering around us, but we must run to the truth that he has proven his goodness in the greatest way possible through Christ’s birth, death and resurrection. We can choose to trust in that same goodness even when we can’t make sense of the circumstances we face:
No matter what circumstances you are facing this Christmas season, you can trust that God is sovereign and good in all that he does. Will we suffer? Yes. Will evil win for a time? Yes. But in Christ, we are conquerors and will one day stand with him in victory and glory.
QUESTIONS FOR APPLICATION/ REFLECTION:
- What circumstance in your life, the life of a friend, or the world has caused or is causing you to question God's goodness?
- How does viewing that circumstance in light of the coming of Christ, his work on the cross, and his promised return change the way you think about God?
- Spend some time in prayer asking God to help you to see where he is at work in and around you. Ask him to give you a deeper faith in his goodness and a stronger hope in his redemptive plan.
Sarah Walton is a stay-at-home mom with four kids under nine years of age. She is the author, along with Kristen Wetherell, of Hope When It Hurts: Biblical Reflections to Help You Grasp God’s Purpose in Your Suffering (The Good Book Company, April 2017). After a decade of trials and learning to walk with Christ as her entire family suffers with Lyme Disease, she shares how the gospel speaks into all areas of our lives and gives hope to our suffering.
*A portion of this article has been adapted from the book, Hope When It Hurts - 30 Biblical Reflections to Help You Grasp God’s Purpose in Your Suffering