Last week I taught on the topic of God’s sovereignty at a college ministry. We covered why God’s sovereignty matters for decision making, but I also wanted to cover the topic of trusting God amid tragedy.
Tragedies consistently cause us to question God. They make us skeptical of his goodness, his power, and his claim to be in control of all things. If God is sovereign, then why would he allow a forest fire to consume a neighborhood?
In response to these questions, scripture provides at least three reasons to trust God.
1) God’s superior wisdom – Job; Romans 9:20-21
The book of Job resolves the suffering of the protagonist on this premise. Job loses his family, his possessions, and his physical health. Even his supposed “friends” turn out to be antagonizers who only exacerbate his suffering.
The plot twist of Job lies in the fact that the reader knows something Job doesn’t: God made it clear in the first chapter that Job did not deserve the suffering that’s come to him.
So, if Job’s disaster is not a result of his disobedience (as a karma-type mindset would suggest), then why is he suffering?
God never supplies an answer.
Instead, he shows off his grandeur. He highlights his immensity, superiority, and altogether difference as God of the universe.
This move on God’s part highlights a key prerequisite for Christian faith: the confession that we are mere creatures, while God is Creator.
Humility is required for faith. If we demand to know all the answers, we’ll never be satisfied with the position God has assigned us—a finite, limited creature. Our essence makes it impossible for us to know everything there is to know. That’s God’s job, not ours.
So while this perspective doesn’t resolve the tension between God’s sovereignty and suffering, it does take away the need to resolve it. I’m just a puny creature. How arrogant of me to question how God runs his universe!
Admittedly, you won’t be okay with this answer until you are okay bowing a knee to God. But after all, this is precisely what God is looking for in those who come to him. A broken spirit. A contrite heart. A lowly person who acknowledges our weakness and utter dependence on him, our Creator.
2) God’s sharing in our suffering – Hebrews 2:10; 4:15
The astonishing thing about suffering in this world is that God does not isolate himself from it. While God is “other” from his creation, he enters into the fabric of reality through God the Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus experiences hunger, temptation, grief, and pain. Jesus is humiliated and tortured, succumbing to death in one of the most awful ways humanity has conceived: crucifixion.
When you find yourself weeping in response to a dark, devastating world, remember that Jesus sits with you in solidarity, sharing your victimhood.
This truth is especially powerful when you consider what humans most desire when struck with grief, which is a sympathetic friend. At a funeral, we don’t want someone to philosophize syllogisms about why suffering exists. Rather, we want a warm embrace, and someone to share our tears. We want understanding companionship.
In this way, God provides for our deepest longing amid tragedy. He gives us a person who understands suffering just as much, if not more, than we. And that person is himself.
3) God’s promise for the future – Revelation 21-22; Romans 8:28-30
Scripture doesn’t necessarily give a clear answer as to why God allows evil, but it does give a clear answer for how he plans to eliminate it.
The promises of Romans 8 and Revelation 21 are some of the most beautiful in all of scripture. Jesus came once as a suffering servant, be he will return as a conquering king. Every wrong will be made right. Every injustice will be corrected. He will usher in a new world with no evil, no pain, no war, no sin, and no tragedy.
In this way, Christianity is a distinctively eschatological worldview—that is, our hope is anchored in a world that is yet to come. The answer to suffering is only minimally provided for in this life, but just wait for the next one. When he comes again, we will not question his goodness or sovereignty. We will rejoice and be glad. We see that ours is a God who takes unspeakable evil and makes it the centerpiece of his saving work. Out of ashes, beauty will come.
While there are numerous philosophical explorations of the problem of evil and various explanations for how evil can co-exist with an all-powerful benevolent God, none of these will satisfy when we’re hit head-on with loss. In those moments, our brains become secondary, as our raw, unfiltered emotions come to the foreground. It’s in the thick of our emotions that God brings us these truths.
May God bring them to mind and comfort you when you need it most.