We have just come through the season of Thanksgiving and are headed quickly to Christmas which has been dubbed, “the most wonderful time of the year.” Unfortunately for some people, there has been little to be thankful for right now and the holidays don’t seem so wonderful.
Why does God allow bad things to happen? How do we understand pain and difficulty in the life of people, especially believers? Today, I would like to point you toward four truths about the struggles of this life and the suffering we endure.
1. Sin Exists … and people choose it. The Bible is built on a story that humans are given a choice to follow God or reject him. The first couple decided to reject him, and we continue to do so up through today. Unfortunately, we live in a world where there are people who chose to hurt other people, they lie, they cheat, they steal, they do drugs, they break the law, and they chose to reject what is right. As a result, we are affected by their decisions.
2. Evil Exist … and work against us. I return to the Biblical story of Job. In the early chapters, we have Satan wishing to test Job. He wants to see if his faith is focused on God or just his blessings. Evil wants God to allow him to test Job’s character. I believe that evil still exists, and he is still working against us, testing our integrity, our faith, and our endurance. When you couple our willingness to sin with the opportunity that evil presents, then bad things happen.
3. Pain Exists … and we feel it. Unfortunately, our bodies are not indestructible. Pain makes us cry out for a doctor, or surgery or pills or anything to take the pain away. The harsh reality is that all of us are mortal and these mortal bodies are given to decay. We are all going to die. The flip side of that coin is that emotional and spiritual pain also exists. We feel the pain in our souls as much as the physical pain in our flesh and all of it hurts.
4. Hope Exists … and we need to embrace it. If all of the above statements are true, then our most significant need is for hope in the darkness. I believe that faith has the answer to our pain. First, I believe God can give us forgiveness for our sins. Second, he can provide us with strength over our temptations. Third, he gives us purpose in our pain. He can take the evil and bring good out of the misery. Finally, God gives us the hope of eternal life. Heaven is a place not given to sin, where goodness reigns and where death is swallowed up in victory. There will be no more mourning or crying or pain in the eternal presence of God.
I want you to know that I write this not as a casual bystander watching the pain of the world and offering one-line suggestions for help. I write this as I stand in the middle of my own struggles. Last Sunday marked the one-year anniversary of the last time I saw my father alive. He struggled to walk to the French door and wave as my boys, and I drove out of sight. He then suffered another stroke on Christmas Eve and was gone by January 8th. Every day I think of something that reminds me of the difficulties of the holidays, and it hurts.
Yet, in the darkness I find hope. I understand the nature of the world in which we live, and the hope found in my faith. If you are struggling this holiday season, I pray you find the hope that only trust in Jesus can bring.