Why Me, God?

by Eric Kreye

There is a nagging question that troubles many people, even among Christians. It is the matter of suffering--why do bad things happen to good people?

This is a very perplexing question. Take the following experience as an example.

Jean Donovan had everything--career, success, and a family that loved her and was very supportive.

Jean decided to devote her life to helping people, which eventually took her to El Salvador where she helped the homeless, the hungry, the neglected.

She wrote to a friend, "I love life and I feel needed, but there are times when I can't take it much longer. It hurts to see innocent children suffer terribly."

That was her last letter. She and three others were brutally gunned down. You may recall the incident from news clips.

Why, God, why? Why would someone so dedicated and doing such a great work for God be killed while helping the poor?

A young college student had good reason to ask "why." His father had just retired as a missionary in Africa, and before returning home he took one last trip with a native pastor.

One river they needed to cross was more turbulent than expected, and both were swept away and drowned.

Of course, the report of his death came as a terrible shock to the family. After working faithfully a number of years as a missionary, and looking forward to retirement and being with loved ones again, this tragedy happened. Why?

Obviously it was all very confusing to the family, especially in the light of this scriptural promise in Isaiah:

"When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you."
--Isaiah 43:2

Right from the beginning of earth's history there was pain and terrible hurt in the very first family.

Lucifer, who once held the highest position in heaven, next to Christ, became the devil. After his expulsion from heaven, he had just one agenda--to deceive and to destroy, at all cost!

Subtly Satan tempted Adam and Eve, and they sinned. Later another tragedy occurred, and these heartbroken parents buried their firstborn--murdered by his own brother.

So suffering and sorrow have plagued this planet from its very beginning.

The Bible gives the story of an individual who experienced sorrow and pain such as none of us will likely ever be called upon to endure.

Job was rich. He didn't have to wonder where his next meal was coming from or how to pay his bills. God had blessed Job with a large family and he was in good health. He had no worries--that is, not until the day his world crashed down on him.

In one day, in quick succession, messenger after messenger arrived with the terrible news that his oxen, donkeys, sheep, and camels had been destroyed. His wealth was suddenly gone!

Next Job learned that his children had perished in a terrible disaster.

All that in one day!

And if this weren't enough, soon his health gave way. Not only was he seriously ill, but Job suffered constant pain. (You can read the entire story in the book of Job in the Old Testament.)

How would we have responded in a similar emergency?

Job cried out in anguish, "Why was I ever born, I wish I were dead!" He tried to pray to God, but in utter frustration and anger he moaned bitterly, "I cry out to God, but He doesn't answer. He pays no attention to me." (See Job 3:3; 30:20.)

Job wondered why all this happened to him. But even though he never understood, there was one thing he did know, in spite of it all--God was still very much in control of things!

Job emerged from this experience with a much stronger faith, and could say with deep conviction:

"Though he slay me,
yet will I trust in him:..."
--Job 13:15

The apostle Paul knew first-hand what suffering was. He was beaten eight times, stoned once, and shipwrecked three times. In the list of bad things people did to him, Paul writes that he was attacked by bandits, as well as Gentiles and certain Jews. Even though the apostle was willing to sacrifice his own life, he was often misunderstood, frequently mistreated, and terribly rejected.

Also, Paul had a health problem that became to him "a thorn in the flesh."

Did he give up? No! Instead, he said in triumph:

"...I have learned,
in whatever state I am,
to be content.
I know how to be abased,
and I know how to abound, in any
and all circumstances
I have learned the secret
of facing plenty
and hunger, abundance and want.
I can do all things in him who
strengthens me."
--Philippians 4:11-13

Jeremiah is a prophet from the Old Testament who knew about suffering. He too was misunderstood, cruelly treated, beaten, thrown into a dungeon, and later dumped into a stinky well--all because he delivered a true message from God to the king. He was faithful to God regardless of the consequences.

Jeremiah was eventually rescued by one of the king's servants.

Jesus Christ was cruelly mistreated by humans. He came to this world to save mankind, yet the very ones He came to save treated Him cruelly. Jesus was rejected, betrayed, cursed, hated, terribly wounded, jeered at, spit upon, and finally He was nailed to a cross and left to die.

He also asked why. As He hung there on that rough-hewn cross, He moaned in deep agony of spirit, "God, why have You forsaken Me?" Even though He received no apparent answer, His faith in His heavenly Father never waivered.

All through the centuries, bad things have happened to good people. Does the Bible offer us any help with this?

Here is a promise that gives great encouragement:

"...after you have suffered a little while,
[God] will himself restore you and
make you strong, firm and steadfast."
--1 Peter 5:10

Peter seems to be saying, Whatever happens to you, however bad the situation, God is still in control and He is the One who gives strength and courage to withstand the attacks of the devil, our common enemy.

Do you think all suffering is God's will?

What about the person who is an obsessive gambler? Is it God's will that the family suffers, or is it caused by the gambler's neglect?

Or the person who spends foolishly, is God to blame for the hardships that come to the family?

What about the person who follows risky health habits and indulges every desire, is it God's fault when this individual suffers a breakdown in health?

Without question, the choices we make frequently have direct consequences, and we cannot blame God.

Have you ever heard someone say, "Why is this happening to me? I'm a good person! Why is God punishing me?"

Some feel certain that if they suffer, it is because they are not good enough or that God is angry with them.

Is that what Job said? He didn't understand why he had to go through such an awful ordeal, but in the midst of his suffering he could still say, "When God has tested and tried me, I shall be like purified gold." (See Job 23:10.) In other words, suffering can serve the purpose of strengthening one's faith in God.

We sometimes sing this little chorus:

O Lord, I am willing,
Do what you must do
To make me like you, Lord.
Just make me like you.

The refining process is never easy, is it?

In the "good old days" when the blacksmith made tools and certain farm implements from iron, he pumped the bellows diligently until the coals were white hot.

Then the blacksmith pushed the iron into the hot coals until it was glowing. He removed the iron and placed it on an anvil, where he struck it with heavy blows to shape it.

Again and again the iron was put into the fire and struck repeatedly. All the while alternating by plunging the iron into cold water, thereby making it stronger and more durable.

Sometimes in the heat of our conflict, the suffering seems too much to bear. But the heavenly Father knows just how to adjust the temperature:

"...God is faithful;
he will not let you be tempted
beyond what you can bear.
But when you are tempted, he will
also provide a way out
so that you can stand up under it."
--1 Corinthians 10:13

Friend, in the midst of your own suffering, your woundedness, your own heartaches, remember this comforting promise:

"Blessed is the man who endures trials,
for when he has stood the test
he will receive the crown
of life which God has promised
to those who love him."
--James 1:12

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