by Jerry D. Locke
Editor’s note: Pastor Locke asks the poignant question to which mankind has always sought the answer in times of calamity. Then, rather than attempting to speak in God’s place, the author offers ten suggestions designed to help lead the inquirer to the path of faith.
<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>
“Why do the heathen rage...?” (Ps. 2:1).
“Why standest thou afar off, O Lord? why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble?” (Ps. 10:1).
“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Ps. 22:1).
“Why hast thou forgotten me?” (Ps. 42:9).
“O God, why hast thou cast us off for ever? Why doth thine anger smoke against the sheep of thy pasture?” (Ps. 74:1).
“Lord, why castest thou off my soul? Why hidest thou thy face from me?” (Ps. 88:14).
A national survey conducted before the 9/11 terrorist attack by pollster George Barna included this question: “If you could ask God any one question and you knew He would give you an answer, what would you ask?” The number-one response: “Why is there suffering in the world?” The problem of pain and suffering is never very far from our minds because most of it seems unfair.
Would you agree with me? There are so many things that happen in life that we do not understand. When...
• A baby dies. Why? It never makes sense to us.
• A mother or father dies leaving a family behind. Why?
• An elderly person suffers through a terminal illness for months, even years. Why?
• An airplane crashes killing hundreds of people. Why?
• Terrorists blow themselves up, taking thousands of innocent people with them. Why?
• Typhoons strike and thousands of poor people die. Why?
• Four teenagers and the driver die when a bus crashes en route to summer church camp. Why?
• Children are kidnapped, raped, and murdered by strangers. Why?
• Wild fires burn all over the Southwest and Western United States, destroying trees and homes and lives. Why?
• A sniper randomly shoots and kills total strangers. Why?
Additionally, these are some questions I’ve had as I have read through the Bible:
• Why did righteous Abel have to die and wicked Cain was allowed to survive?
• Why did all the first-born Egyptian male babies have to die?
• Why did Elijah’s brook dry up when God had led him there?
• Why did Naboth have to die for not selling his vineyard to the wicked King Ahab and Queen Jezebel?
• Why did all the babies have to die in the slaughter by Herod?
• Why was John the Baptist beheaded for standing for the right?
• Why should James be put to death with the sword and Peter be miraculously rescued from prison without a scratch?
Vance Havner said it this way: “One day brings a miracle and the next brings misery, and it adds up to mystery.”
Here are ten things that can be said to those who are asking “why.” This will be a practical resource to help you stand when you don’t understand. If you are looking for an argument, these probably will not do much for you. But if you are looking for just a little understanding these may be a big help.
“But our God is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased” (Ps. 115:3). God has absolute authority over the entire universe—seen and unseen. He is still securely on His throne. This relates to the whole world in general and to me in particular. Everything that comes into my life has either been planned or permitted by God. Everything! (Note especially the “all things” of Ephesians 1:11 and Romans 8:28.)
Someone might ask, “Do you always understand how this works?” My answer would be, “No.” Others might ask, “Do you believe this is true?” “Yes.”
A few years back a book came out entitled, Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People? by Rabbi Kushner. The rabbi says God is doing the best He can; He is just not able to prevent all the evil and tragedies which happen; it is beyond His power and ability to do so. The god Kushner describes is not the God of the Bible.
Jeremiah 32:17 declares: “Ah Lord God! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee.”
Charles Hodge stated the case for faith: “We rejoice that the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth, that neither necessity, nor chance, nor the folly of man, nor the malice of Satan controls the sequences of events and all their results.”
There is not a single person who has not been touched by sin. There is not a single place you can live or visit that is not touched by the stain and sorrow of sin. Keep in mind that when we see things as they are, we are not viewing what God made but what sin has remade. What God made was “good.” What sin does is anything but good! Some of our “whys” are only understood in light of the fall of man in Adam.
Minister Phillips Brooks was pacing in his office when a friend dropped by. “What’s wrong?” his friend asked. “What’s wrong,” Brooks replied, “is I am in a hurry, but God is not!”
Most of us have a severe “wait” problem. To us, if we miss one opening in a revolving door, we’ve had a bad day. Abraham and Sarah had to wait twenty-five years for their promised child. Moses was God’s future leader, but He waited through 40 years of seasoning as a shepherd in the desert. When Mary and Martha stated their disappointment with Jesus, it was about Him not working on their schedule.
But God is always on time. He is never late, even when He is not on your schedule. “Our times are in His hands” (Ps. 31:15).
To be concluded
Jerry D. Locke pastors Lake Worth Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas