40,000 children die every day from starvation. All over the world many others are infected with AIDS, beaten, molested, violated or verbally abused. Some children or adults end up with life threatening cancer/illness as well. Most marriages ceremonies occur without the slightest thought or desire to get divorced – yet this too still happens every day, leaving us with more questions than answers. And the rate of divorce in the church is the same as the world.
C.S. Lewis sums up the problem suffering creates in our relationship with God:
“If God were good, He would wish to make His creatures happy, and if God were almighty He would be able to do what He wished. But the creatures are not happy. Therefore, God lacks either goodness or power, or both. This is the problem of pain, in it’s simplest form.” The Problem of Pain p.16
A friend of mine, Cheryl Ricker, has written a wonderful book of poems called “A Friend in the Storm” (www.cherylricker.com). It is designed to offer support for those going through difficult times, offering Jesus as their friend in the midst of their trials and suffering.
An old friend of hers, Jeff, asked how could a loving God allow a young girl to be raped and murdered. He presents a deep, penetrating question… And sometimes we are tempted to try and explain God, along with what His Word calls the “MYSTERY” of evil. Sadly, because it is a mystery that we cannot fully explain or understand in this world, we can end up trying to teach more than we know, more than what God has revealed in His Word.
After thousands of hours of praying with and counseling people, I’ve found the “WHY?” question comes from the heart more than the mind. So a logical, rational answer is going to miss the target by a mile. At the same time, we will all wrestle with this question at some point in our lives, whether it is related to our own personal experiences or that of others. So we need some kind of response for Jeff and for ourselves – something that is supernatural, not natural, so it can reach Jeff’s heart, and ours. Philip Yancey shares with us the role prayer plays in this supernatural answer:
“I challenge skeptics to find a single argument used against God by the great agnostics -Voltaire, David Hume, Bertrand Russel – that is not already included in such biblical books as Habakkuk, the Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, and, yes, Job. These strong passages from the Bible express the anguish of dislocation: of hurt and betrayal, of life that doesn’t make sense, of God who seems not to care or even exist. Most important, these accusations contained in the Bible itself are framed as prayers.” (Italics mine) Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference p. 40
Jesus’ Story of Praying a Supernatural Prayer:
How can we honor Jeff’s feelings and questions without having all the answers for him? By sharing how Christ chose to fulfill prophecy, hanging on the cross, crying out to His Father, “My God, My God, WHY?” – and asking the very same question arising from our hearts… after Jesus has:
Christ chose to go through this situation, crying out Psalm 22:1, struggling with the same question we have. Jesus did this so we can fully understand that He knows what we have gone through. He wants us to appreciate that He knows the cries of our hearts because as He has already been there before us so He can be there for us now.
Faith Versus Quick Answers:
And even though He did not receive a quick answer resolving His intense pain and abuse, He chose to also trust His Father by faith, not by sight. After being completely honest with His Father, He chose to be completely surrendered, with another prayer, “Into YOUR hands I commit MY Spirit,” leading Him to be completely victorious so He could offer His faith, His surrender and His victory to that little girl and to us. And because He defeated the devil, ‘destroying him who has had the power of death – that is, the devil’ (Heb. 2:14), He can offer that girl safety for eternity, without sin, without abuse, without suffering – when He will ‘wipe away every tear’ (Rev. 7:17; 22:4), as He holds all the abusers, manipulators and violators accountable, along with those who protect molesters and abusers.
I’ve had the privilege of praying with many people struggling with this question – wondering how they can trust God, especially in the area of sexual abuse, wondering why God would allow this to happen. When this question comes up, as it will, I can connect their story to the supernatural story of Jesus, combining His divinity with their humanity, praying:
Dear Lord Jesus, Thank You for choosing to go through the same experiences I’ve gone through, asking why this was happening to You without getting a quick fix for Your intense pain and suffering… fulfilling prophecy so You could identify with me. So You could embrace all my questions, all my confusion, doubt and frustration, taking all of this to death on Your cross. And rise again, to heal me, as I receive Your faith, Your love and the promise of eternity filled with safety because of the way You have destroyed the works of the devil.” In Your precious name, Amen.
As we continue meeting to pray, asking the Lord to reveal anything keeping them from receiving His peace, they begin to experience the supernatural peace that can only come from God. It’s deeper than denial or pushing the questions out of sight. It’s bringing them directly to the throne of grace to receive God’s mercy, love and faith while we wait for the answers. (Hebrews 4:15-16)
Or as C.S. Lewis said, “I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer.”
Next Week – Jesus Personal Identification With Rejection:
How many of us have felt rejected by someone close to us…especially by one or both of our parents? Jesus’ Father affirmed Him at different times in His ministry, saying the words so many of us long to hear, “This is My Son (or daughter), in whom I am well pleased.” Next week we will continue our journey into the heart of Calvary to see how Jesus identifies with us in our rejection, in His story that is simple – yet supernatural, as Jesus reveals the reason He is asking “WHY?”