4 Characteristics of God That Help Us Understand the Problem of Pain
Today is the due date for a baby I lost twenty years ago. Her (I don’t know the gender but always think of her as a girl) birthday would have been around April 11, 1997. This was the second baby I had miscarried in the course of a few months and the loss I felt was profound. There hasn’t been an April 11th that has gone by since then that I haven’t thought about it and calculated what her age would be now. I remember a particular evening soon after I lost the baby when the pain was overwhelming and I cried out, “Why?” I was struggling to understand how that could have happened to me.
I knew that suffering existed in the world. I knew that many people had suffered much worse things. I knew that God did not promise a life free from pain or death. But my heart was broken. My heart was trying to come to grips with the truth I knew in my head.
“Why me?” seems to be a natural question for us humans. When anything goes wrong according to our plans and expectations, we can’t help but wonder why it happened to us. We assume God must not care or maybe must not exist at all.
Underlying our question of “Why me?” is the assumption that all pain and discomfort in life is bad. For Christians, a fundamental aspect of our worldview is that we disagree with this idea. All pain and discomfort is not bad and is sometimes necessary. Often we can see clearly at the time of a problem or a few years after it how good came from it. Sometimes we cannot see any ways our suffering is good. Occasionally we never see the good in a situation.
This view that pain and suffering can bring about good should not be misunderstood to mean that we should be “happy” that bad things happen to us or other people. But in the pain, a Christian who understand this can find a peace and maybe even some joy to get through it.
Understanding who God is will help us understand why we feel pain and will help us to understand our lives in light of the suffering we experience.
1. God is perfect - but his people turned away and evil entered the world. God’s holiness is absolute and complete. There is no shred of evil in him. All evil in the world is the result of sin and the influence of Satan.
2. God is generous - and gives us free will to choose not to love him. He will not force you to worship him or demand that you love him. He wants our true love. He wants us to choose him over others. Imagine a husband demanding your love. Contrast that with a husband who lovingly pursues you. God is like the latter. Choosing not to love God will result in some pain in this life.
3. God is relational - and desires us to grow closer to him and more like Jesus. His desire for us is not from afar. He desires for us to have intimate understanding of him. When Jesus Christ came to earth and took our sins to the cross, a barrier to God was removed. We can approach him directly and he wants us to do that. Sometimes growth is painful and growing to be more like Jesus may require painful pruning.
4. God is powerful - and can bring good through sorrow. Loss stinks. But God is powerful enough to bring about something beautiful from the ashes of pain.
Have you seen great and wonderful things come out of painful and difficult circumstances in your life? Or are you suffering and still waiting to see the good in the situation?