So how do we trust a God like this? A God who allows the most loyal of his servants to lie in a nursing home incapacitated by cancer? A God who snatches a beloved child in her sleep? A God who watches as families are battered by divorce and layoffs and loss?
Is God testing our affections? Toying with our faith? Watching with aloof indifference?
To grasp life’s troubles, we must first glance back before looking forward. According to scripture, the cause of every hurt and heartache is that the first man and woman turned away from—rather than trusting in—God. As a result, they – and every person born after them – experience sin and death.
The “Good News” is that God didn’t abandon us to our suffering. Instead, he entered into it with us, not unlike a young woman I know whose cousin was killed on the battlefield in the Middle East. As a result, she enlisted in the military, trained as an EMT, and is training to parachute out of an airplane and plummet through the atmosphere to save injured soldiers on the ground.
That’s what God had in mind when he sent Jesus to Earth’s dark battlefield to rescue us. Only, when we are injured, we often blame him for our pain rather than thanking him for our ultimate rescue. To trust God when life is hard, we must separate the world’s wounds from God’s plan to secure our salvation.
In his wryly named book, “Thoughts that fell from a Taco Shell, One Guy’s Attempt to Impress God,” Waterville, Maine, youth pastor Matt Ouellette tells of owning a cat that accidently brushed against a candle and lit its tail on fire. Ouellette ran to put the fire out, but the cat (believing that the boy had lit it) fled in terror.
God didn’t light the fire, but he did send a rescuer to put it out. “I am the resurrection and the life,” Jesus said in John 11:25. “Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.”
Despite our momentary pain and suffering, God guarantees a future free from pain and death for those who believe in him. There is nothing of value here that will not be ultimately redeemed in heaven. In the meantime, we must accept two seemingly contradictory realities: that God loves us and that, in our current condition, he allows us to experience loss and grief.
God’s grace is received by faith – the same faith to which my mother clung throughout her struggle with cancer, the same faith that sustained my family when our daughter, Ruth, died in her sleep, and the same faith that allows me to trust God for tomorrow. Even though life may hurt, God provides the ultimate healing.
In our darkest moments, the critical choice is to turn toward God rather than away from him, looking forward to a day when all will be redeemed.