Those are the words of Jesus. Despite the clarity of that statement, we often find ourselves shocked, confused, feeling abandoned, and angry when those words become our experience. When he allows terrible things to disrupt our joy and peace, we may clench our fists and scream from the depths of the pit, “God, are you really good?! Do you really love me?! Why have you allowed these bad things to happen?!”
Pain, struggle, heartache, sickness, difficulty — these are things you and I face from cradle to grave, and many of us struggle to understand why God allows them. Even David, the giant-slayer and great king of Israel penned these words in Psalm 13 (NLT):
“O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
How long will you look the other way?
How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand?
Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!
Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.”
Those don’t sound like the words of a great man of faith. They sound like the questions of a hurting soul struggling to sense God’s love and presence amidst the difficulties of life.
I can relate to David, can you? I’ve felt the pain and loneliness of ridicule and rejection. I’ve hated a thousand things about myself that have prevented me from measuring up to someone else’s standards. I’ve tasted the bitter loss of unborn children and soaked my pillow with tears. I’ve felt the distress of watching my child fight a terrible battle against an internal torment, and I am powerless to help. So, in the midst of the nightmare, when God seems far away, how do we know he is good? How can we be sure he loves us?
The same David that wrote those words of distress in Psalm 13, wrote these words in Psalm 103:
“Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me.”
When my faith is shaken, when I feel alone, and when I find myself questioning God’s love and goodness, I remember that he took upon himself the punishment that I deserved. He has given me the gift of forgiveness and redemption. If that was the only thing he ever did for me, would I have any reason to question his love?
But He does so much more. When others rejected me, he accepted me. He has helped me see myself through his eyes. He has blessed me with a family. He continually fills my heart with wisdom and tender mercies, helping me to love the unlovable and to offer counsel to those in distress. My trials have taught me that the best thing to do when I’m in the pit is not to scream, but to remember, and to offer praise in spite of the pain.
Yes, in this life there will be difficulty, pain, and sorrow that God will allow us to go through, but he promises to help us endure, and he also promises that he’ll use those things for our benefit.
So, whenever we go through painful experiences we have a choice — we can choose to let it make us bitter, or we can choose to let God make us more like Christ.
I’m reminded of Corrie Ten Boom, whose family saved the lives of as many as 800 Jews from the atrocities of the Nazis. Although Corrie miraculously survived, most of her family died in prison or concentration camps. She could have become bitter that God allowed those terrible things to happen, but Corrie chose to lean into her faith, and He used those experiences for good. She wrote, “This is what the past is for! Every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.” Corrie could echo the words of Joseph in Genesis 50:20 (NLT), “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.”
We may not see clearly, or understand why he allows bad things to happen, but in our darkest moments we can remember the love he has faithfully poured out, and we can choose to trust in his power to transform — to bring beauty from ashes, peace from turmoil, strength from weakness, and joy from sorrow.
Corrie Ten Boom said it like this:
“There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”
Are you experiencing difficulties in life that have you questioning God’s love and goodness?
Can you think of ways that God has shown his love for you?
As you remember his benefits, can that help you to trust him to help you through these present difficulties?
Can you think of ways that these trials can result in the transformation of your heart?