The most recent natural disasters (hurricanes, floods, wildfires) and shooting in Las Vegas have left many Americans wondering “Why did this happen?” Some have even asked “Why did God allow this to happen?” That’s a deep question and one that’s not easy to answer.
First and foremost, SIN is the reason for evil in this world. Satan looks to unleash as much as he can on us, especially as Christians. Adversity doesn’t mean God is necessarily punishing us…it means we live in a sinful world…a fact that we should never forget. God created this world along with Adam and Eve without a blemish. Sin entered into it only after Eve, then Adam, made a sinful decision and felt their way was better than God’s. Humans have been dealing with sin since.
God decides what will and won’t happen to His children. What God allows is what He thinks…knows in fact, we can handle. In His infinite wisdom, we will not be asked to endure more than we can endure. Sometimes, we don’t live up to our capabilities and we give way under the strain. That’s when we need to learn to lean on our earthly family and our Christian family. Adversity helps remind us of our weaknesses, vulnerability and our need for God.
The Bible tells us about Job, a wealthy landowner and faithful Christian. There was a spiritual battle between Satan and God over Job’s life and testimony. Satan challenged God to allow him to take away all of Job’s earthly possessions and he pledged that Job would curse God and never follow Him again. God agreed to allow Satan to do anything to Job except kill him. In the course of one day, Job received four separate couriers with news that got worse with each message. Due to bandits and natural disaster, Job had lost his livestock, servants and all 10 of his children. Job reacted like many of us, going into a deep state of mourning. Job seemed to be questioning why God would allow this to happen to him when he stated, “Show me why You contend with me.” (Job 10:2) I think we can understand why Job was finding it hard to understanding what was happening to him. Satan, frustrated that Job was remaining faithful to God, wanted more. He inflicted Job with terrible skin sores during his already agonizing time of mourning. Job’s friends and even his wife encouraged him to curse God for letting all of this befall him. Job then goes on a spiritual journey searching for answers and justification for why so much calamity had come to him and his family. The true answer was that no particular sin Job had committed led to his suffering. It was a spiritual battle between God and Satan…a battle that still rages today. Adversity is evidence of this battle and, as Christians, no matter how much we tend to forget this, we are part of this battle. We can’t be detached from it and be a Christian at the same time.
“For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Many non-Christians, and sometimes Christians, will wonder why God doesn’t keep His children from suffering. When we feel at our lowest and beaten down by adversity, let us remember the greatest sacrifice of all…the Crucifixion of Jesus. We know God had the ability to prevent the Romans from killing his son. Jesus was mocked by Roman soldiers and other bystanders who questioned why, if He was indeed the ‘Son of God’, he couldn’t get himself out of His situation. One of the thieves being crucified along with Jesus told him, “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” The other criminal rebuked him by saying, “Don’t you fear God? For we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Jesus was truly innocent of any wrongdoing, yet He died for our sins anyway. God, his father, allowed it to happen so that we all would have the opportunity to enjoy absolute forgiveness and everlasting life. Which of the thieves do we most resemble when we face adversity and hardships? It’s never easy understanding why bad things happen to good people, but we must strive to understand that God loves us no matter what may befall us. His love is unwavering even in the darkest of times when we struggle to see it. Matthew 27:46 tells us that just before death, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” We feel the same way sometimes. Jesus knew his purpose and he knew the reason for his suffering. It is the greatest of challenges for us to find the purpose for our struggles and, if we don’t know anything else, we must always remember God’s everlasting love for us. A task that is easier said than done. Evangelist Billy Graham once said that, instead of asking “Why me?” we should say, “God, I believe You are the great and mighty God. I don’t understand all the things that are happening in my life, but, God, I trust in You.” It’s a hard thing to do in the midst of adversity and sorrow, but that’s where our faith is tested and eventually strengthened.
Adversity is indeed a faith test and a faith filter. It forces us to re-examine ourselves and how we live as well as the order of our priorities. Coincidently, good times tend to change people just as much as rough times. When everything is going great, we often drift away from the most important things in our life (Our faith, family and true purpose). Bad times usually force us to take stock and readjust our direction, hopefully in a better direction.
We’ve all heard, and maybe said, “It’s nice to know who my real friends are.” Adversity can be also be a great friend tester and filter. Sometimes we can learn quickly who really cares and who doesn’t. More importantly, it tests our friendship towards others when they go through struggles. Are we there for them? Are we praying for them like we should? Are we helping them to keep their perspective and focus on praising God when it’s the most difficult to do so.
Adversity allows us the opportunity to share a little of what Christ suffered for us and to be able to help others. There is no greater benefit of struggle than to have the knowledge and ability to help others who may go through something similar.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
II Corinthians 1:3-4
And just as we should share our experiences if they can help someone else at a certain time, but we should also share with others about the sacrifice that God made for all of us. It is often in life’s darkest moments that people are at their most sensitive and open to making a change.
Finally, as Christians, we can rest assured of one simple yet profound fact…suffering isn’t the end. Human nature often dictates that we only worry about “Now” but for Christians there’s more…there will always be more and better for Christians.
“Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.”
There is no easy way to get through hard times but with the help of God and those around us, we can not only get through them but we can prosper because of them. When you go through adversity, remember God’s words and look in the right direction for strength. When you see others going through adversity, remind them where true strength and hope comes from.
“…For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.” Luke 12:48