Many people who yearn for a deeper and more relevant faith often fail to realize such hopes because of their inability to reconcile their faith with their experiences of suffering and loss. Suffering strikes at the heart of our faith because we wonder how God would possibly allow such affliction upon those who’ve trusted him with their lives. If we’re not careful, this question of theodicy (why an all-powerful and all-loving God allows suffering) will literally strangle our faith.
I’ve previously shared about the journey through grief my wife and I took when we experienced two still-born pregnancies, a miscarriage, a house fire, and two bouts of unemployment in almost five years. Our faith was seriously tested and we struggled with disillusionment in our relationship with God. The turning point, however, came when we finally let go of our need to understand why God allowed these things to happen. We had to accept in our hearts what we already knew in our heads—God is sovereign and we are not.
So, for us, the breakthrough came when we realized that God’s faithfulness and goodness were not contingent upon our ability to understand his ways. In other words, we found that when we stopped making “understanding our past” a prerequisite for “trusting God in our present” our faith grew stronger and hope finally began to take root once again. In dethroning our “need for answers” we began laying the foundation for a faith able to grow amidst the realities of suffering.
Yet, such a faith must understand the life and death power of choice. We can choose to be offended by God’s allowance of our suffering but if we do we invite anger to hijack our hearts from trusting Christ with our present. However if we reject such offence, we’ll eventually discover God’s comforting presence in a way that transcends human understanding. Yes, we must determine to trust God even when his ways are painfully confusing.
In such times of deconstruction—when his hammer of mercy comes crashing right down—we must utterly cast our burdens on him and desperately cry out for his power to deliver and restore. For when we draw near in the solitude of prayer and stillness of worship he will prove his faithfulness in ways that cannot be denied. At the end of the day our faith must never rest on the why of our suffering but the wonder of his faithfulness . . . a wonder he reveals to those who choose to trust despite the questions of loss they’ve learned to let go. Next week we talk about how hope can follow the kind of trust we’ve discussed this week.
What Do You Think?
Do you struggle to trust God because of the “why” of suffering? What would it take for you to trust God today despite your questions of theodicy?
♦ To see the video and poem this post is based on, click here.