My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far away when I groan for help? Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer. Every night I lift my voice, but I find no relief. [Psalm 22:1-2 (NLT)]
The story is told of a Russian rabbi standing on a hillside with his student. Looking down at the valley below, they watch in horror as a band of Cossacks charge into their village. They hear the screams as the townspeople are slaughtered and see the smoke rise as the village is burned by the marauders. With tears in his eyes, the rabbi looks up to heaven and exclaims, “If only I was God!” His troubled student asks him, if he was God, what he would do differently. “Nothing,” replies the distressed man, “but then I would understand!”
We will always have the age-old question of “Why,” and we will always (at least in this world) have deafening silence from God as our answer. Although I often write about hidden blessings and God’s higher purpose in our tragedies and troubles, those words bring little comfort when we see our friends and loved ones suffering. I look at my prayer list and can find neither rhyme nor reason for the sorrow and pain that is written on those pages in so many people’s lives. While, in time, I can find blessings in my challenges, I’m hard put to see any blessings hidden in theirs. Although I eventually find purpose in my pain, how can they find purpose in theirs?
I know better than to ask God why and, even if He gave me an explanation, I don’t think I’d find it satisfactory or comforting. I’d argue that someone’s repentance didn’t require such severe correction; the same result could be achieved a less painful way and the same lesson learned with less heartbreak. I’d contend that someone’s faith didn’t need such severe testing, their character didn’t require such perfecting, nor did they need to be prodded so sharply to move in the right direction. Even if I knew the why of God’s plan, I wouldn’t understand the way God works it. We will never find a satisfactory explanation for the adversity, distress and sorrow of our fallen world.
The presence of evil and suffering can challenge our faith. How can a loving God allow it? Good people suffer and our prayers seem to fall on deaf ears. Yet, as Christians, we believe in Divine Providence—that our loving, all-seeing and all-knowing God is never out of control, even though Satan is doing his best at doing his worst. We can’t see it and we surely don’t understand it but we must believe it—we must trust in God. I’m sure Jesus’ followers who stood at the foot of the cross and watched Him suffer couldn’t see God’s purpose in His anguish. When Jesus spoke the first words of Psalm 22, it seemed that all hope was gone. Three days later, however, it was clear that all hope had arrived! We can’t give up on the power, wisdom and goodness of God because his plan seems so often seems so terribly wrong.