Thursday, March 4, 2010

My thoughts on God and suffering

As a Christian, one of the "hard questions" about believing in God is "Why do bad things happen to good people?" and "Why is there so much suffering in the world?". For some, this is the reason that they cannot believe in God. I don't pretend to know the answers to such questions, but I wanted to share my thoughts about God and my personal situation. 

Naturally, when I first heard the bad news, my immediate reaction was "God, why me?" and "God, heal our baby completely" - but as I was praying about it and thinking about it, reading the bible, I began to think a bit differently. 

First of all, to believe in God, it's necessary to believe that God is sovereign, that is, He is in control of everything that happens. He has the power and authority over everything that happens - from the rulers who govern our nations, to the weather, to the things that happen in our lives. I believe that He was in control when this baby was conceived, and that He was the one who gave this baby life. 

I was doing a bible study about God's sovereignty a few weeks ago and it was looking at the life of Job. (Job is an excellent study for anyone with questions about God and suffering!!) In the story of Job's life, Satan came to God to ask God for permission to test Job by bringing suffering into Job's life and seeing whether Job would curse God. God granted him permission to touch Job, but with certain guidelines - he was not allowed to take Job's life. It's interesting to notice that 1) Satan had to ask for permission before doing anything, and 2) God allowed it. 

Some Christians believe that as Christians, we have the promise of perfect health, wealth, whatever we ask for. Some Christians believe that if we do not obtain that, it is because of our lack of faith, or because of sin in our lives, or because of some other fault of our own. I believe that this false belief about God not only is 1,000,000% wrong but it's also damaging to people. First of all, it says that the outcomes to situations (our own and others) are directly related to us - whether we prayed enough, or were good enough, or whatever. This can lead to people feeling self-condemnation and even worse. Then when people who believe this see others who are in bad situations, it can lead to people being judgmental (oh, THEY mustn't have prayed enough or done the right thing). I remember a girl I know whose baby had an abnormality and didn't survive. People actually said to her that it was because she wasn't married to the baby's father!!! These beliefs can drive people away from God - by numerous different ways. By people who are meant to care being so judgmental, by our own feelings of condemnation, if something bad happens and God does not answer in the way we want, then we can take that as "proof" that God does not exist...

So back to Job, my husband read me an interesting scripture the other day from Job 2:10. Job was suffering and his wife came to him and said "Curse God and die", but Job replied "You talk like a godless woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?"

The bible is full of situations where bad things happened to good people. We have company in our suffering. 

David was a nomad for years, running for his life from a king who wanted to kill him. Most of the psalms, when you read them, are actually kind of depressing. They go something like this: People are chasing me and want to kill me. God, why did you allow this to happen to me? My life is so hard. BUT they don't stop there. David knew how to say "Nevertheless, you are still God and you are my protector. I will trust you and praise you regardless of the situation."

The apostle James was killed only maybe months (I'm guessing) after Jesus died. Stephen also was martyred. 

Paul had a "thorn in the flesh" and prayed many times for God to remove it, however pretty much, God said "no". 

Joseph was sold by his own brothers into slavery and once he got to Egypt as a slave, he was put in a house where he was wrongly accused of a crime he didn't commit and was thrown into jail. In the aftermath of this, he had the opportunity to work in Pharaoh's courts and even became 2nd in command over all of Egypt. When he was old and reunited with his brothers, he said to them (one of my favourite scriptures), "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."

In addition to these people's lives (and many more similar situations, those were just the ones off the top of my head), there are multiple scriptures that state "In this world, you will have troubles". 

So in short, my views on God and suffering: God doesn't promise us a life with no suffering. Christians are not immune to all the problems of life. We have to face difficult situations just as much as anyone. Hopefully (but sadly not always) there are some problems that are lessened for Christians who are actively living for God (such as things directly related to sin - extramarital affairs, diseases caused by alcoholism, etc). But when it comes to death, everyone needs to face death. Everyone is susceptible to disease. 

I do believe that God can heal - however I don't believe that God always promises to heal right here right now. Some healings may not be made complete until we're in heaven. I believe that miracles do still happen - but I also know that God is not a genie in a bottle who will perform a miracle just because we rubbed the vase.

So if God doesn't promise that things will always be perfect, where does that leave us? Well, what God does promise is that all things will work together for good. And I 100% believe this. No matter how awful a situation might seem, God can bring good from it. Like Joseph said, his brothers were planning something evil - but God took it and brought much good from that situation. 

My responsibility in this situation is not to question God, but it is to trust God and to keep my attitude right. I don't want to let my suffering make me bitter or twisted. I trust that no matter what the outcome is, God has a plan and a purpose and He can bring good out of any situation. (Jeremiah 29:11 says "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.")

My prayer for my baby is that God's will will be done in her little life. I know that her life is in God's hands and I trust Him. I want my baby to live, more than anything. I want her to have a long, happy life. I even pray this for her. I pray that God will heal her - but in the end, I have to pray "... if it is your will". I can't tell God what to do, and I can't assume that I know what his plan in this situation is. I have no idea what the outcome will be. I know what I WANT the outcome to be, but I know that more than that, I want God's will to be done. 

I was thinking about faith - and some would say that it takes a lot of faith to believe God for a miracle... but I believe it takes even more faith to believe that God has a plan regardless of the outcome... It takes more faith to trust God when he doesn't perform that miracle we've been praying for...

8 comments:

  1. You are so strong and wise Nicole xxx

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  2. Nic and Bernie - you guys continue to inspire me. This is an accurate exposition of our relationship with God. He is more interested in building character and relationship, than in comfort. His concept of well-being is wholeness spiritually. and in the end
    Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. Ecc 12:13 KJV

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  3. Heather [baristagirl]March 4, 2010 at 10:00 PM

    i read your blog everyday. i've been praying for you, your family and God's will in this situation. and the genie in a bottle line is so true for so many people [plus it's a funny way to word it. hehe].

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  4. This is such a great post, and so true. I also have often clung to the scripture where Joseph says what his brothers intended for evil, God used for good. I know God will allow anything to be used for His good, and He knows whether the greater good will occur by healing our babies on this earth, or by allowing their healing to take place in heaven. I still receive emails and comments from people I've never heard from before saying they've been following my story this whole time and how Madelyn has touched their lives in ways I'll never know. And whatever happens with your baby girl, God will (and already is) use her life to achieve His purpose for her.

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  5. This is an absolutely wonderful post and I agree with you 100%!!! My daughter Carleigh was given a fatal diagnosis at 22 1/2 wks and while I did question God at times, I trusted Him completely. I know that God has brought good from her. I have had a couple people email me telling me that our story has brought them closer to God or made them believe. How awesome is that!?

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  6. This is such an incredible post! I love reading about faith as I am molding mine which combines different faith systems - Eastern and Western. I believe that every situation is perfect, it just sometimes seems from our humanly perspective - that it is far from that, especially when we face innocent suffering and death... I believe that soul chooses the situation which it comes to. The body, the circumstances which of course is driven and motivated by God by all means. It is for the souls of babies and souls of their parents, for their enlightenment and mastery that God allows pain... yes, pain, because suffering is self inflicted merely interpretation of pain and true situation. We all have pain in our lives, even those that seem happy and well from the outside.... but we can choose not to suffer. Acceptance is the first step and you are already there! You are great soul Nicole. I hope my writing makes sense and I apologize if not... ;-)

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  7. Nic, I love your transparency. Thank you for sharing your heart with us. I needed to read this today.

    ~Ruby

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  8. Nicole, I have been so confused lately and have had so many thoughts and so many distractions BUT I am convinced that it is God's specific intention that our paths should cross at this point in time. You have given me clarity and confidence that my thoughts are not utopian or dreamy. God's will be done and I and my daughter are his subjects- I find this comforting. Your words have cleared my thoughts and walked me to peace. I thank you

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