26 July 2021
The current viral pandemic, the extreme climate changes with floods in some regions and wildfire in different regions – with mounting death, suffering and unprecedented rise in crime, racism, lack of food – WHO has warned of increasing mental stress and ‘breakdown’ globally and believers are not generally exempted from such happenings.
With such a scenario, it is not surprising that believers too may be perplexed, baffled and may be wondering what is happening and why is God allowing all these, and He seems not to respond to our prayers for respite.
In the Bible, we read of Job in a somewhat similar situation when his children were killed, his livestock and servants decimated, and he himself was suffering from a debilitating illness. Job was questioning why he was the target of God in these sufferings. God seemed to be silent and to make matters worse, his close friends accused him of sinning against God which explained all the misfortunes in his life. But Job was sure that he did not sin specifically to a degree that made him deserving of all these calamities.
The prophet Habakkuk himself was baffled as to why God would choose the ungodly cruel Chaldeans to ‘punish’ Israel and to violently plunder the nation and to destroy the city. Even his prayers to God for mercy seemed unheard and unanswered:
“O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you, ‘Violence!’ and you will not save? Why do you make me see iniquity and why do you idly look at wrong? (Habakkuk 1:2-3).
Some believers throughout generations have become disillusioned and turned their back to God and Christianity, feeling that they have been let down. Some leave for apparent intellectual reasons, thinking that the sufferings and the answers from Scripture regarding why sufferings should happen are too simplistic and unrealistic.
We cannot answer all these queries in a short sharing – there are books written comprehensively to address these – but perhaps some thoughts may be helpful at this point.
We need to remember that all that we know of God is from His revelation of HImself in Scriptures and in HIs Son – there is much about God that remains a mystery and the Bible has revealed that the ‘secret things belong to the Lord’ and He has ordained it to reveal only what is necessary and essential for His created people to appreciate and to receive Him into their lives.
The real God cannot be put into man-made conceptual box so as to be fully understood, and that He was, is, and always will be bewildering inscrutable in His dealings with those who trust and love Him. The “losses and crosses” – the bafflement and disappointment in relation to particular hopes – must be accepted as a recurring element in one’s life of fellowship with God. What is important is to realise that these very bafflement and disappointment tell us also of the love of God: that it is a love that redeems, converts,sanctifies, and ultimately glorifies sinners, and that Calvary was the place in human history where it was full revealed, and that in our own situation we may know that nothing can separate us from that love although the situation and circumstances in this world will never be free from thorns in the bed of roses.
God never answers all the queries of Job; Habukkuk did not get all the answers to his prayers – but these beloved brethren did not ultimately turn away from the God of heavens and earth. They ended up seeing that God is God and that they were just creatures who could not appreciate all that God knows and all that He is doing. They continued to trust and to grow in their relationships with the Almighty!
Continuing on the above question and subject, it may be helpful to ponder a little bit more on the meaning of “God is love” (1 John 4: 8).
The Father loves the Son, and the Son loves the Father. Love is in fact bound up into the very nature of the Trinity. God cannot be God without love, because God is love. We are not saying that love is just one of the attributes of God. There was never a time in eternity past when God is not love, for the love of the Father for the Son and of the Son for the Father is eternal; there has never been a moment, and never will be a moment when God is not love.
For some of us believers, it is easy to think that God and His love must revolve around us and our problems, and we evaluate God’s love based on how we feel He is doing at loving us. When we feel or perceive that God is not loving us on the basis of what is happening to us and on the conclusion that He seems silent and not responsive to our prayers, it leads us to disappointment and disillusionment with God. But we must understand that God’s love was perfect before we ever arrived on the scene, and it will remain perfect long after we disappear from the scene. The eternal and therefore prior love of the Father and the Son for each other reminds us that at the end of the day, life and love is not about us. Though the love of God for us is real, it is also derivative, an overflow of this most fundamental love within the Trinity itself.
Some may say how could God be love in the light of the many tragedies and sufferings in the world. The answer to this question is not found by looking around for this world’s
evidence but by looking at God, and the revelation of HIs love for HIs Son, Jesus Christ. If we find love firmly established in the nature of God, then there is hope, despite what we encounter here on earth. After all, the ultimate reality of the universe is God, and God is love.
The perfection of God’s love for us is not measured by how well He is managing our agenda for life. No, the perfection of God’s love for us is seen in the goal He has set for our life, and that goal is nothing less than likeness to the Son He loves. God loves us, because ultimately God loves HIs Son. There is nothing that He desires more than to display His glory in and through His Son, which He accomplishes through our salvation. The holy almighty God chose to love an unholy people at the incalculable price of the life of the Son whom He has loved from all eternity. He did this so that He might transform an unlovely people into a radiantly beautiful bride for that Son.
Our salvation is not finally about us. Our salvation is finally about the display of God’s glory in this eternal love of Father for Son and Son for Father. To our eternal joy and happiness, the good news is that our lives can be caught up in this incredible story of love. The centre and point of the story is God and His glory (Eph. 1:6,12,14). This does not mean that God is a being impressed with Himself in narcissistic obsession. No, although God’s glory is seen in His ability to save, that salvation comes through judgement which is borne by Himself, in the person of His own Son. It is in the cross that God’s glory is seen, in the suffering and sacrifice of Him who is most loved by the Father and who is most worthy, for those who are not worthy at all (and that includes you and me). Do you see this clearly? How then can we ever be disappointed and disillusioned with God?
We encounter the amazing love of God in the vicarious, substitutionary, propitiating sacrifice of Christ. Sacrificial love alone saves us, for it alone atones for our sins. But also, sacrificial love alone assures us – since we did not earn it, we cannot lose it. Hence we cannot question the wisdom of God’s love based on the circumstances of our lives. Whatever happens in our lives, let us be assured that God is working towards a last marriage – the marriage between Christ and His people (which includes all believers). The last marriage is between Christ and all those chosen from before the foundation of the world. It is a marriage for love. If you are a Christian, know with certainty that you are loved. The circumstances and situations you go through may make you feel loveless, but you are loved. Christ has chosen you; God has chosen you because God is love.