How do we understand God in the midst of the suffering around us? Shootings, diseases, mental illness, and so many more things press upon our life reminding us of our frailty but also causing us to reflect on whom God is in the midst of it. Suffering can reveal what we really believe about God.
Phillip Yancey, in a recent article, reflects on four big suffering questions worth considering.
• Is God competent?
• Is God really so powerful?
• Is God fair?
• Why doesn't God seem to care about pain?
With a powerful style of biblical foundation, compelling earthly examples/stories, and faithfulness to God while loving humanity, he walks in the tension of the eternal and temporal.
"Why me?" we ask almost instinctively when we face great tragedy. If, in fact, God is all-competent and all-powerful, doesn't that imply God controls every detail of life?
Few of us can avoid such thoughts when suffering strikes. Immediately we begin to search our conscience for some sin that God must be punishing: What is God trying to tell me through my pain? And if we find nothing definite, we begin to question God's fairness.
Once again, the only reliable place to test out our doubts about God is the Bible. What do we find there — does God ever use pain as punishment? Yes, as a matter of fact. The Bible records many examples, especially punishment directed against the Old Testament nation of Israel. But in every case, punishment follows repeated warnings against the behavior that merits the punishment.
Does that pattern resemble what happens to most of us today? If not, I have to question whether the pains most of us feel are punishments from God. Frankly, I believe that unless God specially reveals otherwise, we would do best to look to other biblical examples of suffering people.