Summary: Suffering is never easy, but understanding what God is up to helps us cooperate with Him in the process of using our pain for good results.
One of the biggest speed bumps to understanding God can be our encounters with pain and suffering. The hurts we experience may stem from abandonment or abuse, sorrow and loss, fears and failures, setbacks and confrontations, chronic illness and pain - the list is long. We all hurt for a variety of reasons.
Sometimes God’s hand of comfort and His compassion toward us in our pain and sorrow is so wonderful we can’t describe it. He appears on the scene of our calamity with assistance and provision and we stand in awe of His presence.
At other times, however, He seems distant and disinterested, like He’s moved and hasn’t left a forwarding address. He has all the power and provision necessary to alleviate our misery but He doesn’t seem to be lifting a finger to come to our rescue.
It’s at times like that when our faith is tested. Our cries for help seem to go unanswered; our thirst for answers unquenched.
If we’re not careful we can become fearful and disillusioned with God when we’re hurting.
I’m ashamed to say that I let that happen to me somewhat when I found out my mom had terminal cancer. I was 23 years old, Deb and I had been married only 3 years earlier, I had begun pastoring my first church, and we started having babies. The future seemed bright. Mom’s cancer was an anomaly.
The main problem was that it seemed so unfair from a human standpoint. Mom was a faithful follower of Christ. She had already seen the man she loved and married, our father, kill himself by abusing alcohol. She had already raised three sons, largely by herself. And now her life was to be cut short by the blight of runaway tumors invading her body.
I’ve got to be honest and tell you I was angry and frustrated and above all – I was really hurting. I was mainly hurting because I hated to witness her hurting. And I know plenty of you know those feelings all too well. I was not only her son, but she moved to the town where I was pastoring and I also became her pastor. That was hard. Trying to be a pastor to my dying mother while I was so young and inexperienced.
But the amazing thing is, I learned a lot about life and death during the two years between mom’s diagnosis and her departure for heaven. And most of it I learned from her!
She had peace with God throughout her suffering. She had a winning faith. Sure, she struggled greatly with the weight of her dilemma, but she didn’t turn her back on God. Instead she steadily kept on progressing in her faith.
And I told myself during those days - that’s what I wanted to learn to do. I wanted to learn to trust God and grow in my faith in Him even when faced with seemingly insurmountable odds.
It hasn’t always been easy and I haven’t always expressed the faith in God that I should have, but God is patient and longsuffering, and His Word shows us the way. I’ve searched for God’s hand of comfort and wisdom plenty of times in my journey of following Christ and sometimes I didn’t find Him right away. And I’m sure you can relate.
The classic biblical example of searching for God when you’re hurting is the story of Job. Job quickly lost his possessions, his health and his children in a succession of natural disasters.
And even though he knew God, he made this honest admission in his pain: (That’s one of the many reasons you’ve gotta love the Bible – it is so honest.) Job said this:
"I cannot find God anywhere -- in front or back of me, to my left or my right. God is always at work, though I never see him." Job 23:8,9 (CEV)
Have you ever had an experience like Job’s? Have you had those times when you searched for God and you couldn’t find Him? You knew He was at work but you had no immediate indication that He was doing anything to come to your rescue in the midst of your pain? Well if you have, take heart, we’re going to tackle this dilemma today.
We’re in the series "The God Questions" and this is one question about God with which man constantly wrestles.
As we established last week when we began this series together, we don’t have to be afraid to ask this or any other question about God because He has the answers. So today we’re going to hear God’s answer to "Where Is God When I Hurt?"
Does He really care? Is He mad at me? Am I not important to Him? Has He forgotten about me?