We have so much difficulty grasping why bad things happen in this world. How can God be in control when we see so much heartache, sickness, and evil? This has long been a point of doubt for many. Books like Job, Ecclesiastes, Habakkuk, and many Psalms grapple with this problem.
The reality of evil and heartache in this world need not sink our faith. The fact that Scripture devotes so much space to the problem of evil, and indeed is a major theme of Scripture, is evidence that its existence in no way impugns the integrity and purposes of God. Scripture is a testimony of God’s response to the problem that includes Jesus dying for our sins so that we can be reconciled to Him.
Times like these require that we make a decision about whom we will trust. Trust will be tested the most when we are required to give up the most. Think about Abraham sacrificing Isaac and trusting that God knew what He was doing, even to the point of believing that God would raise Isaac from the dead (Gen 22:1-14; Heb 11:17). When Abraham was asked to give up the most, he trusted God all the more.
When we don’t know why, we must trust that we know the One who does know why and that He always has good reason to act, to allow, and to arbitrate between the various events and issues that we face in this world. Since we are to walk by faith not by sight (2 Cor 5:7), and since faith undergirds our hope (Heb 11:1), then we ought to remember that faith is the demonstration of our trust in the reality of what we cannot see. We don’t see what is going on “behind the scenes,” but we know the One who owns and manages the stage.
God is all-knowing, all-powerful, all-wise, all-understanding, and all-loving. None of that changes when we do not understand something. Our lack of knowledge about greater matters of reality should never be a reason to turn from God; rather this is all the more reason to turn to and trust God.
“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you” (Psalm 56:3).
Trusting God in a world that is full of “bad things” requires that we be prepared both spiritually and physically. Spiritually, we prepare our minds for action and seek to obey His will and to be holy as He is holy (1 Pet 1:13-16). Without spiritual preparation, we will be open to the schemes of the evil one (Eph 6:10-18). Physically, we prepare because “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God” … and “you are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor 6:19-20).
Spiritual interests are always more important than what may happen to our physical bodies (not that our bodies are unimportant). Recall that when Jesus had healed the man who had been paralyzed for thirty-eight years, He later found him in the temple and told him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you” (John 5:14). Sin will be more destructive to us, body and soul, than any particular physical illness. One can be physically ill yet spiritually robust, and one can be physically in good shape yet spiritually anemic. The former condition would be far better than the latter. After all, if we are reconciled with God, we trust that the resurrection is coming.
On the other side of the spectrum is the problem of panic. This is generally some kind of sudden or overwhelming fear and can lead to irrational behaviors. Sometimes panic results in an outbreak with larger groups of people acting irrationally at the same time. This type of fear can be very destructive, and not only with physical properties. Our peace of mind is ruined. There is no joy in a mind full of fear. Think about the difference panic and preparation:
Panic is irrational.
Preparation is rational.
Panic is based on fear.
Preparation is based on trust.
Panic loses sight of the needs of others.
Preparation cares for the needs of others.
Panic forgets God is in control.
Preparation submits to God’s control.
The child of God is called upon to trust God. God has given us tools to by which we may overcome our anxieties and fears. Paul put it this way:
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:5-7).
As we think on things that are excellent (v. 8), determine to practice what is right (v. 9), show our care for others (v. 10), and learn to be content in our circumstances (vv. 11-12), we know that Christ will strengthen us (v. 13).
When we don’t know why, trust the only One who does know.