No doubt, if you’ve experienced any type of suffering and pain in your life, you’ve asked the question, “Why?” Some parts of life feel so unfair, don’t they? It doesn’t matter whether you’re asking because you feel you deserve better or because you want to believe there’s purpose in your pain. Suffering has a way of drawing that question out of us all. We are hurting. We are confused. We are in pain.
And we want to know, “Why?”
I’m so sorry for the hurt you’ve experienced. The truth is trials, struggles, and difficulties are a part of this life. Bad things happen to good people. Bad things happen to bad people. Trials come to us all no matter our gender, ethnicity, age, or status in life. On this side of heaven—pain makes us all equals. None of us will escape the planet untouched.
Everything Is Vanity
The Bible tells the story of a man named King Solomon. He was the son of David, the same David who slew the giant Goliath and later became king of Israel. Solomon was the wisest and wealthiest man who ever lived. He had everything we could possibly want and more—wisdom, prestige, money, possessions, and power. But nothing satisfied him. In the book of Ecclesiastes, he famously wrote, “‘Vanity of vanities,’ says the Preacher; ‘Vanity of vanities, all is vanity’” (Eccles. 1:2). In other words, It’s all empty! Completely meaningless!
If you’ve been touched by trials, you know it’s true. No one cares what kind of car they drive when they’ve lost someone they love. No one remembers how good their hair looked on the day everything went up in flames. Those things are meaningless. Empty. Vanity.
Solomon concludes the book of Ecclesiastes by summarizing what the man who had everything thought was most important: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all” (Eccles. 12:13).
Solomon had the unique perspective of someone who had everything this world could possibly offer. He had it all. Most of us will never experience that kind of wealth or opulence. When we’re struggling, it’s tempting to think, If I only had [ . . . ], things would be better. But it isn’t true. Nothing this world has to offer can fill the ache of a devastated soul. In the book of Proverbs, Solomon wrote, “There are three things that are never satisfied, Four never say, ‘Enough!’: The grave, The barren womb, The earth that is not satisfied with water—And the fire never says, ‘Enough!’” (Prov. 30:15b-16)
Unfortunately, many of us—Christians especially—feel this question so familiar to us all, is wrong. That God is offended when you ask Him, “Why?” Why is this happening in my life? Why do I have to go through this? Why? God is not offended by your questions. He is with you in your struggles and your pain.
In the book of Psalms, the psalmist cried out, “Behold, these are the ungodly, who are always at ease; They increase in riches. Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, And washed my hands in innocence. For all day long I have been plagued, and chastened every morning”
(Ps.73:12-14). He’s hurting! He doesn’t understand why wicked people seem to have it easy, while he’s been doing the right thing with nothing to show for it.
In the book of Judges, Gideon questioned the angel of the LORD. “O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’” (Judges 6:13) He doesn’t understand why the same God who led them out of Egypt with mighty miracles would allow the Midianites to attack Israel, destroying their crops and leaving them with nothing.
You may be feeling the same way. You’re not alone.
You may have been taught falsely that as a Christian, nothing bad will ever happen to you. You’ve been told, or you believed if you do the right thing—good things will happen. God will bless you. You will be happy, healthy, and wise. Life with Jesus means never having to suffer again. This is false. In fact, the Bible teaches the opposite. There will be trials. Sometimes more so because you are a Christian.
Perhaps you’ve heard all bad things are from the devil. If bad things are happening, you’ve sinned or you’re under attack. It’s all from the devil. You must not have enough faith, otherwise God would deliver you. This type of bad theology hurts people who are already hurting. It puts unnecessary pressure on desperate people to be more and do more. To believe more. And it’s simply not true.
A Future Hope
In contrast to what Solomon discovered to be true of the world, the Bible teaches that in Jesus, everything is precious and wonderful. In Romans 8:28, the apostle Paul tells us, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” But that’s hard to hear in the midst of suffering, isn’t it? God is able to take this—even this—and work it together in Jesus for my good? Notice Paul doesn’t tell us all things are good. They aren’t! If you’ve experienced storms, you know not everything that happens is good! The things the world offers to numb your pain are empty. But God is able to take those bad things and work them together for your good in Jesus. Everything in Jesus truly is precious and wonderful. In Him, you have everything you need to get through the storm.
In the book of Jeremiah, we find a message from God for the exiles in Jerusalem. Jeremiah lived during one of the darkest times in the nation of Israel’s history. Israel had been defeated and conquered by the Babylonians. The majority of the Israelites were marched off into captivity in Babylon under the rule of Nebuchadnezzar. Only the poor were left to tend the fields of Jerusalem. Jeremiah was among those left behind. The people were broken, starving, and without hope. They saw no end in sight. In the midst of this terrible time God spoke to them. “‘For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,’ says the Lord, ‘thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope’” (Jer. 29:11). God’s plan for you is good. He wants to give you a future and a hope. He sees you. He cares for you. He loves you.
The Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11 tells the stories of more than fifteen men and women who lived their lives by faith in spite of adversity. We tend to look at these men and women as heroes—and they are! But they were also just like you and me: they experienced trials, struggled through debilitating fear and doubt, suffered as a result of the sins of others (and sometimes their own), endured heartache and heartbreak, walked through loss and grief, and probably looked for the easy way out.
We need to remember these heroes of the faith didn’t know how their story would end. And neither do we. That’s why it’s often so hard to believe God is working out everything in your life for your good and His glory—we don’t know the end of our story. We doubt God’s plan for us really is good. We aren’t sure we can survive the storm we’re in or if it’s even worth it.
If there’s only one thing you take away from this book, let it be this: God loves you. If you’re feeling faithless, He will be faithful. You are not alone. The Bible encourages us to keep going and finish the race. How? By keeping our eyes on Jesus, “the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). Jesus is the finisher of our faith. Your story isn’t finished yet. If we read those heroes’ stories of faith in the Old Testament and stopped reading halfway through, we wouldn’t get the whole picture. If we read the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego thrown into the fiery furnace for their faith and closed the book—we’d have missed the best part: God appeared in the fire and they came out unscathed!
He was with them the entire time, working it all together for their good and His glory! Your story isn’t finished yet friend. God is for you! This is just the beginning.
“being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 1:6)