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'Winging It

    by Stan Smith

Where is God When it Hurts?
Date Posted: May 29, 2024

Perhaps the single most common complaint against God, both among believers and skeptics, is the complaint, "If there is a God, how can He allow all this suffering?" Oh, maybe it doesn't start with "if" but assumes God. And maybe "suffering" is modified. Maybe it's "evil" or something similar, but you get the idea. Indeed, I would be a little surprised if you hadn't asked something similar. We all come up against it. Jeremiah complained, "Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive?" (Jeremiah 12:1) Same concept. Same complaint.

Jeremiah finds satisfaction in God's judgment. "Pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, and set them apart for the day of slaughter." (Jeremiah 12:3) But that's hard because so often the fact of judgment is a long way off. And, let's face it ... it's a tough question. When a child dies or a missionary is murdered or a church bus crash kills 8, it makes you wonder. When one quarter of those who died on that AirAsia flight were members of one church, it's easy to scratch your head and ask, "Where is God?"

This actually caused the psalmist problems. Asaph writes, "But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked." (Psalm 73:2-3) "Almost stumbled" might be generous. He saw the prosperity of the wicked and asked, "How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?" (Psalm 73:11) And he contrasted their success with his difficulties (Psalm 73:13-14) Even trying to understand it was "a wearisome task" (Psalm 73:16).

So what was Asaph's answer? First, he, too, saw the judgment of God. "I discerned their end. Truly You set them in slippery places; You make them fall to ruin. How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors!" (Psalm 73:17-19) But that's not the final answer. What is Asaph's response to the problem? I think it's one you've heard before.

Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; You put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to You. But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works. (Psalm 73:25-28)

This is a stunning answer. The answer is, "What do I care about difficulties in this life? God is my answer. There is no one and nothing more precious than Him." "For me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works."

Of course, I know that isn't a satisfactory answer for the skeptic. "What in this life's pleasures and pains can compare to knowing Him?" I'm relatively sure that a lot of Christians might find it insufficient. That, however, is a problem. When we find the here and now more important than God, I think we've put our finger on a serious problem. And it's not a problem with God. It's a heart problem, a violation of the great and first commandment (Matthew 22:37-38). And that means we are the problem, not God.

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Biography Information:
Born and raised in a Christian home, I've been treated to immersion in the Word and squandered it. 'But God ...' I love the phrase. God has been faithful when I was unfaithful. At every turn He has crowded me to Him.

I'm married with four grown children and (currently) four grandchildren. My wife and I live in sunny Phoenix by choice. I hope to encourage people with my words and to share with others what God has shared with me.

For more writings you can see my blog at birdsoftheair.blogspot.com.
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