What is faith? How does faith work? What is our faith based on? What is saving faith? What happens when our faith is shattered? Those faith questions and others are addressed in this nine-week series simply called faith.
Pastor G takes a nine-week break from his “Just Jesus” series walk through the Gospel of Mathew.
This is a series Greg first heard Andy Stanley preach way back in 2002. It had such an impact on Greg that he has preached his version of it at every church he has served since.
Today is week eight and Greg talks today about what to do when some tragedy shatters our faith. Today is called “shattered faith.
We’ve defined Biblical faith this way.
Faith is the confidence that God is He who says He is and that God will do what He’s promised to do.
So, what are we supposed to do when it doesn’t look like God does what said He would do? What do we do when we feel like God has broken a promise to us? What do we do when everything in our life just feels completely shattered? What do we do when we have shattered faith? When something so horrible happens that it feels impossible to believe in a loving, personal, all-powerful, all-knowing God? Many of you know what I’m talking about. We’ve been living the best Christian life we know how. We’ve been serving God and glorifying God every way we can. Then a horrific tragedy strikes. We or a loved one is diagnosed with stage four cancer. We or a loved one has a massive heart attack or a massive stroke?
What do we do when our baby dies? What do we do when our child is kidnapped? What do we do when our spouse unexpectedly dies? What do we do when a loved one gets assaulted or raped or murdered? What do we do when our son or daughter dies in a car wreck, or gets hit by a drunk driver through no fault of their own? What do we do when a loved one commits suicide? What do we do when the cancer treatment that SEEMED to be working, now, for some reason, all of a sudden, is no longer working. What do we do when it looks like our faithful God has been very UNfaithful to us, when our loving God seems very UNloving to us? What do we do when He doesn’t seem like a good, loving, heavenly Father who loves to give good gifts to His children?
When, instead, He has allowed this horrible, terrible, awful, tragic, unfair thing to happen in the lives of His children that He SAYS He loves, that He SAYS He has plans for, purposes for? What do we do with all those emotions? When our faith is shattered like that, not by a rough day of tough circumstances but by a huge, horrific, life-altering TRAGEDY, how do we EVER get back to the place where we can really, genuinely trust Him again? How, in a VERY raw, VERY real, situation do we deal with the emotions and the terror and the anger and the frustration and the anxiety? How do we deal with the grief, and with the guilt about our loss of faith, about the anger and the emotions and the frustration we are feeling towards God? How do we dig our way out of all of that shattered faith and get back to the place that we can once again, trust, follow, in faithful confidence, believing, and praying to God once again? Does anyone relate to this?
The faith-shattering circumstances that you are facing, or have faced in the path, may be different, but the questions are the same. The faith shattering circumstances that you and I are ABOUT to face, maybe this day, maybe this week, maybe this year or certainly at SOME future time in your life and in my life, a tragedy capable of shattering our faith will come. Regardless of the specific details, the emotions and the questions and the frustrations will be very much the same. Maybe years go by and you are praying for a good thing to happen. Praying for a baby to be conceived and born, praying for a kidnapped child to be found, praying for a wonderful person to be healed. These are certainly good gifts, you are asking for RIGHT? You would argue, any rational person can see, these are CLEARLY, good gifts.
I mean, if anyone came and asked YOU for something like that, and YOU had the power to give that good gift, YOU would one hundred percent say YES, right? YOU would fix that tragedy, YOU would relive their pain, YOU would save them or their loved one, YOU would bring back their kidnapped child, YOU would raise their loved one to life again. Yet, God, who we believe is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present, and all-loving, still, for some reason unknown to us, sometimes, does NOT give what we are all convinced is a super important good gift. Like Paul’s thorn in the flesh that we talked about in week four, God is still saying no. Instead, He is offering you HIs grace and His mercy in your time of need. But come on! Truth be told, from your perspective, with your four-year-old kidnapped, raped and murdered, grace and mercy just don’t seem like nearly enough. Even if you haven’t experienced the kind of personal tragedy or evil I’m describing just look around the world. Look at the things the Taliban is doing.
Look at the things going on in Myanmar, in Thailand, in China, in Afghanistan and other places around the world. Genocide. Religious persecution. Ethnic cleansing. Christian people, serving God, but being hunted, beaten, imprisoned, raped, murdered. It’s all been happening to the Jews ever since Cain killed Abel. Think of the Holocaust. There are a lot of Jewish atheists in the world because of the Holocaust. The first Christians endured TREMENDOUS persecution and abuse and martyrdom as well. What’s going on in our world now is not really new. In various parts of the world the people of God are hiding in caves, fearful for their lives, being persecuted and executed at a profoundly high level. Again, none of that is new. Think of all the school and other mass shootings.
On the news every day we hear of rapes, murders, robberies, serial killers, domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse. Think about the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami that killed 230,000 people. The September 11th attacks. Earthquakes, Hurricanes, tornadoes, COVID 19, the evil, the pain, the suffering never seems to stop. Does it? If we did a survey of every person on the planet and we asked everyone: “If you could ask God any one question and get a guaranteed answer from Him, what would you ask?” By far, the number one answer we would always get is Why do You allow pain and suffering when You can stop it? It is the most profound question of the atheist, of the agnostic AND of the believer. It’s the biggest roadblock to people coming to faith in God. It is the primary struggle for people staying in faith with God. This is what usually shatters people’s faith. Philosophers call with The Problem of Evil. The problem is stated this way. We say God is all-powerful and all-loving. Yet there is profound evil and suffering in the world.
Therefore, they say, either God WILL NOT get rid of evil or God CANNOT get rid of evil. If He CANNOT get rid of evil then He is not all-powerful. If He WILL NOT get rid of evil then He is not all-loving. Or, perhaps it is because God doesn’t exist at all. That’s a small summary of the problem of evil.
How do we solve this obvious problem that we all see and experience at varying levels every single day of our lives? Forty years ago Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote a book called “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.” He took on this very same question. Spoiler alert – I mean you’ve had forty years to read it but still …
Rabbi Kushner decided the answer is that God IS all-loving. Rabbi Kushner decided God would really LIKE to get rid of all evil and suffering in the world but He just CAN’T. Why? Because, unfortunately, He is NOT all-powerful. That’s the decision Rabbi Kushner made.
Now, I can’t stress strongly enough how much I disagree with that conclusion. If you are part of our Wednesday night congregation you know we’ve been talking about our OmniGod and all of His Omnis. He is OmniPresent, OmniPotent, OmniScient, OmniBenevolent. I am 100% convinced of all of that. Still, the philosophical and theological question of the problem of evil remains. Since God is all-loving and all-powerful why doesn’t He get rid of all evil and suffering in the world. We talked about this some in week four. We said this is still the age of grace and mercy. This is not yet the age of intervention. My quick answer to this problem of evil question is this: God has not yet, but will, one day soon, get rid of all evil and suffering in the world. Our God IS both all-powerful AND all-loving. God will, one day, on His timetable, intervene in the way we all want Him to every day.
We said in week four, with His ultimate intervention, the return of Jesus, removing all evil and all suffering from the world, God ushers in the age of judgment as well. So, anyone who is not saved at that time, anyone who has still rejected Jesus, rejected God, at that time, will be eternally separated from God. So, we talked about how thankful we are that God has NOT YET ushered in the ultimate age of intervention and judgment before you and I became believers, and before someone we love and care about became a believer. Since we all still have loved ones who have not yet come to Jesus, we are okay with the day of ultimate intervention and judgment being delayed a while longer yeah?
I am happy to continue to suffer, to help my loved ones have more time to receive the promise of eternal life. Still, we don’t understand why it HAS to be that way. Do we? Why can’t God do more “spot intervention” before the ultimate intervention comes? We’ve read about miracles He has done. Miracle healings. Even miracle resurrections. We’ve heard other modern-day believers give testimony of those kinds of spot intervention miracles in THEIR lives as well. But God clearly doesn’t do it every time, not in my life. In fact, it seems very rare. You are willing to suffer from arthritis if need be, but not the kidnap, rape, and murder of your children right? Why does God allow that to happen to His children? If you’ve never asked God that kind of question, I’m sorry to say, the chances are you will one day when some monumental tragedy of life happens and strikes you in a deeply profound and personal way. I hope it never happens to you, but it may. When that kind of unspeakable evil slams into you full force or slams into a loved one full force, this question will be the only thing you can think about.
Why does our all-powerful, all present, all-knowing, all-loving God allow this kind of evil, pain and suffering to exist in the lives of His children? Now, let’s be very clear. It IS NOT that God has broken a promise to us. He has not! In fact, Jesus was honest with us from the very start that this was the reality of this world, broken by human sin, that we live in. Jesus told us, IN THIS WORLD, YOU WILL HAVE TROUBLE: pain, suffering, loss, tragedy, grief. We hear Him. We believe Him. Just look around! That’s definitely true. But we still ask WHY? Why does it have to be that way? Why can’t it be some other way? I will give you my initial, simple, Seminary Trained, Master’s Degree, four-word answer: I do not know. Don’t worry, that’s not where the sermon ends! God does have more to share with us on this question but at the end of the day, I do not know why it HAS to be this way. Since God is all-knowing, why can’t He just run the whole computer simulation and see who is going to do evil and who is not? See who is going to choose Jesus and who is going to reject Jesus, and then just instantly create each person in heaven or in hell depending on that judgment and skip this whole earth thing altogether? I do not know. I don’t stand in God’s shoes. His ways are higher than mine. His thoughts are higher than mine. I can’t give you a complete answer to that question. No one can.
The Apostle Paul told us in 1 Corinthians 13:12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:12
No matter how committed our faith God is, no matter how much theological training or life experience we’ve had, no one really fully KNOWS FOR CERTAIN why it HAS to be this way. We will not get a full answer in this world, but only in the world to come.
Meanwhile, trust in Jesus and who Jesus revealed the Father to be. With apologies to Obi Wan Kenobi, it is actually Jesus who is our only hope. If you are in the midst of that kind of tragedy right now, or you are still reeling from that kind of tragedy that happened years ago, I haven’t really helped you yet, have I? That doesn’t make you feel any better. If you are angry with God, disappointed in God, or even at the point where you are walking away from your shattered faith in God, deciding God doesn’t exist, or at least is not a God worthy of our worship and trust, then nothing I’ve said so far makes any difference does it?
On top of that, the last thing you need from me is some kind of trite answer or a theological treatise on pain and suffering and evil. The simple truth is, no amount of words will be enough for you. I get that. So here is my best advice. The only thing that will help you at all is the very real presence of Jesus Christ in your life. That’s the bottom line of today’s message. The closer you cling to Jesus the less that tragedy will weigh on you. That’s because the grace and mercy of Jesus are lightening the load. Even though we can’t understand everything about why we suffer, there are some things that we CAN know. God can use suffering to accomplish good. We may doubt that. That may only make sense in the retrospect light of eternity for some of us. Especially if our wound is fresh and especially if the wound is massive and if the wound seems unfair, inflicted upon the innocent. We may doubt that God can possibly bring anything good out of the suffering that we are experiencing.
Yet God is so good and so powerful He CAN and WILL somehow, SOMEDAY, bring good out of any horrible tragedy. Why do I say that with such faith and conviction? Because God took the worst possible thing that could ever happen. DEICIDE – Created beings murdering our own Creator on the cross. What could be more terrible, more evil, more tragic than that? Yet God took the worst thing ever and brought the greatest good ever out of it. Through His mercy, grace, and forgiveness, He opened heaven to all who follow Him through His Son. So listen. Don’t miss this. If God can take the worst thing ever and bring the greatest good ever out of it, can He take your pain and somehow, someway, sometime eventually cause some good to emerge from it as well? Of course He can.
And He will. How? When? I do not know. His ways are higher than mine and His thoughts are higher than mine, but I trust Him. Now, before we go any further with how to repair your shattered faith, let’s clear something up. There is a huge misunderstanding that is perpetuated throughout Christian circles all the time. When one of us experiences a horrible loss. The death of a loved one or a death sentence cancer diagnosis or any of those other horrible tragedy examples I gave you earlier, what happens? Well-meaning Christian friends, often even pastors, will say to you, “Well we just have to accept that it’s all part of God’s plan.” This is all part of God’s plan. Anyone ever said something like that to you when tragedy struck in your life? Show of hands? Have you ever tried to comfort someone by saying something like that when tragedy struck in their life? It’s all part of God’s plan? Show of hands?
Brothers and Sisters, we really need to stop saying that. That is not true. That is not Biblical. Evil is NOT part of God’s plan. Pain and suffering are not part of God’s plan. God didn’t PLAN for you to get cancer. God didn’t PLAN for your child to get kidnapped, raped and murdered. God didn’t PLAN for your wife to be killed by a drunk driver. God didn’t plan for Christians to be persecuted and killed. We need to stop telling people “It’s all part of God’s plan.” That is just not true. God has never had plans to harm you. In fact, God’s ultimate plan is to bless you. So, if it’s not part of God’s plan, if it is not God’s will, then why does God allow this evil stuff to keep happening? Is Rabbi Kushner right? Is it that God is all-loving but He is not all-powerful. Is that the answer? No. Wednesday night folks, you know we talked about the Providential Will of God, right?
What God is going to do no matter what, just because He’s God? Harming you is NOT part of that. We also talked about the Moral Will of God. What God has already revealed to us in His word about right and wrong, good and evil. We also talked about finding God’s Personal Will for your life. We know God’s Personal Will for your life, and mine, falls somewhere between those two guardrails of His Providential and Moral Will right? Now, don’t miss this. Listen. We can also talk about God’s Perfect Will. That includes the things that God wants to see happen, but they don’t always happen. How is that possible? Because, listen, don’t miss this. In between the Providential and Perfect Will of God and the Moral Will of God is a huge span of territory called God’s Permissive Will. Which includes what we call our Free Will. God did not create us to be mindless robots who only do His Perfect Will.
God created us as free will moral beings who each have the capacity and the freedom to do whatever we want to do, say whatever we want to say, and think whatever we want to think. Every single person has that free will, that Permissive Will of God. Listen! Even Jesus dying on the cross was not part of God’s Perfect Will, but part of God’s Permissive Will. What God really desired, His Perfect Will, was that Adam and Eve and all of their offspring, us, would always use our free will to choose good not evil and that there would never be a need for Jesus to come and die for us. Now, God values His Permissive Will just as much as He values His Moral Will and His Perfect Will and His Providential Will. In other words, our all-powerful God, voluntarily gave up some portion of His power and His control to give each of us free will.
The only way God’s Perfect Will can happen 100% of the time on this earth is if God does away with His Permissive Will, if He takes away free will. So, when evil, tragic, horrible, painful, unfair things happen, that’s NOT part of God’s Perfect Will but it IS part of God’s Permissive Will. It is directly related to you and to me and to every other human being having free will. Do you get that? Me personally? I am a BIG fan of free will. How about you? Do you like having free will? Do you like not being a mindless robot? Now, here’s the truth about that. For me? I want free will for me all day long! For you? To be honest, I don’t really want you to have free will. Not really. Because some of the free will choices you make might screw up my plans for my life. This is true for you too! Let’s be honest. We want free will for us but not for other people who are going to use their free will to do really, really bad things, like hurt other people, fly planes into buildings, behead Christians, harm little children.
I don’t want THEM to have free will at all. Just me. God, please preserve MY free will but restrict everyone else’s. Right? We forget that we OFTEN choose evil and sin in our thoughts, speech and actions with our free will as well though right? Right? It doesn’t seem that evil to us. It’s not a big sin! It’s not a super evil sin. It’s just a little sin. It’s just a little bit of evil, what we do. Right? But on God’s scale of perfect holiness, ALL sin IS evil. Period. We want God’s permission to sin and do evil if we want to but we want Him to limit how much sin, how grave a sin, how damaging a sin can be right? We want some bumpers, some leashes, some foam padding on our actions, on other people’s actions, and on the world.
God please take away some freedom but not all of it. God please take away some free will, but not all of it, oh, and certainly not mine. God please sometimes turn off some of the laws of physics, some of the laws of thermodynamics. 99.99% of the time leave those laws in place but when I stupidly spill gasoline on myself and ignite it don’t let me actually be burned in that situation. Oh, but still always make gasoline blow up when it is inside my engine and I want my car to go somewhere. Right? God don’t limit gunpowder combustion when a gun is being used for a valid purpose but when it is being used to harm someone please stop the bullet from firing right? That’s what we really want from God. We want some limited free will in everyone’s lives, the limits of which, WE get to personally decide and dictate to God.
Ah hah, and there it is! When we criticize the way God runs His universe that He created, that means we think we could do better. We could be a better God than He is. In other words, we want to be God. That’s actually the oldest and most evil sin in the book. That was Lucifer’s sin and that was Adam and Eve’s sin. We try to think in terms of minimal sins versus really bad sins yeah? Where do you think putting ourselves in the place of God lands? It actually violates the first three commandments pretty badly. 1) I am the Lord your God: you shall have no other gods before Me. — 2) You shall not worship false gods. — 3) You shall not take my name in vain. Taking the Lord’s name in vain is one of the most misunderstood commandments by the way. It doesn’t really mean using God’s name as a swear word. That’s not good either, of course.However, this commandment actually refers to doing your own will and then calling it God’s will. That’s taking the Lord’s Name in vain. Essentially calling yourself God. God doesn’t want us to try to mess with His free will any more than He wants to mess with ours.
Let’s talk about two reasons God won’t violate our free human will:
1) God sees our free will as an even greater good than the momentary suspension of our free will for human safety and security. Why? I do not know. I don’t get it either. But I trust Him. He is God and I am not. He created me. Not the other way around. The second reason God won’t violate human’s free will is.
2) God knows that even in the midst of horrific evil He can still bring about a greater good. How? I do not know. Again, I don’t get it either. But I trust Him. I don’t always know how He brings a greater good but I’ve definitely seen Him do it, many times.
Something awful happens to me or someone I know, but God blows my mind and brings something good out of it. Of course, the thing that happened wasn’t good. No. I’m not saying that. I’m saying God can pour on so much good that it will eventually wash away even the greatest evil. I’m just saying, no matter how big or awful the evil is, God can still bring good out of the situation. So, with free will, we decide what we will do when evil attacks. Will we become bitter or will we draw closer to God? Even when evil happens. It does not thwart God’s ultimate plans, His Providential Will. As I said earlier, God has not yet, but will one day soon get rid of evil in the world. Here is another way God’s good will wash away all suffering.
When I’ve been on the other side of eternity for 1 billion years, I won’t have any memory of any pain or any loss that I experienced on this earth. What seems so HUGE to me right now, I won’t even remember it in eternity. Do you remember your first stubbed toe, your first splinter? I’m not trying to make light of your terrible, evil thing that happened. I’m just saying even something that awful, you, and that person you are worried about, won’t even remember it after a billion years in eternity. We won’t permanently feel that pain. In eternity we won’t even remember it happening. God will overwhelm that evil, no matter how large, with a deluge of good. An unexpected circumstance invades your life and causes you such pain and profound grief. You don’t know if you can hold onto your faith in God when such a terrible thing was allowed to happen all in the name of free will. It can either destroy you or it can define you. What can you do? Never make a permanent decision to try to solve a temporary problem.
The only way to survive it is to hold onto Jesus for life. Listen, don’t miss this. When all of life feels like a raging hurricane and you are terrified of the pain and evil surging around you, Jesus is your only hope. Anchor yourself, your life, and your faith to the rock of Jesus. He is the foundation of our faith and with Him, we win in the end. Jesus told us in Matthew 7.
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” ~ Matthew 7:24-27
What’s the takeaway of that? Everybody faces storms. If you aren’t in a storm right now, buckle up! Storms are coming. In this world you will have trouble. We still live in a broken world impacted by evil. This is not yet the age of intervention and judgment. So, are we building our life, our faith in God, our relationship with God, on the Rock or on the sand? The storm is coming either way. Whether we stand or crumble is up to us. Sink your anchor down deep into Jesus and ride out the storm. —- Do you know that you are never remembered by what you avoided in life. Let me say that again. You are never remembered by what you avoided in life. You are remembered by what you have survived. You are remembered by what you overcame. You are remembered by what you endured.
How do I know that? Without Goliath you wouldn’t know about David. Without the lions you wouldn’t know about Daniel. Without the fiery furnace you wouldn’t know about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Without the pit and the prison you wouldn’t know about Joseph. Without Delilah’s treachery you wouldn’t know about Samson. Without Pharaoh you wouldn’t know about Moses. If you don’t have any storms, any trials, any, problems? You don’t have a reputation. Paul reminds us:
3b… we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. ~ Romans 5:3b-5b
Glory in your sufferings because God will ultimately use them to produce greater perseverance, character and hope and that hope will never put us to shame. How do we know? Because God gave us His Holy Spirit as a seal of His promise.
The Holy Spirit is a down payment on God’s promise to ultimately prosper us, to give us a hope, and a future in eternity with Him. On a new earth where suffering and evil no longer exist. Meanwhile, God promises He will never waste a hurt. The tragedy that happened to you was NOT part of God’s plan but the tragedy you survive can be used by God, if you allow Him to, with your free will, to use you to help prevent other tragedies, to inspire others, to lead others to eternity.
Let me share a powerful example of this with you. Christian Singer/Songwriter and Author Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife Mary Beth (who has also written a best selling book about their experience) were already the parents of three biological children when they felt led by God to adopt three little girls from China — Shaohannah, Stevey Joy and their youngest, Maria Sue. Life was so much better for these little girls in America with their new family. Then, on May 21st, 2008 tragedy struck. Five-year-old Maria saw her big brother Will Franklin’s SUV pull into the long driveway on the family property. She ran excitedly to greet him.
Tragically, Will did not see her and accidentally ran over his little sister. She died right in front of her family’s eyes. A horrible, devastating, tragic accident that could have destroyed the whole family, certainly could have destroyed Will Franklin. Certainly could have, easily, completely shattered their faith. Of course, as such well-known public figures representing Christ to the world, they had to live out all of that grieving under the scrutiny of an unbelieving world. People asked “Why would God do this to you? How can you still have faith in Him, still trust Him after this? I thought you were doing good works for Him? Why didn’t He protect your family?”
Certainly, the doubts and the questions were on the hearts and minds of the Chapman family at the time too. It was a profound struggle as you can imagine. It seemed so senseless. So unfair. Why would God have them adopt Maria only to allow her to be killed so young in such a tragic way? In a way that deeply wounded young Will Franklin as well? Of all the people out there in the world, those of us who have been inspired by the Chapmans, who have grown in our faith because of the Chapmans, it made no sense to us either that this would happen to them, to their family. These are good Christian people who do tremendous good for the world. Even before Maria’s death they had already established the Show Hope Foundation which offers training and financial grants to help people adopt orphans around the world. Thousands of families had already been helped before Maria’s tragic death and are continuing to be helped.
What did they do with this heartache of losing Maria? They wrote songs and books and spoke in public forums about grief in ways that encouraged and strengthened others who were grieving as well. The Chapmans kept praising God, and drew even closer to God to make sure they were able to survive this horrific storm of life. They are still, to this day, holding onto Jesus for life. When you are drowning, the worst thing you can do is push away the only lifeguard trying to save you. Amen? And God has brought, and is continuing to bring, profound healing to the family, especially to Will Franklin. He is bringing good out of the tragedy. God also inspired the family to establish Maria’s Big House Of Hope in China, a 130 bed orphanage to care for children with special needs and to help them find families. All of this deeply honors Maria’s short life.
Plus, the Chapman’s know, Maria is already with Jesus in heaven and they will see her again one day. That’s the kind of good God can always bring out of tragedy. God promises He will never waste a hurt. The tragedy that happened to you was NOT part of God’s plan. It just wasn’t. But the tragedy you survive CAN be USED by God if you will allow Him to, using your free will that He gave you. God can use you to help prevent other tragedies, to inspire others, to lead others to eternity. When the tragic storms of life hit you, as they do to all of us on one level or another, you can let them make you bitter or you can let them make you better. You can let them empower you to go make the world a better place. Help others recover from their grief and shattered faith. WHAT IF? What if the worst thing that ever happened to you in your life is the very thing that God can use to cause the greatest thing ever to happen in your life or in someone else’s life?
Again, don’t misunderstand this. I’m NOT saying the good that came from it erased or even justified the horrible thing that happened. I’m NOT saying that. I’m also NOT saying God caused the hurt just to bring a greater good. I’m saying our God never wastes a hurt. It’s up to you to decide. Will I still trust Him? A storm in life can put you on the shelf to never be used by God again. It can shatter your faith. OR it can equip you to be an even more powerful and effective servant of God, a champion of good who still has hope for eternity. I am not making light of YOUR tragedy but look, tragedies happen to everyone. We live in a world badly broken by sin. Leaning on God is the only way you will survive the storm. Keeping the faith is the secret to surviving shattered faith. I said it before. The only thing that will help you at all is the very real presence of Jesus.
Our response to the tragedies and storms of life is determined by a number of things but one of the most important is our view of God. What is God really like? We want to believe God is love, and that God loves us, and has a plan for us, and will never leave us or forsake us. But we sometimes feel like God has let us down or God is punishing us with tragedy and heartbreak. What is God really like? Jesus told us, “If you have seen me you have seen the Father. I and the Father are one.” So, if you find yourself angry at God, hating God, let me ask you a question. “What is it about Jesus that you don’t like? What negatives about Jesus anger you? What character flaws can you point to in Jesus? Because He and the Father are one. Look at John 16:33 one more time.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. ~ John 16:33a
Trouble! We get it Greg! Thank God that’s not all Jesus said. He added…
But take heart! I have overcome the world.” ~ John 16:33b
I have conquered this world. When this world is done, a perfect world is coming, where suffering will no longer exist, because of what Jesus did. Suffering and pain will not have the last word. Jesus is the last word. So, all this to day, God’s ultimate answer for suffering is Jesus. Jesus is there in the lowest places of our lives. He knows what it is like to be broken, despised, betrayed, abandoned, tortured, killed. He was a man acquainted with sorrows. God doesn’t just sympathize like a close friend might do. If Jesus is in you then He is empathizing with you, not just sympathizing with you. He’s feeling every single pain, crying every single tear with you. Jesus is with you, never against you. Jesus began His public ministry by standing up in the synagogue and referencing Isaiah 61:1-3
1 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair… ~ Isaiah 61:1-3a
When we experience pain and suffering, as we all do at various levels, we can turn away from God, or we can turn toward God. In Jesus, and find hope, good news, freedom, release from the darkness, comfort, our ashes turned to beauty and our mourning turned to dancing.
Faith isn’t about getting our way. Faith is about trusting that the true God is who He says He is and that He will do everything He has promised to do. It’s in those crisis times of life that we are forced to reevaluate the God that we worship. Often we discover that something we thought about God isn’t actually true. He never actually made a promise that we think He did and therefore He did not break His promise. Free will for all is a tough pill to swallow but it is His decision. God causes His rain to fall on both the evil and the good. Each of us, in our own way, has done some amount of evil in our life as well. Aren’t you glad God shows YOU mercy and grace in YOUR time of need? If you trust Jesus, despite your circumstances, and let God be God, I know He will bring beauty from your ashes. I know He will somehow, turn your mourning into dancing again, He will turn your shame and your pain into glory. He will repair your shattered faith. I know it.
~~~~~ LET’S PRAY ~~~~~