(6/28) Following the 9-11 attacks on our nation, major news programs interviewed Pastors, Rabbi’s, Priests, and other renown religious leaders, like Jerry Falwell, Billy Graham, and Franklin Graham and asked this question, "Why would God allow this happen?" Just under 3000 people died that day in the 3
attacks. A couple of the answers that were given implied God’s judgment on one or more areas of our American life. Answers that I thought were not well thought out.
Open your Bibles to Psalm 22 and look at vv. 1-2. My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, And from the words of my groaning? 2 O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear; and in the night season, and am not silent. I really don’t know why David penned this
psalm. Perhaps feeling abandoned by family, and by his nation as he ran and hid from Saul who wanted to kill him, perhaps. For whatever reason, the God David always felt so close to, the 23rd Psalm God, seemed to have completely abandoned him and was not picking up the phone when David called. You are perhaps more familiar
with it from the mouth of our Lord Jesus as He hung on the cross in Matt. 27:46. There the Son of God was suffering horribly for us on the cross and in a mystery, for the first and only time in eternal history, He was separated from His Father. He felt abandoned. There is no way imaginable to begin to know what He was
experiencing as He paid for our sins in full on that cross.
We here at ECBC believe with all our hearts that the Bible is God’s Word from Genesis 1:1 to Rev. 22:21. And as such we know that sin, evil, pain, suffering, trouble, and death, are and will be part of our existence until Jesus returns to create a New Heaven and a New Earth. Jesus said this on the night
of His betrayal (John 16:33), "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." Job, whose name is synonymous with suffering said in Job 14:1, "Man who is born of woman, is of few days and full of trouble." He also said
in 5:1, "Yet man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward." There is no place to run and hide from it. It is part of life this side of Heaven. Complete this old saying, "Into every life a little _______ ______ _____. (Rain must fall)." But often it feels more like a hurricane. Wouldn’t you agree? Pain and suffering are not
electives, they are required courses for this life on earth.
II. There are two kinds of problems we deal with.
A. Moral Evil – This includes the sinful actions of people. Whether intentional or unintentional. We suffer from our own actions of selfishness or self-centered-ness, or the actions of others. Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. Cain killed his brother. And the beat goes on.
B. Natural Calamities – Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Floods, Hurricanes, Thunder-storms, Tsunamis, etc. became natural adversaries destroying life and property.
One of the necessary things to do in life is to prepare for the tough times and to teach our children and grandchildren to prepare for it, because like death and taxes it will come to each of us. We must decide and we must teach our children to decide now if we are going to trust the God of creation and
the God of the cross on which Jesus died, or write Him off when trouble comes.
Yet, pain and evil’s days are numbered. There will be an expected end to them. I seldom do a funeral without reading the great words of Rev. 21:2-7, "I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice
from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things
have passed away."
5 Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." And He said to me, "Write, for these words are true and faithful."
6 And He said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. 7 He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.
Don’t you love those verses? No more funerals, no more growing old, no more prescriptions, and no more pain. No more physical pain, no more emotional pain, no more mental pain, no more fear, no more worry, no more tears, no more feeling empty on the inside, no more grieving of losses, no more cancer,
diabetes, heart attacks, or strokes. And forever we will be with the one who died for me, what a day, glorious day that will be.
III. The Need to Ask Questions
As glorious as the future is going to be, our focus is mostly on the present and the presence of evil, pain, and suffering. We may ponder it but usually not intently until it hits home. Suffering and evil don’t seem to line up with what we know or believe that we know about God. I told you that the
number one reason why people reject belief in God is not the supposed evidence for evolution but the inability to reconcile what they perceive about God and the presence of evil and suffering. The questions for many go like this:
• If God is omniscient, why did he create man with the ability to sin, or angels that could choose? Maybe He doesn’t really know everything. There has been a line of theology recently that suggests that God doesn’t know the future.
• If God is omnipotent, why didn’t He stop Satan, and why doesn’t He stop evil and suffering. Maybe He is not omnipotent.
• If God is loving and good, why does He permit evil and suffering on His creation? Perhaps He is isn’t all that good and loving.
Evil and suffering exists, so our hearts tell us that the God who is Omniscient, Omnipotent, loving and good, must not exist. The presence of evil and suffering has been called the Rock of Atheism.
Consider that every year more than 2 million people die from malaria, the majority are African children. 18 children die every minute in the world, 26,500 a day from the lack of food, clean water, or antibiotics. On 9-11, 2001, 2,973 people died in the attacks on America- a horrible tragedy. Yet in the
1994 Rwandan genocide, twice that number died every day for over 100 days straight. In 2004, 280,000 people died in the Indonesian tsunami. In the 20th century over 6 million Jews died a horrible death in the holocaust. Stalin killed between 20-100 million of his own people (estimates vary). In the Sudan and surrounding areas,
millions have been murdered, raped, and enslaved. Isis and other Muslim extremists kill and torture people. There are far more slaves today than in pre-abolition England and America. In these atrocities, and more, believers as well as unbelievers die. Did not God say to Ezekiel that He had no pleasure in the death of the
wicked? Then why doesn’t an omnipotent, and sovereign God stop them? Why doesn’t God protect the innocent children in Africa from the HIV-AIDS pandemic?
Here is a big question. What am I to do with the scriptures where God takes personal responsibility for calamity?
Amos 3:6 "If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people be afraid?
If there is calamity in a city, will not the Lord have done it?
Isa. 45:7, "I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the Lord, do all these things.’ (Cp. Lam 3:32-39)
When the Lord called Moses, He took responsibility for birth defects,
Ex. 4:11, "So the Lord said to him, "Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord?" And yet Paul asks "Who are we to ask, Why have you made me this way? (Rom. 9:20)
And there are more questions that hit us close to home.
• Why doesn’t God answer my prayers when they are in line with His will?
• Why doesn’t my spouse, parent, sibling, or child return my love?
• Why do bad things happen to good people?
• Why do good things happen to bad people? That’s the dilemma of Psalm 73.
• Why did the accident or illness hit my family? Cancer, ALS, stroke, etc.
• Why did my loved one have to die?
• Why did God allow me to be raped, or sexually abused by family?
• Why did the storm have to take my home and possessions?
• Why did God allow or create my child with a birth defect?
• Why didn’t God stop my loved one from the affair?
• Why doesn’t God help me out of this poverty?
• Why did I have to lose my job now?
• Why did my son, daughter or husband have to die or be maimed by the war?
• Why did God create me this way?
• Why can’t I kick this addiction when I beg God for help?
• Why does God give Satan permission to hurt His children, or destroy His creation?
• Why did my parent or parents abandon me?
And I am sure that you have others.
Jesus our Lord said that we should pray whenever we pray, "Deliver us from evil" (Matt. 6:12). Paul said, "Don’t be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good" (Rom. 12:21). Jesus said that one day He will say, "Away from me all you evil doers" (Luke 13:27). But for now we have to deal with it.
Here is one of the main things that I want you to understand. We spoke of several years ago when we did our series, What to do when you don’t know what to do. It is okay to pour your heart out to God and in the doing, to ask Him these questions. Ps. 62:8 says, Trust in Him at all times, you people; Pour
out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Lam. 2:19a says, "Arise, cry out in the night, At the beginning of the watches; Pour out your heart like water before the face of the Lord. I encourage you. When life doesn’t make sense. Pour your heart out to God. Ask Him the tough questions!
Listen to these questions from David and other song writers.
• Ps. 10:1, "Why do You stand afar off, O Lord? Why do You hide in times of trouble?"
• Ps. 13:1-2, "How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? 2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?"
• Ps. 30:8-10, ‘I cried out to You, O Lord; And to the Lord I made supplication:
9 "What profit is there in my blood, When I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise You? Will it declare Your truth? 10 Hear, O Lord, and have mercy on me; Lord, be my helper!"
• Ps. 74:1, O God, why have You cast us off forever?
Why does Your anger smoke against the sheep of Your pasture?
• Ps. 77:1-9, I cried out to God with my voice—To God with my voice; And He gave ear to me. 2 In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; My hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing; My soul refused to be comforted.
3 I remembered God, and was troubled; I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah 4 You hold my eyelids open;
I am so troubled that I cannot speak. 5 I have considered the days of old,
The years of ancient times. 6 I call to remembrance my song in the night;
I meditate within my heart, And my spirit makes diligent search.7 Will the Lord cast off forever? And will He be favorable no more? 8 Has His mercy ceased forever? Has His promise failed forevermore 9 Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies? Selah
• Ps. 88:9-14, My eye wastes away because of affliction. Lord, I have called daily upon You; I have stretched out my hands to You. 10 Will You work wonders for the dead? Shall the dead arise and praise You? Selah
11 Shall Your lovingkindness be declared in the grave? Or Your faithfulness in the place of destruction? 12 Shall Your wonders be known in the dark?
And Your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness? 13 But to You I have cried out, O Lord, And in the morning my prayer comes before You.
14 Lord, why do You cast off my soul? Why do You hide Your face from me?
• Most of us know that Job made that famous statement of faith, "I know that my redeemer lives, and one day I will see him face to face." But just a few verses before that he said this (Job 19:6-8), "Know then that God has wronged me, And has surrounded me with His net. 7 "If I cry out concerning wrong,
I am not heard. If I cry aloud, there is no justice. 8 He has fenced up my way, so that I cannot pass; And He has set darkness in my paths.
• Jeremiah said, "Why is my pain perpetual And my wound incurable, Which refuses to be healed? Will You surely be to me like an unreliable stream,
As waters that fail? (Jer. 15:18)
• Habakkuk said, O Lord, how long shall I cry, And You will not hear?
Even cry out to You, "Violence!" And You will not save. 3 Why do You show me iniquity, And cause me to see trouble? For plundering and violence are before me; There is strife, and contention arises. 4 Therefore the law is powerless, And justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous;
Therefore perverse judgment proceeds (Hab. 1:2-24).
IV. Answers aren’t easy to come by
Jeremiah, Habakkuk, Moses, Elijah, as well as Job, David and the other Psalmists, not only questioned God but complained of the unfairness of life.
A. Invitation to Pour Your Heart Out To God
1. 1 Peter 5:7; (Psalm 55:22)
2. Hebrews 4:14-16
3. Phil. 4:6-7
4. Matthew 11:28-30
5. Psalm 62:8
6. Luke 18:1-8 cp. Luke 11:5-10
Items to Include in Pouring Your Heart Out To God
1. Your feelings and emotions (Psalm 88:1-5; Ps. 69:1-3).
2. Your complaints (Psalm 88:6-9; 77:1-4; 1 Kings 19: 4-14; Jer. 20:7ff).
3. Your questions for God (Psalm 77:7-9; Numbers 11:11-13; Psalm 22:1; Hab. 1:1-3; Psalm 88:10-14; 13:1-2).
4. An Expression of Your helplessness (Ps. 69:1-32 Chron. 20:12).
5. Your Desire for His intervention (Ps. 69:13-18; 86:1-7)-
6. Your Remembrance of God's faithfulness in the Past (Ps. 77:11-20).
7. Your Need for His wisdom (what to do) (James 1:5ff).
8. Your Persistence (Luke 18; 11; Psalm 88: 1, 9, 13; Ps, 55:16-17).
9. Then Take the Time to listen - (1 Kings 19:12-13; Hab. 2:1).
10. A Commitment To Trust God (Ps. 13:5-6; Job 13:15)
B. Understand that Some things in Life will remain a Mystery.
Solomon wrote in his journal (Eccl. 8:16-19), When I applied my heart to know wisdom and to see the business that is done on earth, even though one sees no sleep day or night, 17 then I saw all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. For though a man labors to
discover it, yet he will not find it; moreover, though a wise man attempts to know it, he will not be able to find it.
My son and daughter in law asked me this question last Sunday, Did Adam and Eve have belly buttons or navels? Any answer is speculation. We just don’t know. There are questions that won’t be answered until heaven and maybe not then. In studying for this, I recalled that even in heaven there are
questions, Rev. 6:9-11 says, 9 When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. 10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the
earth?" 11 Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.
Deut. 29:29, "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law." God has chosen not to reveal everything about what He has done or does to us. I guess it is on a need to know basis and we
don’t need to know. He has revealed to us what we need to know. In some ways it is like the way we respond to small children. To explain our reasons for things is often beyond their ability to comprehend.
Isaiah 55:8-9, remind us, "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the Lord. 9 "For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts." The great 20th century pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, Harry Ironside once said, that trying to understand the infinite God with finite minds is like trying to put the Atlantic Ocean in a Dixie Cup.
C. Think before you speak and then don’t speak.
I have a son that used to talk a lot, and a lot about which he knew nothing about. That is what I used to say to him. Don’t try to discern why evil and suffering have occurred. That was the mistake of Job’s friends and the Apostles in John 9 about the man born blind. It is the assumption of Luke 13:1-5,
that the reason the tower fell and killed people and why Pilate slaughtered people was because they were sinners. Sometimes we will get to know the beauty that God can bring from the ashes but it is usually after the pain has subsided as in the case of Joseph and his brothers.
D. Trust God
While we may not know why, and it may not happen right away, trust God, the same way we want our children and grandchildren to trust us. Abraham didn’t understand but concluded this, Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Gen 18:25) He is sovereign and He has a bigger plan than we may be able
to understand. Over the next months we will consider some of the reasons for the things that make us ask, "My God, Why? What can I learn? How can I use this for God’s glory? What do I need to repent of? What is God trying to teach me? But for now we have to decide will we trust Him? Will we be like Job who said, "Though He
slay me, yet will I trust Him," (Job 13:15)
E. Remember God has a plan even when I don’t understand. Even when it
makes no sense. Hab. 1:5, "Look among the nations and watch—Be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you.
Jeremiah 29:11 is a familiar verse almost always taken out of context. It says, 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. Here is the context. For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I
will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. 11 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. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me
and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away
captive. The context is to prepare yourselves. This isn’t 40 years in the wilderness, this is 70 years in captivity, but your grandchildren will have a future. Most of you are going to die in the captivity. But this is for your posterity’s benefit.
Consider David (Ps. 119:7-8), It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.
Do you remember what Joseph said to his brothers (Gen 45:4-7)? And Joseph said to his brothers, "Please come near to me." So they came near. Then he said: "I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for
God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. 7 And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. And again in 50:20-21,
"Joseph said to them, "Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? 20 But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. 21 Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones." And he comforted them and
spoke kindly to them."
Remember that the Cross, from which our Lord cried, My God, My God, Why…, The horrible old rugged cross had the purpose of salvation and hope for all who will trust in it and Him.
F. Keep your focus on your Hope in Christ.
Despite what some say, your best life is not now. Possessions, prosperity, and a painless life are not the promise and hope of any Christ-follower. A cross, tribulation, followed by a crown, a commendation, a condominium, and a better country are. This was the hope of Abraham (Heb. 11:9-16) and of Jesus
(Heb. 12:2-3, Phil. 2:9-11) and Paul (2 Cor. 4:16-5-10; 2 Tim. 4:8).
I close this introductory message with the words of author Philip Yancy. In his book, Where is God When it Hurts, he said, "The only thing worse than going through trials with Christ, is to go through trials without Christ, without any hope."
WE will pick up with this in two weeks as Justin will be here next week.
Let’s pray about it.
If this life lesson has challenged, encouraged or helped you, let me know, or if you have any questions, write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you. (p.s. I won’t put you on a mailing list or ask you for money). It would encourage me to know that you were encouraged.
Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman