While it is easy to say that God works for the good of all who love Him and trust His power and control, even over evil, it is hard to accept and understand when we experience suffering in our lives. When our lives are filled with joy, love, and hope we often take for granted God’s presence in our lives. But when we enter times of struggle and suffering that are filled with grief, heartache, anger, and confusion many times we ask, “Where is God?” Living in a world full of evil and suffering many do question how we can find hope and believe in a God that seems to be absent from our lives and perhaps maybe even we ourselves wrestle with our faith and question what kind of God allows such suffering.
You see the thing is God never promised us a world free of sin and its end result, for pain and suffering are as old as humanity and are truly universal human experiences that not even the disciples escaped. In fact, a world that is full of suffering and injustice is not proof that God does not exist, but proof that darkness and sin exists and is part of all of our lives. What God does promise is to be with us through our sufferings as He continues to work towards restoring all of our relationships with Him when we will spend eternity with Him.
In reality, when we suffer it is difficult to see how God is present and active in our lives and it is usually in hindsight that we see the actions of our merciful, loving God. It is in just that, the hindsight, or the look back that we can see the character of our God that has continually kept His promise to be with us in our distress and accompany us on our way, hearing our cries and answering our pleas in many times unexpected and easily unrecognizable ways. We can learn so much by looking through scripture of God’s deep unfailing love for us that is evident by His continued and determined efforts to restore our relationship with Him despite our disobedience and rejection. Not only did God remain faithful to us through disbelief, disobedience and doubt as we see in the lives of those such as Abraham, Moses and the Israelites; but He drew closer to us still through the unbelievable act of sending His son, Jesus, to dwell with us, to suffer with us and ultimately die by our hands on the cross. In this act, God showed His ultimate power by allowing himself to be affected by suffering without being under its control through the resurrection. Even then God did not abandon us in this world that is still filled with suffering but moved closer still by sending the Spirit to dwell in us so that through us God continues to work and be actively involved in our lives.
We may wish for a God that interferes and makes all well in the world, but if He did then we would have to give up our freedom to make choices, essentially becoming puppets. We are all part of God’s ongoing story but because of human choices, acts and sin in our world we suffer. Just as Jesus did not overcome temptation until he was tempted or overcome death until he experienced it we cannot discover all God has for us until we experience its absence, such as hope without hopelessness. Yet, God remains with us and works in our suffering so that we may grow and become more than we were before.
God sent the Spirit to dwell in each of us and draw us together, each using our gifts and experiences in faith communities. It is in faith communities that we experience and is part of God’s continued action and we encounter Christ in each other. You see, ourselves and the communities of faith we belong to are part of God’s response to the ongoing suffering in our world. It is these communities, drawn together by the Spirit that we share in life together, sharing not only in the joys but taking on each other’s burdens as well that we can lean on. While the community may not be able to change circumstances, it is in our community that we can find strength, comfort, and support. It is through suffering and leaning on our community that we can truly learn to trust that God works for the good of all who love him and that we can have hope for what is yet to come.