Dr. James C. Denison
President, Center for Informed Faith, Dallas, TX
March 24, 2011
God never wastes a hurt
Yesterday I was asked the hardest question Christians face. After speaking in chapel at the University of Mary-Hardin Baylor and to a lunch meeting with student leaders, we finished the day with a Q&A session open to anyone on campus. One of the students asked how I would respond to people who are dealing with suffering they didn’t deserve.
The question hit close to home, as it was my father’s issue. He fought in World War II, where he saw his best friends die in foxholes. If God is all-loving, all-powerful, and all-knowing, why does he allow such innocent tragedy?
It’s the question millions of people in Japan and around the world are asking after the earthquake and tsunami. During a radio interview yesterday morning, I was asked if God caused the tragedy. I replied that he can punish people and nations for their sin, as with the plagues in Egypt and the Babylonian captivity of Israel, but in the Bible he always sent prophets first to warn the people. I’m not aware of prophetic warnings to the nation of Japan. Nor are they alone in their innocent suffering today.
USA Today tells us that an air-traffic supervisor at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport failed to answer the phone and radio for at least 20 minutes yesterday. Two flights, one from Dallas and another from Chicago, landed next to the silent tower. No one on the planes deserved to be put at risk.
Elizabeth Taylor’s death yesterday was due to congestive heart failure, according to this morning’s Newsweek report. The celebrated actress did not cause the illness which took her life. Nor did my father cause the heart disease which took his.
During my visit to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans last weekend, I came upon this statement from an American soldier who helped liberate a concentration camp: “The memory of starved, dazed men who dropped their eyes and heads when we looked at them through the chain-link fence . . . leaves feelings that cannot be described.” Of the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust, 1.5 million were children. Every victim was one too many.
When we face innocent suffering, we can claim two facts. First, God hurts as we hurt. The Christ who wept at the grave of Lazarus weeps at your suffering (John 11:35). You are in his hand right now (John 10:28), which means that he goes wherever you go and feels whatever you feel.
Second, he is using your suffering for a greater good. He works through all things for good (Romans 8:28), so that your present sufferings cannot compare to the glory to be revealed (Romans 8:18). He wants to use this hard time to draw you closer to himself, and to touch others through your faith and faithfulness.
David assured us that “weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). God never wastes a hurt.
Does your life count for eternity? If Jesus called Matthew, he would call anyone. How can he use you?