by Ami Atkins
A family’s house burns to the ground, while another family sleeps, blissfully unaware. A woman faces years of infertility, while a second questions what “to do” with a child unwanted. Some face cancer. Some lead ostensibly charmed lives.
A newborn fights for her life, bacterial meningitis ravaging her body. Her mother is a widow. To lose a husband and potentially a child, does this not seem beyond the threshold of human endurance? Isn’t it too much for one person to bear?
Poverty. Riots. War. Hurricanes. We stagger under sorrow’s heavy weight.
At first blush it seems so arbitrary; some suffer more than others, the roll of the dice perhaps. Or worse, is it the product of a fickle god sadistically dealing out pain for his own pleasure?
I imagine your recoil. Be honest, you’ve thought it. For a fleeting second, in a moment unguarded, a terrifying whisper creeps into your consciousness. “Maybe God is cruel.”
Immediately you push it away, for a believer in Jesus would never entertain such a thought. You know the answers. You believe the Bible. Yet alone with your emotions, doubt plants its tiny seed. Don’t let anyone else know, though. Keep your facade, and answer with a cheery grin, “Amen. Yes, God is good all the time. All the time, God is good.”
Let me back up a second. When my husband died almost two years ago, life was broken glass. Thousands of shards lay strewn on the ground. We were both 30, and he died in an emergency room after an hour of CPR. Shocking and unexpected are feeble words, to say the least.
I was caught in a tsunami; the waves overtook me, and I the depths closed in on my lungs. I knew what is was to sob from the core of my soul. Past trials were merely ankle deep, a child’s wading pool.
For the first time, I let the questions grow. “God how is this possibly good? Do I even believe you anymore? Are you not cruel to me?”
So I wrestled and questioned. I ran to the Lord in my despair, in my anger, in my grief. I ran to Him with every possible emotion a human can feel. And I learned that because of Jesus’ finished work on the cross, it was totally safe for me to be honest with God.
“O Lord, I’m drowning!”
I was the psalmist in his despair. “I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am a man who has no strength.” (Psalm 88:4) Yet, I could expect grace. I could expect mercy.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16)
Jesus responded perfectly to grief and suffering, so that I don’t have to be perfect. He understands that I’m weak. In fact, He says it’s ok to be weak.( 2 Corinthians 12:9-10) He knows my frame and remembers it is dust. (Psalm 103:14) Therefore, it’s utterly safe to reject the stereotypical answers, to smash the facade, and to be frustrated with the platitudes.
Through the months, God met me with remarkable, tangible grace. In my despair, He always brought me back to Hope. He pursued my heart relentlessly, captivating me with deep experiential understanding of truth.
He did not let me drown. (Isaiah 43:1-3)
He taught me to know that He is good, not through glib, pat answers, but through the struggle. Because of Jesus, I’m met with mercies, new every morning.(Lamentations 3:22-23) Through Jesus, all I know is grace!
How then, could I not run to Him with my questions?
And I found answers rooted firmly in His character. God is good. God is Sovereign. God is love. The essence of who He is resounds from the pages of Scripture.
“Oh taste and see that God is good.” (Psalm 34:4). To taste God’s goodness is to experience it.
In His goodness and mercy, He cast Adam and Eve from the garden, lest they eat of the tree of life and be trapped immortally lame, deaf, and blind. It was His love that clothed them, providing a sacrifice, and initiating a plan to redeem them before He ever created them.
And oh believer, redemption was not merely for them! You and I fit in the narrative as well. God created a perfect world. Man sinned and destroyed perfection. But God reconciled His people to Himself. He recreates hearts. Through God’s goodness He saved men from Himself. Through His goodness He saved men to Himself.
Likewise, His character is most exponentially manifested through Jesus, through the gospel of grace. You know this believer, but dwell here again. Jesus, God, took on the weakness of humanity, yet lived without sin. On the cross, He became the perfect substitute, absorbing the fireball of the Father’s wrath that should have been hurled at all humanity. Tell me that is not good!
Yet the world’s still broken, and we’d be fools to deny it. Even creation longs for the day when when all will be restored. And one day it will be. He recreates creation!
How so how do I know that God is good and not cruel?
I know because His goodness explodes from Christ’s death and resurrection.
I know because He didn’t have to redeem me.
I know because one day all will be made new.