May 12, 1998
Two teen boys open fire, killing five and wounding others at a school in Jonesboro, Arkansas — just another in a long list of violent incidents that raise the old question: Why does God allow such suffering?
When I first became a Christian, I felt that God would care for me like my own father did, doing everything in His power to protect me from trouble or pain. However, life handed me trials and difficulties just like everyone else experienced. What was wrong?
After a few years of both asking and hearing that question, I realize pat answers satisfy no one. Each person who asks these questions must search for the answers themselves. God offers truth for those who turn to Him, yet to some, His explanations may seem too simple. Our need to know is satisfied as faith helps us grasp the significance of what He says.
Part of the reason the world has troubles is not because God ignores us, but because we ignore God. I realize personally, that whenever I go my own way without consulting Him or looking for instructions in His Word, I am not happy with the results. This is true for big decisions and for smaller issues. God wants to guide me and provide all I need for all of life, but if I neglect or reject what He offers, I am stuck with lesser resources.
The Bible says I am not alone: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each to his own way.” Yet God graciously invites everyone to go His way and to help them in it. For many who do not, their own way leads to pain and suffering, not only for themselves but others.
God can, and sometimes does, stop people from having their own way. Jonah is a good example. God told him to go to Nineveh and warn the people that if they did not change their evil ways, He would destroy them. Jonah refused and took off in the other direction. God used a storm and a large fish to stop him. Instead of having his own way, Jonah wound up doing what God commanded.
However, God does not always stop people from doing their own thing, even if it seems very wrong, or is downright evil. Case in point: the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Jesus was not guilty of anything criminal or immoral. He was full of compassion for people, healing and touching their lives for good. However, He did call things as He saw them, particularly the hypocrisy of religious leaders. In retaliation, they determined to kill Him.
God could have stopped that, but He did not. Jesus could have called legions of angels to rescue Him, but He did not. Even Jesus’ disciples might have put up a huge protest to try to stop this outrage, but they did not. Jesus died.
Was God oblivious? Did He care? The Apostle Peter thought otherwise. He told the Jews: “This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead. . . .” Jesus died because God had a plan. In dying, Jesus conquered sin and death so you and I might have eternal life.
How does this relate to two boys shooting at teachers and classmates? Like this: if God can bring the greatest good to humanity out of a huge injustice to the most innocent of beings, He is fully capable of accomplishing a good purpose in this and all seemingly senseless situations. He is not ignorant of trouble nor is He helpless. He proved it concerning Jesus and continues to prove it to those who look to Him for meaning in their pain and problems.
For us, trials are tests. Will we trust God? If we do, He deepens and matures our faith, showing us He is not the author of trouble, but our refuge and support in it.