If God is so good and powerful, why do bad things happen? As a person in ministry, I get asked some version of this question frequently. To be honest, I’ve pondered it as well. During this time of widespread crises, which has been characterized by so much loss, grief, and confusion on a global scale, it is an understandable concern. And yet I wonder if the question itself lacks balance and insight.
I find that we are often quick to blame God for anything bad that happens, calling His character and kindness into question at the first sign of trouble. But we aren’t always so swift to credit Him with everything good, even the ordinary goodness that underscores our daily lives. While I would never want to minimize the pain and disappointment that life’s messy moments cause us, the reality is that it is because of His abundant goodness, love for us, and mighty power that we experience any type of peace, hope, and calm in our lives at all. We are sin sick, and the world in which we live is saturated with evil. It is only by the power of His restraint that this evil doesn’t break through into our experience every second of each day.
Because He is good.
Think about it like this: If you’ve ever been to the ocean, then you know the overwhelming and awe-inspiring feeling of seeing the vastness of its mighty waves. You know what it’s like to realize that the sea is far deeper, more powerful, and more mysterious than any human will likely ever be able to comprehend. Without the restraint of the land on which we stand, the miles-deep water would surely over- take the entirety of society, consuming and swallowing everything in its path.
But Job 38:10–11 reminds us that our mighty Father “locked it behind barred gates, limiting its shores.” He said, “This far and no farther will you come. Here your proud waves must stop!” (nlt). If God were to remove His hand, endless tsunamis would devastate our land. The only reason the ocean does not completely overtake the earth is because God’s power holds it back.
Day after ordinary day when you did not receive the grim diagnosis, when your loved one did not succumb to death, when betrayal did not poison your relationship, when the accident did not total your possessions, this was by His power alone, holding back the endless waves of evil pressing in on your life.
And when, in His sovereignty, He allows difficulty to seep in, that is not a sign of powerlessness or forgetfulness or lovelessness. It is because, for reasons we may never fully understand on this side of eternity, His glory will be best magnified, His good purposes fully come to pass, and His character in us more completely developed because of that hardship. Either way, He is still God, and we can still trust Him with our whole hearts and lives.
If ever that theory became reality to me, it was during this extended season of difficulty for my family, coupled with the disturbing era of global dysfunction in which we all live now. Have we felt uneasy? Oh, yes. Devastated even. Have we cried? Many, many tears. Did we have to regroup, refocus, and start again? Yes, and in so many ways we still are.
I’m sure there will likely be more tears to wipe away, more anxieties to quell, and more chances to start all over once again. We will wrestle and struggle and ask God questions. Thankfully, God knows our frame and doesn’t mind our questions. He is well acquainted with our weaknesses, having taken on human form. Jesus knows hurt, He knows our tears, He knows disappointment. And our beautiful Savior empathizes with us. More than ever before, I am grateful for my godly parents who modeled what it looks like to trust God even when times are hard. While they may have asked God questions, they never questioned His character, even when they did not understand His choices. They kept on praying, resting, and claiming confidence in Him. They believed that, though circumstances may have changed, our God does not.
I believe that too.
Our hope is not rooted in delusion; rather it is a holy optimism stirred by the Holy Spirit within. Suffering and adversity have not changed the nature of God, nor have they canceled out the hope we have in Jesus. Instead, they have cemented my confidence in Him. I still endure pain and breathlessness from the surgery that removed a part of my lung. But each time I feel my respiratory system working hard to sustain me, I am grateful for each breath He gives me, and I remember that this planet is not my home. I have a new body waiting on me in heaven. The same kind my momma got the moment she stepped into glory. The same kind my beloved mother-in-law, Mary, received when she met Mom there eight months later.
The only way a human being can stay steady and hope filled through life and death is by firmly believing that God is still in charge, that He loves us unflinchingly, and that Jesus has gone ahead to prepare a place for us. That’s how my mother and mother-in-law lived their lives, and it’s how they finished strong. They were talking about Jesus until they no longer had the strength to speak. Their eyes were firmly fixed on that place that Jesus had prepared for them.
Learn how to work your way through life’s unexpected challenges with grace and find a deeper faith while on your journey. In this biblical and conversational book by Dr. Tony Evans and his four adult children—Chrystal Evans Hurst, Priscilla Shirer, Anthony Evans, and Jonathan Evans—you will hear five insightful perspectives on what it means to hold on to faith when life breaks your heart.