Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing devotions pulled from my book Living in the Shadow of Death: Learning to Thrive through Tragedy and Uncertainty. If you want to learn more about this book, scroll down or click here. If you want to read this series from the beginning, click here.
Can you say God’s plan is good, even if it includes suffering? If you’ve been following this series, you probably don’t want the pat, Christian answer.
Outside of God’s desire to extend grace, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9), I can offer three statements that I learned to embrace through my years of wrestling with God over the pain in my life.
I Don’t Know
In our sleep pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God. ~
That might seem strange, but let’s look at an Old Testament character. Job faced tremendous loss. First, a servant reported that enemies attacked, taking all of his oxen and donkeys, killing the servants nearby. A second servant rushed forward reporting fire from the sky burning up his sheep and all those servants. Then a third servant appeared reporting more enemies, this time taking his camels and killing those servants.
If that wasn’t enough for one day, a fourth servant arrived. Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead! (Job 1:18–19).
More pain awaited.
Somehow, Job offers praises to God, so Satan attacks Job’s health, giving him painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head (2:7). Job lobs many questions at God. Why did I not perish at birth? (Job 3:11), and Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter of soul, to those who long for death that does not come? (3:20).
Instead of answering directly or defending Himself, God throws a few curveballs. He asks:
- Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? (38:4)
- Have you given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place? (38:12)
- Do you send the lightning bolts on their way? (38:35)
I can’t even tell you why bananas are yellow or if every snowflake really is different! I don’t know why God is allowing suffering in your life. While I can see God’s plan is good even in our experience, I can’t tell you why He crippled my husband with pain.
2. I still love God.
Even though I don’t have answers, I still love and trust God. Although I don’t understand Him and can’t predict His plan. Lodging that in my heart didn’t come easy. While I grew up in church, my husband’s health challenged my beliefs about a good God.
In the beginning of Ruth, we meet Naomi, a married Jewess with two sons living in Bethlehem. A famine arrives, so they flee to Moab (Ruth 1:1–2). Shortly after arriving, her husband dies (Ruth 1:3). Her sons marry Moabite women, and life seems to settle down. We aren’t given many details, but we know ten years pass between moving to Moab and verse 5, which reports the deaths of her sons.
Was she close with the families her sons married into? That could have brought some comfort to her, but we don’t know. Maybe they never accepted her. What about grandchildren? Were her sons not married long enough? Or was this perhaps more sorrow that Naomi endured as her children went childless?
The return to Bethlehem.
When word reached Naomi that the Lord had provided food again in Judah, they prepared to return. But on the road, Naomi encouraged her two girls to go back to their mothers’ homes. But Ruth wouldn’t leave her. She states, Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. (verses 16-17).
Naomi was lost in her grief, though. She seems to ignore Ruth when she says to her friends in Bethlehem, the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty (verses 20-21).
Thankfully, Naomi doesn’t remain so buried in grief that she can’t see opportunity. When Ruth finds Boaz’s field to glean food for them to eat, Naomi encourages her to follow Boaz’s instructions to remain in his fields. She guides Ruth, encouraging her to ask Boaz to be her guardian-redeemer, the man to marry her. And everyone sees how God’s plan is good when Boaz became father to Obed.
God’s plan is good.
In all of Naomi’s sufferings, she never left God’s heart. He watched over her and provided for her, even when the worst things she could conceive happened. Even though His methods were not what she would have chosen, I’m certain that she would never have chosen a life without Obed.
Max Lucado asks, “We can’t always see what God is doing, but can’t we assume he is up to something good?” (You’ll Get Through This, 146).
3. I was cheated? Absolutely not!
Maybe it’s only in military circles, but a common phrase when someone dies young is, “The world is cheated by the loss of men like your husband.” I appreciate the sentiment, but I disagree. To believe I was cheated is to believe that God wasn’t powerful enough to stop it, that His plan isn’t good and I’m missing out.
Joseph dominates the last quarter of the book of Genesis. Seventeen when his adventures begin in chapter 37, over the next thirteen years Joseph is sold into slavery by his brothers, sold by the slave traders, tempted by his master’s wife, falsely accused of attempted rape, thrown in jail, and completely forgotten by a servant he helped. Yet Joseph kept his faith.
God’s plan is good.
“In God’s hands intended evil becomes eventual good,” Max Lucado writes in You’ll Get Through This. “Joseph tied himself to the pillar of this promise and held on for dear life. Nothing in his story glosses over the presence of evil. Quite the contrary. Bloodstains, tearstains are everywhere. Joseph’s heart was rubbed raw against the rocks of disloyalty and miscarried justice. Yet time and time again God redeemed the pain” (page 7).
God’s plans for your life far exceed the circumstances of your day. ~
The Bible teaches that God’s plan is good—even in moments I don’t like. If God is sovereign with supreme power and authority, then every event in my life is under His control. No circumstance is random or unexpected. Which means I wasn’t cheated.
No, God’s just lining things up for something amazing.
This is an excerpt from my book Living in the Shadow of Death. I’ll be sharing more in the weeks ahead, or you can purchase the book on Amazon (other retailers coming soon!).
Does God have a purpose for the turmoil or tragedy you are experiencing? Does a good God allow loss and send pain? How can that lurking feeling of dread for tomorrow be part of abundant life with Christ?
Grief hits us unexpectedly. A job loss, a failed relationship, a health crisis, an unexpected move, a rebellious teen, and other difficult circumstances force themselves upon us, demanding our attention. Fear, insecurity, and loneliness intimidate us into quiet submission and attempt to dictate our choices.
But what if we could shove them out our front door?
With loving concern and unyielding devotion for those facing a loss they never imagined, Carrie opens up her heart to reveal the biblical truths she’s learned through the heart-wrenching turbulence in her own life. She answers questions many Christians struggle with but dare not admit:
- Is God really good?
- Does the presence of pain and loss cancel out the abundant life promised to us?
- How can we follow God when life seems to only bring heartache?
- Is He even trustworthy?
If these are your questions, take heart! Within these pages, Carrie shares some of her very unchristian-like doubts and how she developed an intense faith and abiding trust even while Living in the Shadow of Death.
If you want to dig deeper into this book, you can also buy the journal featuring quotes from the book (links of the Book Page). Also, on the Freebies Page you’ll find a small group study guide and a leader’s guide!