The reality of evil and suffering is one that a lot of people have argued about and questioned God on, and it is one of the main roadblocks to trusting God and following Him.
In my years as a pastor, I’ve sat with couples who have buried a child, adults burying their parents, I’ve wept with people who just found out they had cancer and a short time to live, listened to the brokenhearted stories about the end of a marriage, a child who wants nothing to do with the family or God, the loss of jobs, financial difficulties, addictions that can’t be beat.
It’s heartbreaking, and those are just the ones I’ve been party to. This doesn’t even count national and international tragedies and natural disasters we see on the news.
Personally, I’ve walked through the loss of friends, difficulty in family and work relationships, loss of jobs, setbacks in life, difficulties in starting our church. I’ve looked at mountains in my own life that seemed impossible to get past, hurt that felt so painful I thought I could never recover, betrayal that ran deep.
And then sits Romans 8:28 – 30. One of the most quoted verses in the Bible, it’s been used for encouragement over and over in the lives of thousands since Paul wrote it.
It says: And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
Right now you might be in the midst of a storm in life. You might not be. If you aren’t, the reality is your storm is coming at some point.
Here are a few questions to help you see where you are, where God is in the storm you are and how to have the faith to walk through what you are in and what is ahead:
1. What storm are you facing? It is important to identify the storm you are facing. Often we don’t know what it is. We simply feel down or something feels off from what used to be or what we hope. Often it isn’t a storm we’re in the middle of; we’re simply tired or burned out. Other times we are in the dark place of the storm, and the waves are crashing around us. Also, without identifying our storm, we will struggle to see anything that God is doing because we’ll simply go into survival mode or become jaded.
2. Are there any sins that need to be confronted? By this I mean, have you sinned to get you into the place you are in or has someone else? Take finances for an example. This can cause an incredibly stressful storm, but many of our financial issues are out of our control (housing market, retirement, etc.). Other financial storms are in our control (debt, spending, saving, giving, etc.). Or relational storms: did you hurt someone, are you holding onto something you need to let go of, is there someone you need to confront or forgive and let go?
3. Look back at a storm, hurt or pain from your past. With some distance from that situation, are you able to see God’s hand? I know in my life, the further I am from a situation, the more clarity I have. I will often see my pride and sin more clearly, but I also see God’s hand more clearly. Now the reality is, this side of heaven, we will not have answers for everything that happens to us. We aren’t promised that. We are promised that God will never leave us or forsake us, that all things do serve a purpose in God’s plan and that all things will bring about God’s glory and our good, if we are called by Him and love him. (Romans 8:28 – 30).
4. What does looking at your past help you to see about God with what you are facing? What is He trying to do right now? The reason I like to look back in my life is that it often helps me to move forward. This is why God had the nation of Israel do things to remember how He moved in the past. This is why as followers of Jesus we do things like communion and baptism, to remember how God worked in the past, because that has an enormous impact on our faith into the future.