A family member dies. A diagnosis gets made. Lay-offs happen. A close friend goes through a divorce. A natural disaster strikes.
The inevitable response to suffering is often, “Why?"
Why did God let them die? Why did God let me go through this? Why me? Why now?
The problem is that no matter how much we might speculate, we don’t get an answer to that question. God hasn’t told us. So trying to search for the mysterious “plan” that God must have is hardly helpful. Because we won’t find it out.
And would we even want an explanation anyways?
In times of suffering, while we often want to ask, “Why?” we are better served by asking the question, “Where?"
For that we have an answer.
This doesn’t make it any easier. It doesn’t answer a lot of the questions you face. But it is something that you can look to with confidence. Where is God in the midst of your pain and suffering?
He is with you.
And he is for you.
Where is God?
As all hell breaks lose on your life. As evil and suffering rains down on your family, you can be confident that God promises to be with you and to never leave you. And you can be confident that as hell rages war against you, God as your warrior fights on your behalf.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? - Romans 8:31-32
That doesn’t mean it is easy to see God in these moments. That’s actually why it is so often we need to be reminded that he is with us. In the times where suffering hurts the most, it is often the most difficult to know God is present. In fact, Luther actually suggested that God was hidden in our suffering.
Even in the suffering of the cross, it hardly appears that God is at work; it’s not until we get the full picture of the significance of the cross that we can clearly see God’s work in the midst of the suffering. It is in the very act of suffering on the cross that God redeemed his broken creation.
In our suffering, God is at work. This isn’t to suggest that our suffering is just for some greater purpose. This is simply to suggest that in the awful pain we find ourselves that God is with us.
In the moment we may not be able to see God at work, but as we move beyond the situation we are later reminded, “God was in this place, and I was not aware of it.” One rabbi suggested, "When you look closely and for a long time, you discover things that are invisible to others."
If you look close enough at your suffering, you might find that God is there in the midst of it.
If you aren’t in a season of suffering, you will be. And in those moments, you will have unanswered questions. You will wrestle with and be angered by your unanswered questions of, “Why?” But in the face of those questions be reminded that God does reveal to us where he is.
He doesn’t promise to us that our suffering is going to go away in this life. He doesn’t promise that we are going to like the end result. But he does promise that he is there in the midst of the suffering. He promises to be with us and to fight for us.