Where is God when horrible things happen?
What role does He play when it comes to job loss, the death of a child or loved one, a terminal illness, or other tragedies? Does He actually control all our circumstances, or do these bad things happen simply because we live in a sin-cursed world?
These are questions that I never gave much thought…until I found myself in the midst of my own tragic circumstances. It suddenly became a crucial issue in my life!
There seemed to be only three clear choices:
A. God isn’t able to intervene
B. God chooses not to intervene
C. God is in full control of what is happening
Even then, I instinctively felt that God was in complete control of everything that was happening, even if I didn’t understand His reasons for allowing me to go through these things. Everything I knew about God’s nature screamed to me that neither option A or B could possibly be correct. Still, I wanted to see concrete proof in Scripture to confirm what I felt the Holy Spirit was telling me.
After many hours of praying and searching my Bible, I was convinced that nothing that happened to me was an accident…that God was in complete control of every single thing that went on, down to the tiniest detail. I actually found this a tremendous comfort…that even when I felt completely helpless and had NO control over my circumstances or the horrible loss I was going through (which included three miscarriages and a preterm stillbirth), I was never for one minute out of God’s hand. Even though I didn’t understand why I had to go through so much pain, I trusted that He knew what He was doing. For someone with control-freak tendencies like me, letting go of my need to be in control of the situation and to have an answer or explanation for everything and putting myself completely in God’s hands was an extremely difficult thing to do.
Jerry Bridges addresses this exact issue in Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts. If you’ve read my reviews of other books by Dr. Bridges, you know that I really enjoy his writing. I think this one is my favorite so far. He expresses what I came to strongly believe during that period in my life much more eloquently than I ever could. Dr. Bridges wrote this book based on a lengthy Bible study he did on the subject during a time of adversity in his own life.
He points out that most Christians find it much easier to obey God than to trust Him. We can handle things pretty well when His expectations are clearly laid out and we know what to do, but when life gets messy and we don’t understand what’s going on and can’t see the outcome (or don’t like the one we do see!), it’s easier to place blame on other factors instead of trusting that God knows what He’s doing.
The moral will of God given to us in the Bible is rational and reasonable. The circumstances in which we must trust God often appear irrational and inexplicable. The law of God is readily recognized to be good for us, even when we don’t want to obey it. The circumstances of our lives frequently appear to be dreadful and grim or perhaps even calamitous and tragic. Obeying God is worked out within well-defined boundaries of God’s revealed will. Trusting God is worked out in an arena that has no boundaries. We do not know the extent, the duration, or the frequency of the painful, adverse circumstances in which we must frequently trust God. We are always coping with the unknown. Yet it is just as important to trust God as it is to obey Him. When we disobey God we defy His authority and despise His holiness. But when we fail to trust God we doubt His sovereignty and question His goodness.
The book begins by addressing this critical issue: Can we trust God? Is He trustworthy?
Confidence in the sovereignty of God in all that affects us is crucial to our trusting Him. If there is a single event in all of the universe that can occur outside of God’s sovereign control, then we cannot trust Him. His love may be infinite, but if His power is limited and His purpose can be thwarted, we cannot trust Him. You may entrust to me your most valuable possessions. I may love you and my aim to honor your trust may be sincere, but if I do not have the power or ability to guard your valuables, you cannot truly entrust them to me.
In the first half of the book, Dr. Bridges takes us through a thorough study of God’s sovereignty over people, nations, and nature as taught in Scripture. In Chapter 7, he tackles the issue of our responsibility in light of God’s sovereignty. The last few chapters address how God’s wisdom and love factor in to the equation.
God in His love always wills what is best for us. In His wisdom He always knows what is best, and in His sovereignty He has the power to bring it about.
He wraps up by applying all we’ve seen of God’s character personally: how we can know and experience God’s love, and trust Him and be thankful, no matter our circumstances.