Monday, September 4, 2017

Can There Be Peace In The Storm?

Why do the innocent suffer? What is the cause and purpose of natural disasters? What is the meaning of senseless, random tragedy? Who is in control? How can a good God allow such atrocities? How can we have peace when the world crumbles around us? ... 
These are questions that many have asked and few can answer. Unfortunately, we may never know the answers to some of these questions. Some tragedies cannot be explained short of an answer from God Himself, like why Hurricane Harvey, why did my babies die for no reason, why did my cousin’s wife die on her 37th birthday with no cause leaving two children, etc? Even if we could find answers to them, they would provide little comfort to the broken. The truth may provide closure, but it does not heal the wound. The questions we can answer are the ones on which we need to focus: where is God in all this, and how do we find peace in the midst of chaos?

While there may be some (even logical and biblical) reasons to why these atrocities have happened that truth does not help us deal with the pain and aftermath of destruction and devastation. It provides some closure but little comfort and no healing. In our second year of marriage my husband and I lost twin boys because I went into labor too early to save them. The fact that it happened because my body just couldn’t support them, or that it may have saved us even more pain and devastation later on (they were due on our daughter’s first birthday) were true, but did not help with the pain.

The story of Job is another example of the futility of trying to explain tragedy. His friends came up with many reasons that had some truth in theory, but were entirely wrong as far as Job’s specific situation. They could only see what was before them; they had no idea of the spiritual battle going on or the true reasons behind Job’s suffering. And their effort to tell him those reasons only deepened his pain. Those kinds of truths bring no comfort to the hurting. As such, it is pointless to try to explain or ask why. Those truths are not helpful. But there are two truths that we do need to seek in every tragedy:

Psalm 103:19 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

The Lord has established His throne in the heavens,
And His sovereignty rules over all.

1-God’s Sovereignty.
The fact that God is completely in control of everything is not only entirely true, but is also necessary to peace and healing. God created everything, is more powerful than anyone or anything, and is always in control. Even Satan can do nothing without God’s allowance, as shown in the story of Job. He has always existed and will always exist, nothing came before Him and nothing will go on after Him.

Isaiah 46:10 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Declaring the end from the beginning,
And from ancient times things which have not been done,
Saying, ‘My purpose will be established,
And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’.

God is also outside of time. He has the advantage of being outside of this world and can see what has, is and will happen all at once. He can see everything and knows the cause and result of everything. He really has the big picture. We as mortal, physical humans can only see what is also mortal and physical. We cannot see or comprehend eternity with our finite minds.

Isaiah 55:8-9 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.”

Job himself, in the midst of the greatest grief of losing not only his great wealth and all his possessions, but also all of his children in one day, grasped and clung to this truth.

Job 2:10 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Job fully accepted the fact that God was entirely in control of his circumstances, and yet did not let that truth make him despair or become bitter. He accepted the fact that God can see what we cannot, that God’s plans may not make sense to us, but He can see far beyond this day in our lives.

The truth of God’s sovereignty is one that we must accept completely and fully, because if God were not wholly powerful and in control, He would not be God and our faith in Him would be in vain. But if we let this truth stand by itself it can lead to cynicism, bitterness and despair. Our view would be biased by only seeing part of God’s character, but there is a second truth that we must accept just as fully along with God’s sovereignty. That truth is:

2-God’s Goodness.
God is entirely good, He can do no evil. He is perfect and completely loving. He is never malicious, cruel or selfish; those are all against His nature. Everything good in this world is only a glimpse of the goodness of God.

Psalm 145:8-9 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

The Lord is gracious and merciful;
Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness.
The Lord is good to all,
And His mercies are over all His works.

Those attributes are no less real in the midst of pain and disaster. We must be fully assured of and believe in God’s goodness so that we can see Him as He truly is. When I lost my babies, I fully believed in God’s sovereignty, but I questioned His goodness. How could a good, loving God cause or allow such pain? If my babies were never meant to live why was I allowed to conceive? I still don’t know the why, and I don’t really understand the how, but I now fully trust and believe that God is both fully in control and completely good. What I went through was incredibly painful and I spent a month pondering and struggling, but God and my faith are not dictated by my feelings. The truth about God is still true no matter what I go through. We must hold to the truths we know about God even and especially when we don’t feel them to be true.

Romans 8:28 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

The Bible says that God does not desire bad things to happen to anyone, but He also doesn’t always interfere or stop them. Yet we can be assured that He can and will make good come from anything if we will trust Him and believe in His goodness. God used my greatest grief to bring about my biggest dream, but I didn’t know that until after it all came to fruition. Job probably never knew why all of those terrible things happened to him, but he never lost faith, and in the end he was given twice as much as he had before.

Romans 8:18 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

God has infinitely more good in store for us in the future than we could imagine if we will not lose faith and continue to trust in Him. This does not mean that we will never waiver or have times of doubt, but that we never turn from our faith or reject God. We cannot see the end of what we are going through, but God can. He knows what purpose it can serve and what good He has for us. We have to trust Him.

That is where faith comes in; faith begins where sight fails because it forces us to trust God. And He is worthy of our complete trust.

That is where we find peace in the storm. God’s peace is not based on a lack of trouble, but an inner calm that comes from trust in Him. We can trust Him to lovingly and sovereignly take care of our suffering, and in place of our cares and worry He gives us His peace. Jesus said:

John 14:27 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.

His peace is not of this world, it is far deeper and greater than anything the world can offer. In the midst of your suffering and pain and confusion and chaos, trust in God. Give Him your cares, your worries and your pain, let Him be your Rock and steady place, and receive His peace.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.

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