God, Are You Still Listening?
“Would you question my justice, deem me guilty so you can be innocent? Or do you have an arm like God; can you thunder with a voice like him? Adorn yourself with splendor and majesty; clothe yourself with honor and esteem.” Job 40:8-10 (CEB)
The news was shocking, heartbreaking. Another disturbed young man, another school campus full of young souls, another tragic ending. Not again.
“Why, God? Why? How can You stand by and let this happen? Are You even there?”
That question played itself out on social media and in living rooms or kitchen tables across the country. How could a merciful God let something like this happen to innocent children and teachers just trying to do their jobs?
At times like these, especially for families that have lost loved ones during such tragedies, it’s understandable to lash out at, or even turn our back on God. “He doesn’t care about me,” some of us think. “I’m not putting any more faith in fairy tales,” others say.
Is God still listening to us? Does He still hear our cries?
I recently read the testimony of someone whose wife of nearly 30 years faced a life-threatening disease. He wrote how much he had prayed, how much his friends and church family had prayed with him. How he had been told by an Elder in his church that God had assured him his wife would recover.
Sadly, she did not. The man was devastated. He wrote that he cried out to God, reminding Him of His promise of James 5:16: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” The same God who had promised “whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive it all” (Matthew 21:22) now seemed to have forsaken him.
Was his faith not strong enough? Was he not a good enough person? Had he not prayed hard enough? Or perhaps God was simply distracted and not listening.
God is Always Listening
Our faith becomes strongest when we understand that while God is always listening to us, we don’t always listen toHim. God answers every prayer, even if that answer seems painful. He hears our prayers and responds in His way, even if we cannot understand what He’s doing.
James the brother of Jesus writes “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance” (James 1:2). Jesus likewise reminded his most devout followers that pain would always be with them, but not to lose heart because he had defeated the world (John 16:33).
God Doesn’t Make Bad Things Happen
When we ask why God allows tragedy, why He allows things like terrorism and mass murder and cancer, why He seems to sit on the sidelines and watch His people drown in the sorrow and misery of job losses, divorces, car accidents, suicides, addictions … what we’re really asking is “God, why do YOU create these things if you supposedly love us?”
This is probably the hardest lesson of all to learn: God doesn’t “make” bad things happen – His gift of Free Will to each of us does. Man’s inhumanity and cruelty to one another is an active choice made by an individual.
But what about disease? Surely that has nothing to do with Free Will. Leaving aside a debate over lifestyle choices, sometimes God allows the human condition to take its course as a way to sharpen and strengthen our dependence on Him. When we face adversity, we can choose to receive his relentless love and mercy, to run to Him rather than running away.
God Has a Plan
One of the more quoted passages of the New Testament is from Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth: “My grace is sufficient for you, and My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Weakness, especially during times of tragedy, is often the very thing that brings us to God in the first place. We do not know the ways of God, as we are reminded in the book of Ecclesiastes: “Just as you do not know the path of the wind, and how bones are formed in the womb of the pregnant woman, so you do not know the activity of God who makes everything” (Ecclesiastes 11:5).
Yet God sees more than we can see, and He knows more than we can possibly know. He works in ways beyond our apprehension, and if we only place our trust in Him when we understand what He is doing, we will never experience the richness of His wonders.
God Knows and Understands Loss
Scripture tells us of the unfathomable loss God has experienced since the beginning of creation. His perfect creations, Adam and Eve, rejected him. Generations of their descendants turned to lives of sin and idolatry. After the Flood, His chosen people continuously turned away from Him. And in the most heartbreaking example of all, God watched His only begotten son tortured and executed by the very people into which He had breathed life.
God knows the pain of suffering and loss. He grieves with us during every moment of our own experiences. He stands beside us when we lose loved ones or when we receive devastating news. He reassures us that He will work all things to our good if we place our complete and unconditional trust in Him.
The good news, friends, is that we have a loving creator filled with compassion and fierce devotion to us. He hears us, every time we come to Him in single-minded prayer. No matter what we face, He will be there for us.
May God continuously lead your path