A crisis hits hard. It hits fast. And it takes no prisoners. Sometimes a crisis is so epic that you eventually look back on it as a dividing point in your life. You remember your life before and after the crisis.
For Job, it was when his world came crashing down on him in one day. For Joseph, it was the betrayal of his brothers that changed the course of his life. For Jesus, it was when the religious leaders and one of His own handpicked disciples turned on Him.
A crisis is like a mighty and unexpected storm that overtakes your boat. And when this happens, the first thing we usually ask is, Why is this happening to me? What have I done to deserve this? At the outset, there are no real answers to questions like this. It is very unlikely we ever will have the answers to the whys of life – until we get to heaven.
In our minds, we may believe that we are somehow exempt from suffering. We just won’t have tragedy befall us. We won’t get cancer. We won’t have spouses leave us. We won’t have anyone we love die in any kind of accident. We won’t have problems with our kids. If that is the way you think, then it is time for your wake-up call. We cannot control these things. Crisis will come into our lives.
Ironically, I have had people say to me after the death of my son, “Why has this happened to you, of all people?” I find that to be a curious question, the assumption being that I somehow get a free pass because I am a pastor. But I live in the same fallen world as everyone else. And the Bible says the rain falls upon the just and the unjust (see Matthew 5:45).
I think it is very important not to make the mistake of always trying to find cause and effect for everything that happens. Sometimes if something bad happens to someone, we will say, “Well, they were bad people, and because of that, this happened in their lives.” That may be true. But sometimes bad stuff simply happens, and there is no cause and effect at all. That is because sin is in the world. And because of this, we have aging and sickness and disabilities and, yes, even death. But these things were never a part of God’s original plan.
On one occasion, Jesus’ disciples brought up the subject of a tower that had fallen on a group of Gentiles. The Gentiles were non-Jews – nonbelievers. Everyone knew about this tragedy, and the supposition was that it happened to these people because they were nonbelievers. So Jesus said, “Were they the worst sinners in Jerusalem? No, and I tell you again that unless you repent, you will perish, too” (Luke 13:4 NLT).
Here is what Jesus was saying, in effect: “Don’t say this happened because they were sinners. You think they were the worst sinners? News flash: Unless you repent, you will perish, too.”
Bad things happen inexplicably.
In his book, “If God Is Good,” Randy Alcorn writes, “If we come to see the purpose of the universe as God’s long-term glory rather than our short-term happiness, then we will undergo a critical paradigm shift in tackling the problem of evil and suffering. The world has gone terribly wrong. God is going to fix it. First, for His eternal glory. Second, for our eternal good.”
In other words, the big picture, the purpose of the universe, is God’s glory, not our happiness. We tend to think of the world as revolving around us. We are the stars of our own films. We are the main characters of our own novels. And when something bad happens, we want to know, Why is this happening to me? What about me?
The bigger picture is ultimately God’s glory, not our personal happiness. The fact of the matter is that through hardship, our hope will grow. This almost sounds contradictory. It seems like the best circumstances for hope to grow would be a trouble-free life without any storms. Everything would be nice and tidy and clean. No. The best place for hope to grow, believe it or not, is actually in adversity.
The apostle Paul wrote,
Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. (Romans 5:2–5)
Did Paul, in the same paragraph, really include the words “trials” and “problems” and “God loves us”? But if God loves us, wouldn’t he remove the trials and the problems? Maybe. He might. And he might not. That is up to God, according to what needs to happen in your life.
The Bible tells the story of a man named Lazarus who was ill. Lazarus was a personal friend of Jesus’, so his sisters Mary and Martha sent word to him that their brother was sick. But when Jesus heard the news, he intentionally delayed going to see Lazarus. By the time he got there, Lazarus was dead. I find it interesting that the reason the Bible gives for Jesus’ delay was that he loved Mary, Martha and Lazarus (see John 11:5–6). Jesus waited because he wanted to do something even greater than what they wanted. They wanted a healing, but Jesus wanted a resurrection.
So let’s just leave these things in the hands of God. We don’t know the whys. But we do know this: God has a plan.