How difficult it is to cope when we cannot see the reasons for why God allows certain things to happen. How cruel and arbitrary it can seem when the woes of this life befall us, when death steals our loved ones and despair pierces our hearts. Indeed, it can be overwhelming to make sense of the mess we’re in but to believe in God means we must have faith that He is in control, that He knows what He’s doing, and that He works all things for the good of those who love Him (Rom 8:28). His ways and His thoughts are higher than ours (Isa 55:9) and we cannot presume to understand His eternal scope nor can we see the fullness of His plans for us. To paraphrase a parable I once read:
It is like a man who comes upon the construction of a building that is only half-finished and says to the builder, “This place is a mess, there is dirt and rubble everywhere and nothing is put together properly” The builder in reply says, “Have patience friend, what you see now is a work in progress, but once completed you will marvel at its beauty.”
The world is still in the process of being restored, and in the meantime there is a biblical precedent for the suffering of believers (Rom 5:3-4; 2 Thess 1:4; 2 Tim 2:3; 1 Peter 4:12-13). Christians are not spared trials; they are not spared pain. In fact, Scripture makes it clear that suffering will be used in the sanctification of believers; just as pressure creates diamonds from coal and gold is refined in the fire. Even the Son of God suffered and died in order to bring salvation to his people.
However, the knowledge that God uses our trials for good does not take away the sadness we feel, and that’s OK. Jesus wept at the tomb of his friend Lazarus even though he knew he would raise him back to life moments later. Why? I believe it’s because sorrow is a proper response to the sufferings of this world, and Jesus, who is the source of life, was acknowledging death as something terrible. There are times when it is right for us to be sorrowful and mourn over the reality of our fallen state; to let the hurt we feel be a sobering reassurance of our weakness and frailty and a reminder of how much we need the everlasting arms of our Father to embrace us; He is our only hope and refuge. For God has promised, to those who put their faith in Him, that all our pain and suffering will not have been in vein, and even our deaths are not the end, but rather a new beginning.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:1-3)
“No longer will there be a curse upon anything. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants will worship him. And they will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. And there will be no night there – no need for lamps and sun – for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever. (Revelation 22:3-5)