“Where is God when bad stuff happens?” Humanity has been asking that for millennia, so it won’t be solved in one blog post, but it is still good to think about it.
When you’re consoling someone who has suffered “bad stuff,” there’s a temptation to explain things using religious clichés. But our pain and struggles are deep, not simplistic, and bumper sticker theology might sound good coming out, but it doesn’t actually help a hurting person heal deep down. (And like we mentioned in the last post, many people really don’t like hearing religious clichés.)
I came across this article by a respected pastor, who offers things that have helped him process the big question of “Where is God when bad stuff happens?”
1. Life isn’t fair. When we are young, we optimistically think that if we “behave” (go to church, follow Jesus, pray, etc.), then bad things won’t happen and we won’t “get in trouble” in life. But while God is definitely good and rewards us with blessings, life is still tough.
2. No one is exempt from hurt. Accidents happen, people get sick, storms blow in–no matter how spiritual you are. Spiritual maturity can’t prevent calamity, but it can lessen bad our decisions and help us heal from calamity when it happens.
3. God is present at all times, even in chaos. God doesn’t create chaos; God wants to create peace. So God is present within chaotic times, giving us strength to heal.
4. Pray regularly, especially when bad stuff happens. Prayer isn’t a magic wand (“Dear God, make this problem disappear”), and we don’t necessarily get what we request/demand. (What if we gave children everything they demanded? Not a good idea.) But prayer is a process of peace-giving that allows God to work in you, providing you holy courage and endurance. Prayer gets us the things we need.
5. God is proactive in all of our circumstances. God’s Spirit is at work in the world and can work in you, not because you deserve it, but as a gift. The Spirit convicts, comforts, and coaches us according to the character of Jesus. And we then become an instrument of God’s work to comfort others during hard times.
Hopefully those things can offer some light the next time you or a loved one is flooded with darkness. Although it is natural that everyone asks the question “Why?” when bad stuff happens, a better question that can help you heal is to ask “Where? Where is God?” And the answer is that God is right there with you, surrounding you and filling you.