The orphanage I help run was spared by the recent wildfires that blew through our town. Many people were not so fortunate. In response to one of the many “Praise God” comments on Facebook, one angry gentleman shared a substantial rant, “If God was going to spare you, why did He start the fire? Why did other homes burn? Does God not love them as much?” Obviously, this gentleman has some issues, but it brings up some profound questions that have plagued theologians from the beginning. How does one explain the randomness of suffering? Why are there orphans? Why do some people get cancer? People much wiser than I have struggled to respond to this question. Here are a few thoughts.
From a recent personal standpoint, as the fires spread across our valley, our orphanage was spared. My home in the community was spared. The two main buildings at a second ministry I help run were reduced to melted glass, twisted metal, and ashes. On some roads in our town, every third house was burned to the ground, regardless if they were brick or wood construction, large or small. One house burned along with all of the trees on the property, twenty yards away from a large stack of hay bales that was completely untouched. The randomness of the fires that night was truly amazing.
Matthew 5:45 …He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
So back to the question at hand, why do trials fall on some people, and seem to float right past others? The response that I tend to land on brings comfort, but I know it can also easily offend people: God has a plan. We seldom know the plan that God has, but He has a plan. If you’re house just burned down, if you recently suffered the loss of a child, if you just lost your job or your marriage, you do not want to hear someone tell you, “God has a plan”. But, I wholeheartedly believe that we serve a God that is infinitely wiser then we can ever imagine with our feeble little minds.
There is profound peace in realizing that nothing is in our control, and none of us get out of this world alive. All we can do is go along for the ride. We can trust in the promise that God can, and will, use everything that happens to us if we allow Him to. When we try and control things, or THINK we’re controlling things, we’re lying to ourselves.
If we give in to a two-year-old’s wishes and control, they will live on birthday cake and cotton candy. A loving parent knows a diet made up of sugar is not in the best interest of the child. The child sees skipping cake as a life-crushing hardship, and a loving parent sees the need for a balanced diet is essential for health, growth, and longevity. This is beyond a two-year-old’s comprehension; it’s not their fault; it’s just that they are two. Their brains can’t understand the complexities of growth and nutrition. The parent can. So many of us want to live in a world of birthday cake and cotton candy. This is not the world we can survive in. This is not realty.
Does this mean God sends hardship? I don’t think so. But we live in a broken world with suffering all around us. All people suffer. All people battle illness, injustice, and random suffering. Christians, unbelievers, everyone suffers in this world. The difference is, we know that whatever this broken world throws at us, God can turn it around and use it IF WE LET HIM. He is so much bigger than this world. If we seek Him, the enemy attacks, but God is bigger than any attack the enemy has.
I, and our ministry, have been richly blessed. This is not to say we have not gone through trials and difficulties. The difference is the outlook during, and following the trials and difficulties. I can look back at twenty-five years of ministry, and with the benefit of hindsight, see how God used every storm and trial that we suffered through. We have suffered through illness, financial hardship, deaths of children, and countless other trials. Would I wish this on others? Absolutely not. But He has used the storms we have gone through for the benefit of the home in many ways I can see, and I’m sure in countless ways that I am not even aware of. We are stronger, healthier, and able to weather future storms better as a direct result of what we have gone through so far.
No one enjoys the storm, but out of the storm comes growth and regeneration. The hills around our town are currently blackened and charred, but the ash will wash through the soil and nourish it, enrich it, make it healthier. A year or two from now, the hills will be greener and more productive than they have been in decades. Out of the ashes, growth will happen. Even if we can’t see it currently, God has a plan.
Photo by Love Story Foundation©
If you would like to donate to help rebuild the ministry buildings that burned, please use the link here: Strong Tower Ministries
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Thank you for this post. I think as Christ-followers we sometimes shy away when people want to know “why God?” Because we don’t have all of the answers either. But like you said we all are going to suffer loss, heartache, illness, and grief in this broken world but for me, the question is “What do I allow my Lord to do with it in my life?” Do I focus on the broken and the why? Or do I allow the Joy of Christ to filter through the cracks of my pain and suffering shedding light on who Christ is?
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I think a common misconception is that God CONTROLS every situation and detail. It seems that He leaves an awful lot up to us. And as DJ says here, He is able to use anything (even bad situations we created) for our good and His glory when we give it over to Him. One thing I believe He leaves up to us is to affect things through prayer. And I’ll tell you this, there were a LOT of people praying that night for both DOFO and the Schuetze house. He showed two people in our group earlier that day that there was a protective curtain/dome around the orphanage property. We prayed into that pretty heavy on Thursday night. He is no respecter of persons, but angels and miracles are released through faithful prayer – no doubt about it. Love you guys.
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Very well answered DJ. I’m finishing my 3rd class at the Oxford RZIM Center for Apologetics right now and the “Why does God allow suffering” question is a huge one that we must have a response to. In short, to me, you nailed it. God uses suffering like the persecuted church in N Korea, China and Iran has led to the fastest growing churches on the planet as hundreds of thousands of Muslims are coming to Jesus! Suffering is often the most powerful experience that many have and we serve a loving God that never wastes it, or ignores it or us.
I’m glad you guys are safe and still have your domain intact there. I know you guys are grateful as well as tending to the many that weren’t so fortunate there too. I appreciate your succinct “defense of the faith” you wrote on an especially difficult question. God bless you all!
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This is well written and yet leaves us with the same qustions. It behooves us as Christian believers to hold our grasp of God’s plan with ultimate trust and yet with loose fingers (remember, all the religious leaders missed God’s plan for Jesus even though it had been prophesied for centuries!).
What I am particularly mindful of is rejoicing when “we” rejoice because we were spared and then we have to answer the question for someone whose family or household was not spared. The good news as you say – all of this is under God’s sovereign control and we can trust His plan is bigger than our understanding. The even better news is there is coming a day when He will put all things right in a new heaven and a new earth!
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Beautifully written and addressed. Thank you.
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