God Is Still Good and We Can Trust Him

In almost 28 years of ministry, I don’t think that I have ever been a part of a community that experienced a week like this.

In the past 10 days, a 13-year-old boy was diagnosed with lymphoma; a 20-year-old young woman has a brain tumor the nature of which is still being determined; a senior citizen was involved in an automobile accident that resulted in multiple fractures, a couple of surgeries and a lengthy rehabilitation; over the weekend a Houghton College student took his own life; and Tuesday morning we discovered that the first cousin of three women in our church was brutally murdered by her ex-boyfriend, who subsequently committed suicide. In addition, some godly members of the church have died unexpectedly, one of which was buried Monday morning. This is only the public pain; I have no doubt that others are suffering silently and in private.

As you might imagine, our little community is struggling to find our footing. Many are asking questions about why all of this is happening, how we cope and where is God. These questions are natural, helpful and necessary; they are also difficult to answer. We don’t know why any of these tragedies have taken place, much less why they would take place in the span of a few days. Scientists spend a fortune in time and money each year trying to figure the cause of disease and counselors give much time and effort to understanding the depths of despair and pain in the mind, heart and spirit of someone who chooses to end their life.

Fortunately, we have learned some coping mechanisms in times like these, not the least of which is the church. The community of believers holds us steady in uncertainty. The gift of community allows us to express our hurt, fear, anxiety, anger, and pain. The community of faith is a safe place to learn, to grow, to be honest even when our honesty makes others feel uncomfortable. It is the question about God that I believe is most significant, necessary and dangerous all at the same time.

Pondering God’s presence is a significant question because whether we admit it or not, all of life is wrapped up in our view of and relationship with God. Pascal was right when he talked about human beings having a “God-shaped void.” Our questions of God when we are in crisis are an attempt to understand God in the void. The question about God is also necessary in order to get to a healthy end. For too long the church has avoided questions that might put God on the spot (Job’s friends are horrified by Job’s questioning of God). Our hesitancy to be honest with God has been the most profound reason for our waning trust of God. It’s the organization or the CEO who refuses to take questions, who nurtures an attitude of secrecy that breeds a spirit of distrust and makes us wonder what’s really going on behind the scenes. When the church tells us that it’s wrong to probe our struggle by being brutally honest with God, we wonder about what’s really going on behind that curtain. I am convinced, however, that honest, forthright, emotive questioning of God is actually the most dangerous question we ask in times of struggle—not because of what we might find out about God but because of what we might find out about ourselves.

Psalm 46 tells us that even though the earth is shaking to its core and all that we have come to rely on is now unreliable, the one constant is the holy, sovereign God. The Psalmist reiterates what we read of God from Genesis to Revelation: nothing is too great for God, nothing is outside of His wholehearted compassion and mercy and there is no situation into which God cannot and does not go and work for good.

The dangerous element of this truth about God is not that we are surprised at who God is but that we are surprised at who we are. We are surprised at how quickly we turn on God. We are surprised at how quickly we blame God. We are surprised at how quickly we forget all that God has done. We are surprised at how quickly we ignore His amazing promises. We are surprised at how difficult it can be—despite all He has done—to trust Him. This is the dilemma that the Israelites face from the first day of their existence as a nation. Christians are rarely much better.

Nevertheless, if the Bible teaches us one thing about God and crisis, it’s this: God is eternally and perfectly good and we can trust Him (Psalm 62:11-12).

This is not intended as a simplistic answer to a complex and painful situation; it is simply a truth that I pray will be for us a handhold in the midst of life’s relentless perfect storm.