Where's God When It Hurts?


In the midst of pain, sometimes it's hard to see the good. But He is right there with us.

I'm wearing a neck brace because I broke my neck in an auto accident. For the first few hours as I lay strapped to a body board, medical workers refused to give me pain medication because they needed my response. The doctor kept moving my limbs, asking, "Does this hurt? Do you feel that?"

The correct answer, the answer we wanted, was, "Yes. It hurts. I can feel it." And thankfully, each time, that was my answer. Each sensation of pain gave proof that my spinal cord had not been severed. Pain offered proof my body remained whole. It's normal to regard pain as a negative, but as I learned on that body board, pain is a mark of life. Remember that as you cope with pain. Don't try to numb it. Instead, acknowledge pain as an affirmation of life.

All Things Redeemed

We all feel pain. I would like to promise you a long, pain-free life, but I cannot. Rather, the Christian view of the world says this: The world is good. The world has fallen. The world will be redeemed. That's the Christian story in a nutshell.

God has promised a time when evil will be defeated, when events like the shootings at Nickel Mines and Columbine and Virginia Tech will come to an end. Until then, he's promised that the scars we accumulate from pain will be used, somehow, for good. They will be a mark of life.

As the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 8, all things can work together for your good. Paul spells out some of the things he encountered, which included beatings, illness, imprisonment, shipwreck and kidnapping. As he looked back, he could see that somehow God had redeemed even those crisis events in his life.

"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us," Paul concluded. "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:37–39, NIV).

But in the midst of the pain, it's hard to see the good. It's easy to question God: Why did you let this happen? Where are you when I hurt? After my accident, my chances of living didn't look good. It was a difficult time. But I see now the good God was able to do through it. As I was strapped to that body board, I realized how much of my life focused on trivial things. I didn't think about what kind of car I drove (it was being towed to a junkyard anyway) or how much money I had in my bank account. All that mattered boiled down to four questions: Who do I love? Who will I miss? What have I done with my life? And am I ready for what's next?

Ever since that day, I've tried to live with those questions at the forefront. Out of my pain came good—a new focus, a new life. This pain proved what was most important.

Where Is God?

Ten days before the shootings at Virginia Tech, Christians around the world remembered the darkest day of human history. That was the day evil human beings violently rose up against God's Son and murdered the only truly innocent human being who ever lived. We remember that day not as Dark Friday, Tragic Friday or Disaster Friday—but rather as Good Friday. That awful day led to Easter, an early glimpse of God's bright promise to make all things new.

When you read through the Gospels, you'll find only one scene in which someone addresses Jesus directly as God: "My Lord and my God!" Do you know who said that?

It was doubting Thomas, the last disciple to believe the incredible news of the Resurrection. Thomas believed because of Jesus' scars. "Feel my hands," Jesus told him. "Touch my side."

In a flash of revelation, Thomas saw the wonder of Almighty God, the Lord of the Universe, stooping to take on our pain. He saw scars that had been used for good. He saw that tear-streaked face of Jesus.

So where is God when it hurts? We know where God is because he came to Earth and showed us his face. To see how God responds to our suffering, you need only remember how Jesus responded to the tragedies of his day: with comfort, healing and compassion—which simply means "to suffer with."

Where is God when it hurts? He's right there with us.

Written by Philip Yancey

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