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  • Writer's pictureM.B. Christiansen

When Everything's Not Okay

God is good. God is sovereign. God is in control. We know this to be the case and we see evidence all over of God’s goodness and faithfulness. But sometimes tragedy strikes, seemingly out of nowhere, and makes our minds reel and our hearts cry out to God. All the answers and theological insights in the world, though true, don’t help when we’re in the moment, when everything’s not okay.

One of the major stumbling blocks for people who are reluctant to embrace the Christian faith is the fact that evil exists. In apologetics this is called the problem of evil. Bad things regularly happen in our world, seemingly without any rhyme or reason. Tragedy strikes at random, and we are left in the ashes crying out to God and asking a multitude of questions. How could a loving God allow something like this to happen?

An Unshakable Hope

The thing about our Christian faith is that it is more than a mere intellectual exercise. To be sure, there are answers to every question, and the answer to the problem of evil is elegantly simple: sin broke the world. When Adam and Eve sinned, they introduced sin into God’s perfect creation and as a consequence of that rebellion, all of creation is broken and is not as it should be. The problem of sin is not a plot hole that nullifies the Christian faith, it is the premise of the Christian faith. Sin is so obviously a reality in our broken and hurting world, and God’s plan of restoration which is embraced by the Christian faith is the answer to that problem.

Theologically speaking, when Jesus became man and lived perfectly and sinlessly among us, allowed himself to be arrested and brutalized, he willingly offered himself up as a sacrifice for our sins, taking our place and paying the debt that each of us owes for our sin. What Jesus did on the cross was fix what sin had broken. Sin had caused a barrier between God and humankind, represented by the curtain in the temple which separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the world. When Jesus died on the cross, the curtain tore because what Jesus had done with his death was to tear down the barrier caused by our sin, making a way to have a direct relationship with God again. Jesus’ work on the cross is the permanent, sufficient repair of our relationship with God – sin was defeated and with the resurrection death was overcome.

This provides hope for the believer, but the fact remains that our world continues to be broken. Bad things still happen, and when tragedy seemingly randomly strikes we are left reeling. The hard reality is that the world will continue to be broken until Jesus returns the second time to fix all things and to restore everything to the way it should be. Jesus came first to deal with sin, and will return to deal with the rest of creation. While this offers little hope in the shadow of grief, it is nevertheless true and a source of unwavering hope that is not dependent on our circumstances or how we feel.

God Is With Us In Our Sadness

But God does not simply offer dismissive uncaring hope that someday things will be better. God surrounds us, carries us, and strengthens us when we go through sadness and grief at the loss of a loved one or friend. We have the promise of future restoration, but we are also comforted now.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Matthew 11:28-30 ESV

Jesus tells us to bring him our burdens, and promises us rest in return. This is a profoundly beautiful aspect of the Christian faith. God does not offer lofty out-of-touch advice from on high, God knows exactly how we feel when we grieve. Jesus was fully God, but he was also fully human. Jesus had the full human experience in the midst of his broken creation. Jesus knows all too well the sting of rejection, the pain of grief, and the effect that death has on his once-perfect creation.

Consider Jesus’ reaction when his dear friend Lazarus dies (John 11:1-44). Jesus is told that his good friend Lazarus has fallen ill, but intentionally delays his trip. Jesus almost certainly knows how dire the situation is and could easily have gone right away to heal him before he dies. But Jesus waits, knowing full well that Lazarus will die, in order to demonstrate his power and authority by raising him from the dead, turning the mourners grief into uncontainable joy. This is how the text presents the situation, Jesus is playing the long game.

And yet, when Jesus arrives and finds Mary, Martha, and the others mourning he is deeply moved. He knows that in a matter of minutes he will turn all the tears of sadness into tears of joy, and yet Jesus weeps. The disastrous effect that sin and death have on the world moves Jesus deeply and he is overcome with grief. If Jesus, with full knowledge that he is about to remedy the situation completely, finds himself crippled by the emotional toll that the brokenness of the world takes, we can take comfort in our grief.

Jesus can say what he says in Matthew 11:28-30 because he’s been there. Jesus knows what it’s like to experience tragedy. Jesus knows how awful it is. He knows better than anybody the ugliness of sin and the jarring dissonance when a friend is ripped away from us. Jesus sees us when we cry out in the wake of a tragedy, knows exactly how we feel, and offers us the assurance of peace.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7 ESV

The Promise of Someday

The nature of living in a world broken and ravaged by sin is that we will find ourselves in situations that are unfair and that crush our spirit. Why does God not simply prevent bad things from happen to good people? Unfortunately, this is just not the nature of reality. Sin has broken God’s perfect world, and until Jesus returns it will continue to be harsh and often unfair.

To protect us from any unpleasant circumstances would be to remove us from the world altogether. What God does instead, is walks with us through the pain and heartache. As we grieve and process loss, we do so with the comfort of a God who is not distant but is with us, at our side, helping and encouraging us, who has experienced the same pain we experience. God sustains us when everything’s not okay, and gives us the promise that Jesus will return and set everything right.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.
Revelation 21:4 ESV

Someday, God will make everything okay. But until then, while everything’s not okay, God offers peace and comfort in the knowledge that he’s been where we are and knows how we feel.

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1 Comment

Jan 11

I often look to Psalms when tragedy happens. David lost almost everything. His son tried to take the kingdom from him. He also lost his first born. But the thing to look at what did David do? Dropped to his knees in submission to a sovereign and holy God.

There is a reason David was said to be a man after God's own heart. He could have said unfair why me. But understood and submitted to a holy and sovereign God.

It is a priceless example how we are to continue as born again believers in this world of sin.

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