Last week one of the men from our church committed suicide. I don't know what went through his mind when he made that choice, but what I do know is that his death has left a big wound in the lives of his family and friends. As I've talked with many of them, one of the biggest questions that comes up is, “Why would God allow this to happen?”
The truth is, there are a lot of reasons why God does what He does, and allows what He allows, and I couldn’t begin to adequately cover that topic – especially in an email. But for me, one of the reasons that has stood out the most can be found in Romans 5:1-5, which tells us: “Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.”
In these verses, the Apostle Paul begins to answer why God lets bad things happen as he tells us that the ultimate goal and benefit of our suffering is the outcome it will produce. In other words, the trouble and hardship and suffering that is such a part of life is also part of the process God uses to accomplish His purposes in our lives, and in the world.
I have seen in my own life, and in the lives of those around me, that God often uses difficult things to get our attention and to draw us closer to Him. Or He might use them to prepare us to minister to others who are hurting. Then on a broader level, God often works in the midst of large scale tragedies, prompting the church to show His love to a hurting world. For example, during the aftermath of the recent hurricane “Harvey”, a majority of the folks who responded and helped did so as part of a church or ministry outreach. Because of this, in the midst of that horrible situation, the world saw God’s people at work - and He was glorified.
So, when we suffer, when bad things happen to us or to those we love, we need to focus on the fact that God has a purpose in our suffering. And then, we need to surrender ourselves to Him and to His plans. We may not understand it, and it may be difficult, but we need to take that step of faith and submit to what God's doing. And we need to do so with confidence that He loves us with a love that Ephesians 3:19 describes as, “too great to understand fully.” If we can take this step of faith, then God can take the circumstances in our lives and use them for His glory, and for our ultimate good.
That's the truth I've been holding on to as I've gone through the aftermath of my friend’s suicide. But it's a truth that each of us needs to all hold on to every day, because every day brings the possibility of difficult things happening in our lives. So today, let’s ask God to help us cling to this perspective. Let’s ask Him to use every situation in our lives for His glory, and to accomplish His plans. And at the same time, let's ask Him to build our understanding of His great love for us so that we can fully trust in His sovereign plan as it unfolds in our lives.