I got a text message from a friend in Vermont over the New Year's holiday. She shared that a mutual friend, only a little older than me, had suddenly passed away. Though I had not talked to him in a few years, when I lived in Vermont he was a great colleague in ministry. Less than 24 hours later, one of our BCNE pastors sent me a text to say one of their youth workers, a really fine young man with a promising future, had also unexpectedly passed away that morning. So much loss. So much pain. Such a short time to process it. Many of my circle of friends were struggling with why God lets these things happen. One mused that perhaps there was no point in following Christ if we still have to endure such pain.
In such difficult moments of life, we must remember that there will always be pain and hurt in the world. Those who have no faith must endure the same pain as everyone else, but without the help of God. Therefore, removing God from the picture only makes the situation worse. As a nation, and as individuals, we must stop trying to eliminate pain by eliminating God.
That does not keep us from asking ourselves why God doesn't just stop all the pain. Clearly He has the power to do so. We understand theologically that He is sovereign in all things. But in His sovereignty, God has chosen to us give free will to make our own choices. Sometimes we use that free will to make choices that cause us, or those around us, pain. Other times other people make bad choices and cause us pain. Sometimes pain just happens for reasons we do not understand because we lived in a messed-up, unfair, fallen world that is stained by sin.
It is tempting to ask God to let us keep our free will while also asking Him to limit the free will of others so they can’t hurt us. But deep inside we know that is not really the way it works. We can't have it both ways.
The answer to our pain problem is a deep and personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He helps us overcome the pain of our own mistakes and gives us strength to overcome the pain of the mistakes of others. Removing Him from our lives is the exact opposite of the answer we are looking for. Delve deep into Him today and let Him help you overcome the pain this world throws at us!
Dr. Terry W. Dorsett serves at the executive director of the Baptist Convention of New England.