19 September 2012
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Psalm 23:4, KJV
On Good Friday, 1964, a violent earthquake whose magnitude was 9.2 on the Richter scale destroyed much of Anchorage, Alaska. People asked, "Why did God allow that?" Yet the destruction by the earthquake, which was a natural phenomenon, pales in the light of the thousands who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks on the New York Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. And as horrible as that was, the numbers of dead are a fraction of the 14 million who died in the concentration camps of Europe in World War 2. The lives of 6 million Jews and 8 million Gentiles were snuffed out as an unbelieving world refused to acknowledge what took place.
When a tragedy strikes, the extent of it may vary, yet the intensity of what happens in a personal situation is always the same. Your baby has been kidnapped, your teenager is struck down in a hit and run accident, or your house burns to the ground. When it is your loss, the issue is personal, intimate, and very painful.
Repeatedly I have been asked, "Why did God allow this? Why didn't He do something?" In three minutes, I would not presume to give you a completely satisfying answer to a question that has vexed people for centuries, but I can give you something to ponder.
First, God's decision not to intervene in every act of wrongdoing isn't the result of His helplessness or weakness. It's his choice, allowing the consequences of the human will to take its toll indiscriminately on the good as well as the evil, the strong as well as the weak. On the cross even God's Son said that He could summon twelve legions of angels to give Him assistance (Matthew 26:53), but He didn’t.
Should God override all the evil in the world, our devotion and love for Him would be meaningless. We would not have a choice. Everyone in the world would want to join the ranks of God's children if He protected us from all evil, including ourselves.
Then remember that God promised to be with His children when they walk the deep waters, the dark valleys, and face the fire. This promise is for His children alone, and is backed by the integrity and certainty of God. Ask a Joni Eareckson Tada, who faced the despair of living as a quadriplegic but found the help of God to be a light in a dark world.
Find out about the ones who survived their humiliation, their suffering and pain and walked or were carried out of the concentration camps with their bodies broken but their spirits unbent. One of my joys has been to be blessed by meeting Corrie ten Boom, the spinster daughter of a watchmaker in Haarlem, a short train ride from Central Station in Amsterdam. In their little row house the ten Booms sheltered dozens if not hundreds of Jews from extermination, eventually giving their lives or freedom in exchange.
Tough as it may be, asking the question, "Why?" isn't as satisfying as coming to experience the Grace and help of God to sustain and keep you when the world has gone crazy and nothing makes sense. To understand that God even allowed His Son to be nailed to a tree yet raised Him from the dead helps you to believe that God will take you through your dark valley.
"I have never thought that a Christian would be free of suffering. For our Lord suffered," says Alan Paton, adding, "And I have come to believe that He suffered, not to save us from suffering, but to teach us how to bear suffering. For he knew that there is no life without suffering."
As David said long ago, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me" (Psalm 23:4, KJV). It is comforting to know that the Shepherd still walks with His children through that dark valley.
Resource reading: Psalm 46.