I’m turning over the blog today into the trustworthy hands of my husband. He has agreed to tackle this recent anonymous comment left on yesterday’s post. It’s a comment I appreciate for it’s candor and sincerity, but one I wasn’t 100% sure how to answer:
“… something has been nagging at me lately. I respect that you feel strongly that God shows you the way and that He provides, but I’m interested in what you have to say about this:
There’s a family somewhere in the world that is good and righteous. They believe Jesus is their savior and they pray as often as they can. They believe that God provides for them yet they are starving. Their children can barely move because they cannot find adequate nutrition. There is no money for medicine when they are sick, in fact one child already died due to a very treatable illness. Why is God not providing for these people?”
Without further ado, my husband’s reply…
Let’s dissect the question:
There is a family somewhere in the world that is good…
Romans 7:18 (NIV) — I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature..
Isaiah 64:6 (NIV) — All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
They believe that Jesus is their savior and they pray as often as they can.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 — Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
I believe that by praying we communicate with God. It is not a one way street as is assumed here where the people are presumed to be praying for something that God is not providing. Perhaps they have prayed that God would end their time on earth so they could be with Him. Maybe he has told them they are vessels on this earth to help bring about the return of his Son.
They believe that God provides for them yet they are starving.
Deuteronomy 8:3 — He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.
Matthew 4:4 — Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”
If they are good and righteous according to the original claim, then they are understanding of the hunger. As I have said before, we know not the way that God intervenes for those who we believe are suffering nor do we know how He relieves their suffering while in the throes of man’s definition of suffering. God may view a typical American material possession-filled life as a tragedy and see us as the true sufferers.
Their children can barely move because they cannot find adequate nutrition.
Heartbreaking. But God did call for us to GO and make disciples of all nations. Who then seeing this kind of suffering while out on their God appointed rounds would then not help. Instead of this being about God not providing, I think this is about us not following Jesus’ commands that we “Love the Lord our God with all our hearts and the second love your neighbor as yourself.” If Christians were truly out making disciples and following the dictates of the two great commandments, then suffering would ultimately be reduced. However, when we sit comfortably in an overstuffed chair at St@rbucks and complain that the coffee we ordered had a pinch of cinnamon and we wanted a smidge then we have chosen to let opportunities to reduce suffering in the world pass us by. What greater demonstration of God’s love today exists than the person who gives up everything material and gains everything eternal by helping others and reducing their suffering while also introducing them to Christ.
There is no money for medicine when they are sick, in fact one child died already due to a very treatable illness.
They have no money but they have something greater FAITH. Faith that God will heal or provide and that if He does not, that their child is with Him today in Heaven with no further suffering. The assumption here is that life on earth is the ultimate and that when you die you lost something rather than it is temporary and the end of life is actually the beginning of the real gift. Again, the person asking the question must ask what is their assumption about life and why they do not get off the couch and go on a mission trip or donate so that the medicine is available. Also, God gave us a choice. Everyone hates to see that their choices have costs. The preference is to believe that I can overextend myself for — that insert big ticket luxury item (BTI) that is required to have a fulfilled American life or insert big yearly vacation to ?? — because it hurts no one and gives me pleasure. Well, reduce or don’t buy that BTI or vacation (mission trip instead maybe) and help save a life by donating money to send “Doctors Without Borders” or medicines to the area where this family lives.
Why is God not providing for these people?
Jesus, God’s one and only Son died on the cross. The most horrible way to die and He committed no sin. We sin every single day and sometimes moment to moment and then dare to question God as to why others have to suffer. He killed his own Son so that we could be free of sin and yet when we see something that we do not understand under the guise of “fair” we question the very Being that created us. We do not know the grand plan and if we did, our brains would explode with the possibilities. Sometimes we must accept and live by Faith. All things God does work toward the ultimate Victory of His Son over this world and the eventual return.
God has provided for them – He gave them His most precious gift – His LOVE. American “rich” Christianity may think that He is not providing according to the ways of our limited American view of the world. But He is.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 — That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are quite small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us an immeasurably great glory that will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever.
He writes a mean post!
When are you going to start blogging?
Yet again another one to bookmark! Thank you both so much for your patience, knowledge, and insight into each and every question posed! I received your e-mail today and will be speaking to my husband tonight and prayerfully considering what we can do! THANK YOU!
Wow! I love this post. I grew up in church and I love Christ with my whole heart but I have honestly wondered the same thing s few times…but this totally makes sense. I have been on Mission trips and I have met immediate needs and felt as if I wasn't even making a dent in what needed to be done but the true call is for the whole body of Christ to spring into action…not just one or two people. Great post!!
Mama Moose says
Tell Chris, Thank You.
Wow!! What a response. This is an excellent way of answering this. I so needed to hear this today. Thanks so much for sharing.
I'd like to know whether or not there is a family that does exist or is this a scenario?
There are many verses in the Bible that says God will provide our needs (not our wants). David says in Psalm 37, he has not seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging food.
I've been a Christian for 37 yrs and I know God does allow suffering. But there are many verses in the Bible that states He will provide our "needs". Many times George Mueller was in need as an individual and at his orphanage and God did provide the needs. Of course he did some earnest praying for the needs to be met.
Ann Marie says
Yipeeee Chris!!! Well said.
you know, we just discussed "unanswered prayers" on last sunday's class and the answer was "we do not pray for us, rather for HIM"
Great response! I have been processing many of these issues myself lately after having listened to the Radical Christianity Series over at http://www.brookhills.org/media/series/radical/ I'd like to take a shot at answering the Anonymous comment to this post: Yes, there are families in this situation today. Each and every day, over 26,000 children die of malnutrition and preventable diseases. Not here in the US, but around the world in places like Haiti and Africa. I think it is highly likely that at least some of these children and families are God's children.
I would recommend highly When Helping Hurts by Corbett and Fikkert.
I feel very assumptive in putting that up, but I hope it might be helpful. Stef, if you don't approve of this title, please delete my post. Thank you for your scripture-filled post, Chris!
Awesome, Truthful answer, Chris! I've been praying about this comment all day. As believers we must be prepared at all times to give an answer for the hope that we have.
I had to assume a lot of things in this question, but I conclude that prayer is a lifestyle, not a once-in-a-while occurrence; that others do suffer as a result of our disobedience (perhaps someone has been called to this region and ignored the call); that there are no unanswered prayers. Since God has promised to never leave nor forsake us, and His Word says if we seek we will find Him, He answers our prayers in the way that most glorifies Himself in the grand scheme of things.
Sorry to ramble 🙂
A Cup of Cold Water says
i think we need to keep in mind that the greatest question might well not be how can God allow suffering for those who are good and even those who are righteous and true followers of him (a wonderful example is elisabeth elliot and her loss of two christian husbands) but rather why or HOW does a JUST God love and forgive us… those of us from the least wretched to the most wretched? the question is not so much how can a JUST God allow suffering but how can a JUST God love,beckon, forgive and adopt us!
pray for God's provision for those who are experiencing suffering here on earth! i echo the PROVIDE for them above and beyond your normal giving to church! ASK God where He would have you go and how he would have you help. we need to get our hands dirty for God! we need to be weary at the end of the day from doing his work and not our own.
i am SO still learning this myself and am right along with you, but i know in my heart that as much as i said is true.
Well said Chris. Thank you for turning it back to the source of all truth. Another good passage is I Timothy 6:6-8
Maggie S says
I am always so challenged to have a larger view of my purpose and a higher view of my God when I come here. Whether you are sharing the Word, or pictures of kids playing in the yard:o) Thanks so much for sharing.
I haven't read the book, but based on reading what it is about, it looks like it goes along the same lines as Steve Saint's The Great Omission. Yes, we need to both provide and teach others to be self-sufficient when possible. This is what I-TEC is all about.
Well said, Chris! I didn't read all the comments, but all I would add is that who is to say that God hasn't provided for them. So many people suffer and go through all manner of terrible trials, just because a child dies (that happens to "good" people here in America too) or the family is going through profound suffering does not mean that God is not providing for them. He just isn't saving them from every bad thing that happens to them. And, as humans who are not God, we can't understand why. That's why we trust in the God who does know why- and He also knows EXACTLY how He is providing for them.
Besides, what you said is that when God calls you to something, He provides. And, HE DOES! It is part of our adoption story as well (and our LIFE story too). He doesn't always provide in the way we want/expect or even in away we would have ever have chosen.
I think Chris's point about those of us who are Christians being the hands and feet of Christ to these people is also so right on……..it reminds me of that $8 Hot Dog video on Y0u Tub*e…and this quote:
”Sometimes I’d like to ask God why He allows poverty, famine and injustice in the world when He could do something about it…but I’m afraid God might ask me the same question.” Anonymous.
Well said, Chris.
Excellent response to a question many people have and one that is often a stumbling block to faith in God's goodness. This is a fallen world, but in Christ we have overcome the world. This world is temporal. Eternity is forever.
I would recommend to those struggling with questions like these that they read Randy Alcorn's If God is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil.
groovy mama says
That was truely wonderfully written, thanks for that Chris.
Wonderful post…thank you for taking the time to write it!
Teresa =) says
Reminds me of a statement our Sunday School teacher made one week, after multiple prayer requests for very ill family members to get better.
He said he's always amazed why Christians spend so much energy praying to keep their loved ones here on earth, especially if God wants them in eternity with Him.
While that's difficult to swallow when the "loved one" is a child, Chris' post confirmed that exact point.
Very. Well. Done.
Excellent response Chris. Thank you!
Wow! Excellent Chris…LOVE the way you broke it down and explained each point with SCRIPTURE! Gives me something to chew on for DAYS.
Sister Kim says
Wow! Thank you. My first response was…No wonder Stefanie always says I love that man… I have been in awe for what you have given your children… But with this scripture based reply, I believe those kids are getting so much more. Good Job…Well done good and faithful servants…Chris and Stefanie…May God continue to bless you-S. Kim
Wow- way to go Chris! Im totally impressed with his knowledge of the bible and his explanations. That is something I could never do- explain it so clearly!
I really appreciate the well thought out response. I haven't had a chance to give it much consideration today but I look forward to pondering it through out the week.
For the record, I asked the question because it's something I'm often asked by a number of my atheist or agnostic friends. When we talk about God, they ask, "How can I believe in a benevolent God that allows hundreds of thousands of children to starve to death?" I'm often at a loss for words and I usually just point to the gift of free-will and choice and how one person's choice can negatively effect millions.
Again, thanks for the response!
P.S. I always forget to sign my name. I wish I could comment with a name instead of signing up for a google account.
One word–WOW!! Okay a couple more words–So good!!
First off – Great to hear Vivi "naming names" – what a joy that child is!
Second – and back on topic – GREAT POST! Thanks for brining witness to the Faith! I'm moved to relate a 'legend' of sorts….
Two old men – both wise – one Christian and one not – are engaged in a conversation. The second one says to the first – "If your God is so good – why does He permit such suffering, pain and hardship among His people?" the first simply replied "God doesn't permit suffering, He permits man's free will. But perhaps this suffering is occurring so that another can come along and demonstrate Christ's goodness by meeting the needs of another".
Kind of makes your point – don't relate the story, just forgo the BTI and meet the need.
hugs – aus and co.
WOW … You two are a powerful team!
Beautiful truth filled post Chris!
beautiful. I love not only HOW the question was answered but THAT the question was answered.
Sending hugs and thanks that I am more inspired than ever to be God's hands and feet.
Aimee and Cary says
This was a beautiful question and an even more thought provoking and beautifully written response to a difficult and heartbreaking question. When I had cancer I questioned "WHY", but then, even more important, I questioned, 'Why NOT me"? What makes me so special that I can't endure suffering as Christ did? A visit to a florist years later when the florist said, 'You know, we always know how big a rose is going to be by looking at the thorns; the bigger the thorn, the bigger the rose". I am saddened that more people don't understand that WE are to be God's hands and feet here on Earth, and His voice, and His actions. We are not merely to "be" Christians, but we are to ACT out the love of God and meet others needs, not only to "be" by praying for others, but to buy them food when they are hungry, buy them medicine when they are ill, drive them to appointments when they have a need, do their laundry, make their bed, etc. So many people helped me in my time of need (and yes, people did do my laundry when I was exhausted from chemo and radiation, and yes, they made my bed when I couldn't, and bought me food, etc.) and I feel THIS is what God wants us to do.. LOVE ON PEOPLE with our WHOLE selves; physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and YES: FINANCIAL!!
Buy a stranger a cup of coffee today, or carry around envelopes with $10.00 in it and hand them to people in need; it's changed my life.
Thanks again for your post.
Tara Anderson says
VERY well said!!!! And a reminder I needed. 🙂
Well, once again I suppose I'm the odd man out on this one. I took a lot of time thinking about this before responding and it's provoked so much thought for me, that I hope I can gather those thoughts and eventually write something as meaningful on my own site.
In 1 Corinthians 12:25, it says, 'there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.' To imply that somehow those who suffer in ways that go beyond our safe, privileged ability to even fathom…to imply that their suffering is the will of a loving, merciful God makes (in my opinion) a mockery of both the faith of those people and of the God whom they serve.
I believe God weeps for us and waits for us to UNIFY and help one another (since we are all "the body of Christ). I don't think it's in God's plan for us to suffer. We do suffer, and hopefully we gain (through God's help) from that suffering. God can bring us through it, and we can grow because of it, but I don't see that it was ever God's plan FOR us to suffer.
You say in this post that God is in fact providing for them- maybe in some other way outside of meeting their basic needs… and by "allowing" them to suffer, He is ultimately drawing them closer to Himself (I hope that's also true). That, in fact, even dying in faith in the face of abject poverty and starvation, that this might be God's plan. God does 'provide' for everyone, but that doesn't mean that abject suffering is within His will.
What about the free will of man that led to that abject poverty & starvation? (And no, I'm not talking about those living in poverty as if they chose that- but the governments that perpetuate this epidemic)? At what time do we become accountable to one another? I'm sorry but I guess I can't subscribe to a God that actually sits back and "allows" suffering. Suffering is inherent to this physical world. It's inherent to being human. And it isn't a "punishment" for sin. Again, the God I worship is ever merciful and kind, loving, and forgiving. When children starve and their parents watch…God isn't using them as an object lesson, for their parents, or for onlookers. God IS there, holding their hands, weeping with their parents, and hoping that we (the collective we) will be His hands and feet in THIS world to take care of those those in need. That we will be Christ in the world. That we will meet those physical needs of hunger, shelter, etc. for those who are without.
(I'll add as a side note that God didn't "kill" His son. Since Christ was fully human AND divine, He had (and could exert, entirely) HIS free will. He freely gave Himself for us, and for God). He said, "This is my body, which I give up for you" and "This is my blood, that I pour out for you".
Jewels of My Heart says
Thank you for these words of wisdom… it is true…. so often we see someone suffering and we automatically blame God. Instead of asking what am I doing in Jesus' Name to help relieve the suffering…
"The Lord is my Shepard, I shall not want…" the absolute truth is that Jesus has already provided ALL THAT WE TRULY NEED….. HIMSELF! Food, shelter, clothing, medicine, anything…… when it comes right down to it the only thing a human being truly needs is SALVATION…. forgiveness for our sins…. the only thing we truly need is God and He has already given us Himself…..
Now we, as believers should be the ones going out and ministering to the suffering, to the lost, to the orphaned…. He has called us, commissioned us, enabled us to be His hands and feet here on earth… yet so many of us in America are under the bondage of entitlement and luxury…. I pray God breaks our hearts with the things that break His…. that we, as the Body of Christ will be moved into action.
Thanks for addressing this very real issue, and providing a platform for discussion.
I agree with your arguments, but I would be hesitant to quote them at a situation where there are really no easy answers. I don't think it is fair on the person suffering for us to try to guess at the reason God is letting them go through it. Or, to say they don't have food 'but they have God's love', as if that somehow makes it easier. Our only response should be one of compassion. God weeps with those who weep, and so should we.
Having said that, I think you're right on in answering the bigger question: How can a just and loving God allow suffering? As someone said above, she "can't subscribe to a God that actually sits back and "allows" suffering."
I understand where this commenter is coming from but I don't think God has just sat back and done nothing. As Chris pointed out, God sent his son into the world for the very purpose of doing something about the brokenness we see. He conquered evil and death for us once and for all. Because of this loving and powerful act we can know that he does indeed care about each one that suffers. Not even a sparrow falls without him knowing. We also know from the person of Jesus that God cares. He only ever showed compassion — and the power to heal — when faced with suffering.
Jesus gave us a glimpse of what is to come. A new day, a new earth where there will be no more tears, and no more pain. God has not sat back. Rather he is keenly aware of our situation and has done something about it. That's a God I can put my trust in.