Ask The Pastor:
By Rev. John Campbell
United Presbyterian Church, Oakdale
One little song that I enjoy singing when I am in the car by myself is “O God Is Good.” There is also a cheer: God is good all the time; all the time God is good. Yet we all experience setbacks in one way or another. Sometimes they are sudden; sometimes they are gradual. Loss and grief are part of life on this fallen earth. It is hard when we as pastors have to come along side of those who are suffering. Is God good then?
The question this month is: When tragedy strikes in the lives of good Christian people how do you reassure them that God is, in fact, good, and still loves them?
One of the lessons that I was taught is to first be with the person, acknowledge their pain and suffering. It does not help to start trying to give explanations or trying to fix things. Sometime help might come by relating the suffering of the Psalmist of the Bible as expressed in this verse: “I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart. All my longings lie open before you, O Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you. I wait for you, O Lord.” This gives words to the feelings that may not be able to be expressed. The Psalms provide many passages that help us to express the feelings of grief, pain and loss.
For a Christian it is good to remind them of one of the most beloved verses, John 3:16: For God so loved the world that he gave…”, with the reminder that if God loved the world, he much more loves his children. We encourage one another in remembering that this world is not the end, there is a future beyond this life. So with that in mind we repeat the words of Paul: “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Yet, these words by themselves might not be enough. I think the context really helps. Before this verse in Romans 8, we read: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” What a promise, the Spirit helps us, helps in our weakness.
When it comes to why we go through difficult times, the Bible doesn’t offer an exhaustive amount of information as to why we have trouble and trials. We can infer certain reasons as to why some things happen, but there seems to be more questions than answers. Our God cares about us. No matter what is happening, he never leaves us. The place where Christians can put their hope is found in Psalm 18:2: “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge.”