In a time of worldwide suffering, we must face our true beliefs about the character of God.
Maybe we believe that God must be absent. He must be apathetic toward humanity. Maybe he’s paralyzed because the suffering of his people is so great and he doesn’t know what to do.
Maybe God unleashed this on us as a sort of punishment for our unrighteousness. Or Maybe we’re just wondering how God could let all of this happen.
How do you view God in a time like this? What do you tell yourself about God to make it through?
There are four main characteristics of God that we tend to confuse or misconstrue and it can truly make or break our endurance in suffering depending on how close to the truth we are.
God is Sovereign
“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16-17).
God is in control. And while that may immediately raise the question, “If he’s in control, why did he let this happen?” we need to be reminded that the entire earth is under the curse of sin.
Sin separates us from God and has subjected the entire Earth to be riddled with futility, disease and decay. This was what humanity chose when Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the very beginning. They had a choice between life or death.
They chose death.
But that doesn’t mean that God lost control. It’s difficult to understand how God’s sovereignty and our free will can co-exist, but God is so perfectly in control that he can control everything without messing with our free will.
We see this when Joseph is betrayed by his own brothers, but God turns it into something good: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20).
While this virus may have ripped the rug out from under us, it was no surprise to God. He knew you weren’t going on that vacation before you even planned it. He knew your senior year wouldn’t end the way you had always dreamed.
But what we must know is that when God is in control, it’s his love that takes the steering wheel. It is good that God is in control, because he will always act out of love for his creation.
God is the Redeemer
In God’s control, he is able to redeem every bad thing and turn it into something beautiful.
It is deeply comforting to know that God is in control and that this virus is not. God will turn this into something beautiful—even if we don’t see it right away.
As we saw in Genesis 50:20, God will always take what was meant to destroy and instead he will bring life. The ultimate picture of this is Jesus’s death and resurrection.
Jesus was killed by the Romans and Jews to put an end to his “rebellion,” but God intended, before the beginning of all creation, that his death would bring eternal redemption.
The people thought they had won when they pierced his side and blood and water flowed, but to God this would be the symbol of his children being cleansed from their sin forever.
As the stone was rolled into place, they thought death had won; but when Jesus rolled away the stone, we see that God brought victory over death.
Jesus is not only our savior and gift of eternal life, he is our reminder that God will always bring sweet resurrection from death and destruction.
Our mind cannot even conceive the plans of our Redeemer, but we can trust that whatever will come of this, it will be better than we could have imagined.
God is our Father
I’ve been working on a 1,000 piece puzzle lately, and I’ve been noticing something. Many times I’ll find a piece and lay it in the general area where I’m sure it will go, and later I will find that it belonged to a completely different place. Once I put it where it belongs, I see the picture clearer and I marvel at the fact that I would have thought it went anywhere else.
This idea reminds me of how we often view our lives.
We see one puzzle piece at a time and we’re sure it will go one way, but we come to find out that life turned out differently than we expected.
With God as our Father, we must be reminded that he sees the entire picture of the puzzle and knows where every piece will fit together perfectly.
We must also be reminded that God is the Father of many children and is working all things for all of our good (Romans 8:28). He will work all things for the good of all, not just all things in your life for the good of you.
This means that we may experience some hardships that will serve to grow us all in holiness. Hardships are used as discipline from our Father.
“It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? . . . but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness” (Hebrews 12:7, 10b).
God is a loving Father who seeks to do what is best to grow his children in obedience and love.
He is gentle and loving as he offers comfort in suffering, but he will also use our suffering as discipline so that we can share in his holiness. No discipline is comfortable at the time, but we will come out the other side looking more like our Father.
He is a Suffering God
It may be difficult to grapple with the first 3 characteristics of God that were shared so far, but this one cannot be ignored in times of suffering.
We must be reminded that even in the midst of our gravest suffering, God is able to empathize with us. He did not remain in Heaven at a safe distance from our suffering—he put on flesh and willingly entered into our suffering.
“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5).
God does not allow the suffering of his children without allowing himself to experience the deepest of all sufferings for his children. He was “pierced for our transgressions” and “crushed for our iniquities” so that we may enter into an unhindered union with our Creator.
By God’s suffering, we are healed.
No other religion offers a God that willingly suffered for the sake of his people.
We can hold onto the hope that through the suffering of God, we find empathy in our greatest pain, we find comfort in our despair, and we find hope in the face of an unknown future.
Our God is in control. He is making all things beautiful. And he achieved for us an eternal hope that cannot be shaken by a virus.