Serving God is simpler when things are going well. When things go poorly, situations and circumstances overwhelm, and life becomes more broken than whole, serving God becomes much more complex. Dark times come. How we reconcile dark times with the God of light, life, and love are the beginnings of true discipleship.
God is not the author of evil. Sickness, poverty, war, death… are a direct result of the bent nature of this world. These broad problems often find their way into our lives specifically through loss, pain, isolation, malaise, depression, fear… The God of the Bible is pure light and holy love. In Him there is no darkness. God is not the problem. God is the solution.
Job says, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.” That passage has hung in my mind during difficult times. But focusing on that passage in isolation is a mistake. God did not say that. In fact, it is an ill informed Job that says it. Before his enlightenment, before God speaks, before understanding, Job ignorantly blames his problems on God. Job 1 reminds us that it is Satan that takes Job’s wealth, children, and health. God’s will was for good and not harm.
We cling tightly to Romans 8:28 and realize that our world is broken and our God is good. Always. In every situation. God is life, light, and love. Death, darkness, and evil are not from God. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). If our theology becomes twisted and we think God creates evil, the end result is despair and, left to find its end, death. Bad theology affects every aspect of our lives and ultimately takes us to a dark and desperate place.
I should also add that God does not want us to pretend that bad things are good. Trying to be stoic in the face of grief is neither authentic nor helpful. There are terrible situations in life that need to be acknowledged so that they can be dealt with. We hurt. Amid brokenness and struggle, in the thick of pain and loss, we weep. Recognizing agony, sin, loss of potential, and grief honestly is to share in the same suffering of Christ. Jesus did not pretend bad things were good. We are to be no different. There are people suffering even now. Creating a false understanding of suffering is evil. We do not suffer without Hope. God is working even now to bring more of Heaven into this damaged world. There is overlap. God’s kingdom is here even now. It is not fully here, but it is also very much here. Because the Kingdom of God is present we are able to do incredible things. “Though outwardly we are wasting away,” says Paul, “yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16). There is an overlap. Honest evaluation of our situation met with God’s hope for transformation leads to Kingdom principles. So in many ways we struggle, but we do not do so without hope. Our God is sufficient. His adequacy meets our inadequacy.
God’s plan is for us to imitate Christ. Intervening where there is injustice, interceding where there is need, and infusing every dying situation with hope. God’s yes is greater than death’s no.