My toes curled as the waves hit me. The icy feeling rushing over me wasn’t just the cold water — it was the trauma that took place the last time we were here. And, yet we were back again determined to make new memories to replace where all our nightmares began.
Last year, during a camping trip, Chris woke me in the middle of the night with ashen skin and wild eyes. Convinced it was a heart attack, I dragged my 38-year-old husband to the truck. I tucked our kids into the back seat and raced to the nearest hospital.
His heart went into V-Tach, racing over 300 beats a minute. The ER team did everything they could to slow his heart until there was nothing left but to shock his heart back into a normal rhythm.
This began a two-year stint of both Chris and I being hospitalized. Our friends thought it was odd. Our church family was bewildered, and we questioned God. Our family honored him, so why would he allow all this suffering? That became a question I wanted answers to.
God Is Good
The message we need to get through our hearts is this: Life is hard — God is good. That’s it. Those are the guarantees we have. Psalms declared his goodness: “I have no good besides you [O Lord]” (Psalm 16:2).
There is nowhere else where goodness is generated. James 1:17 says, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the father.”
Good is a pretty boring word. It lacks luster but it is what the Bible uses to describe God, the Creator of the universe. When trying to apply such a tiny definition to God, we immediately run into problems.
It’s strange to describe him as good when you think of how he spoke things like stars, planets, and the moon into existence. A lit candle is good. A bubble bath is good. Coffee in the morning is good.
So, how can we use the same “boring” adjective for God when he created singing whales and the Grand Canyon?
With impressive muse, he painted sunsets with broad strokes of pinks and oranges. He designed the Amazon, Orchids, and Elephants. He designed diamonds, fire ants, and chromosomes. Everything in existence was designed by God. But, how can this be the same God that allows suffering?
I love how Jason Helveston at Desiring God states it: “Life is hard because God is good.” God has “intentionally shaped the world in such a way that effort would be required to accomplish significant change, progress, and renewal.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 reminds us:
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.
So, if God is so good, how could he allow suffering?
Between the Two Gardens
Let’s travel back to the garden in the book of Genesis. It tells us we began in the Garden of Eden. It was complete perfection. Lions slept under shaded trees with the lambs. The trees produced savory fruits, while the wind sang praises to God in soft breezes of climactic perfection.
But do you know what made it all the more perfect? Adam and Eve walked in relationship with God all day, every day. In this garden, there was no death, no disappointment, disease, or divorce. It was the ultimate paradise. So, what happened? How could he allow death and disease to happen?
If God is a good God, then why did he allow evil to enter the world? He didn’t. Adam and Eve did. The Bible teaches that Satan is the author of sin. Sin is the reason that we have afflictions, including death. All of our problems and our suffering, including death itself, are a result of man’s rebellion against God.
When they sinned, their eyes were opened, and they were aware of the good and the bad. Yes, God certainly could have destroyed the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil to prevent the fall of mankind, but that would ruin the whole story. It would rob of us the chance to feel hope. It would numb our minds of dreaming of better things to come.
Romans 8:28 reminds us: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” He is moving in our lives. Even in the suffering, even in the temptation, and in the very middle of our sin — to accomplish both of helping us become more like Christ.
But the story doesn’t end there. The story ends with redemption in another garden! Revelations 21:3-4 tells us:
Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
He Gets It
At the heart of the Christian faith is a God who knows what it is to suffer. The cross of Christ is the ultimate manifestation of God’s justice. Jesus ended his days on earth nailed to a cross with a crown of thorns shoved onto his head.
Before he ever crawled up onto the cross, he was also whipped and beaten beyond recognition. He was abandoned by his closest friends in his hour of deepest need. Jesus is described in the Bible as, “… a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering” (Isaiah 53:3).
He took on our pain and suffering so we could freely choose to give our lives to him.
When we are in the middle of our pain and suffering, we whisper prayers and question if he cares. He will bend down to whisper back, “Look at the cross. I cared that much!” The cross of Christ can be regarded as the ultimate manifestation of God’s love for us.
He too understood sorrow and pain with his son on the cross. God isn’t going to leave us in the ashes. We don’t have to wallow in our failures. We won’t be in pain forever because God is making all things new.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/spukkato
Heather Riggleman is an author, national speaker, former award-winning journalist and podcast co-host of the Moms Together Podcast. She calls Nebraska home with her three kids and a husband of 21 years. She believes Jazzercise, Jesus, and tacos can fix anything and not necessarily in that order! She is author of I Call Him By Name Bible Study, the Bold Truths Prayer Journal, Mama Needs a Time Out, and Let’s Talk About Prayer and a contributor to several books. Her work has been featured on Proverbs 31 Ministries, MOPS, Today's Christian Woman, and Focus On the Family. You can find her at www.heatherriggleman.com or on Facebook.