Every session of confirmation class starts off with the Question of the Week. The kids get to ask me about anything that’s on their mind or heart, regardless of whatever topic we’re learning about that night.
Recently one of the kids left me a note after class. This is what they asked: Why does God put you through hard situations when you are already struggling? Why does He bring people in your life for them to leave or die?
Granted, that’s two questions, but I’m guessing they’re tied together. And keep in mind, this is a middle schooler doing the asking. Life is already confusing and scary enough for kids in their early teens, but when the trials and tragedies start piling up, the doubt and worry and fear can hit you like a tidal wave, followed by the fallout of the riptides that can drag you under.
My heart goes out to this child of God already, and I don’t even know the details. But they do. And God does. So that’s where we start for our answer:
I would really like to find some time when you can personally share with me your struggle. It makes for a good meme to say that everybody struggles, but that really doesn’t help you much when you’re the one who is struggling. It also makes it too easy for people to brush you off, because “everyone’s got issues so just deal with it.”
Your battles are big, your hurt is real, and your questions are legit, so I’m not going to let anyone dismiss you or dump on you. I know what it’s like. Been there, and sometimes I end up back there again, even now. It’s for real.
The Why? questions for God are always the hardest ones, because sometimes we don’t have a clear answer from God Himself. I’m trying to make sense out of today or this month or this year, while God is working on my whole life, including the next one. He sees the Big Picture – a mural, really – while I’m focusing on a little snapshot of one corner.
But He knows us. He made you and me, and He understands how each one of us rolls. And He understands the confusion, the uncertainty, and the pain. He hates to see you hurt, but He knows how to take care of you and how to heal you. He never leaves you alone, to fend for yourself. He loves you too much for that.
So there’s one thing you and I need to remember: the Bible never says, “God never gives you more than you can handle.” That’s one of Satan’s favorite deceptions. Of course we’ve got more than we can handle! Every day of life is more than I can handle. The key to healing, and to winning, is to know that God never gives me more than HE can handle. In every struggle, every trial, every temptation – He is right here the whole time, telling me He’s got this and showing me He’s going to carry me through.
He not only gives you His promise to be with you wherever you go, with whatever you face, but then He gives you the strength – His strength, not yours – to do what you gotta do to overcome. That’s what His grace does, and why it is the most powerful force in the universe. (And I know you know what grace is.)
But why, God? Why put me through all that?
While I can’t tell you a simple answer that explains this action with that reason, I can tell you what He tells me at times like this. Sometimes He reminds me that I actually caused my own problem, and I can accept that pretty easily, because sooner or later I can see how I screwed things up.
But the harder ones don’t line up that clearly. Sometimes life just happens, and something blows up in my face when I didn’t see it coming, or couldn’t do anything about it. That’s when God has to remind me of what kind of world I’m living in. When human beings brought their sinfulness and selfishness into the world, they corrupted the whole thing. God has spent every moment of human history since then cleaning up our messes and repairing our damage.
Some of it, though, still splashes into our lives. He sweeps away most of it, in ways we’ll never know until we get to heaven. But a few of the waves He lets through, and while I can’t explain each one, I can tell you what He’s doing when He teaches the hardest lessons.
God wants me to know and understand that life in a world corrupted by sin and filled with evil (including my own) can be horribly brutal and miserable and unfair. Into that mess steps Jesus Christ, who not only takes it all on: He crushes it. Then He turns to you and me and hands us His victory, His trophy, in the shape of a Cross.
With every hurt, Jesus hears you and heals you. With every loss, Jesus stays with you and fills the gap. In every moment of weakness, He hands you His strength, and in every doubt, He pours His grace into your faith, to make you even stronger and better than you were before.
That doesn’t come easy. You and I have to learn it over and over again. So Jesus teaches us. And as you keep listening to Jesus, learning from Jesus, and leaning on Jesus, you grow stronger and deeper in the truth that NOTHING – not any struggle, any hurt, or any loss – can ever take away the love and power God has for you in Jesus.
I don’t usually throw Bible verses at hurting people and say, “Here. Now get over it.” But I want you to hear what God told me a bunch of times. Only this time, put your own name into it.
Listen up, Kline. I’m the One who made you who you are. So don’t be afraid, because I have already paid your price. I have called you by name. You belong to Me. So when you are trying to walk through the waves, I will be with you. When you’re trying to cross the river, it won’t sweep you away. Even if you’re walking through fire, I won’t let you get burned. Because I am the Lord your God, your Savior. And I love you. (Isaiah 43:1-4, NKV – New Kline Version)
I’m telling you this, Kline, to give you some peace. Peace of mind and of heart – My kind, not the world’s kind. In this world you’ll have trouble. But don’t let that break you: I have overcome the world! (John 16:33, NKV)
Look, Kline, My grace is more than enough for you. I’ve got this! I’ll trade you My power for your weakness. Deal?
(2 Corinthians 12:9-10, NKV)
Pastor Steve Kline was installed as Senior Pastor at SHLC on May 25, 2014, after serving 12 years as Senior Pastor at Zion in Wayside, WI. He was ordained in 1992 and previously served congregations in Pulaski and Hales Corners.