"Why would God allow this to happen?" is commonly heard when people see devastation in the world or experience a tragedy. I have been a Christian long enough to see some of my friends question and even abandon the faith because they could not believe a good God would allow such horrors to happen. Such questions sometimes turn into anger and even verbal hatred against God. Grief and sadness are natural responses, but it is at those moments when things are hardest that we must be careful in how we speak about God. We must be mindful to honor and respect God in our speech and not fall into presumptuous and arrogant talk.
How do we do this, especially during hard times? Let me suggest three things to remember that will help us focus on who God is and respect Him properly, while providing us comfort and hope.
First, we must remember that God is our Creator. Consider Job, who faced tragedy upon tragedy. He lost everything, and the friends who were near to him brought him no comfort but only greater grief and misery. In chapter 10, Job records a plea to God, and in his plea he points out that it is God who created him. Job 10:8–9 reads:
Your hands fashioned and made me, and now you have destroyed me altogether. Remember that you have made me like clay; and will you return me to dust?
Acknowledging God as Creator reminds us that we are dependent on Him. As my seminary professor wrote, we are "claimless creatures of the dust." Amidst trials and difficulties, instead of indulging in presumptuous speech, we must humbly acknowledge that God is our Creator and we are His creatures. In every circumstance we must remember this truth.
Second, we must remember that God is our Redeemer. After everything is taken away from Job, and after his friends turn against him, Job still believes that God will redeem him. Job states, "I know that my Redeemer lives, and at last he will stand upon the earth" (19:25). This is nothing short of amazing. Job believes God will save him. As Christians, we know God has redeemed us in His Son, Jesus Christ. In Christ's life, death, and resurrection, redemption has been accomplished, and by faith redemption is applied to us. No matter what we face in this world, we can have the confidence that our salvation is secure because of what Christ did.
Finally, we must remember that God will bring all things to their consummation—we must remember that all things have a purpose for God's glory and our good. We need to remind ourselves that God is sovereign, and in wisdom He providentially oversees all that happens, even tragedies and suffering. When God finally speaks to Job, He asks Job a series of questions, demonstrating His wisdom, power, and sovereignty over all things:
Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep? Have the gates of death been revealed to you, or have you seen the gates of the deep darkness? Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth? Declare, if you know all this. (Job 38:16–18)
God's wisdom is not to be questioned. We must be humble before Him. That is exactly how Job finally responds:
Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer? I lay my hand on my mouth. . .Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. (40:4; 42:3b)
The Lord restored Job's earthly possessions, but notice how the book ends: "Job died, an old man, full of days" (42:17). This may sound like a happy ending, but death at last claimed him, and he lost his earthly goods. This points to the ultimate promise of God. Earlier we focused on God as our Redeemer, but He will also make all things new. Tragedy and suffering will not last forever. Jesus will bring the new heaven and earth at His return:
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. (Rev. 21:4)
Until that day arrives, we must watch our speech and remind ourselves that God is our Creator, Redeemer, and Consummator.