My chief concern at this point, and the reason I have chosen to write this book, is for my fellow believers who are struggling with circumstances that don’t make sense. In my work with families who are going through various hardships, from sickness and death to marital conflict and adolescent rebellion, I have found it common for those in crisis to feel great frustration with God. This is particularly true when things happen that seem illogical and inconsistent with what had been taught or understood. Then if the Lord does not rescue them from the circumstances in which they are embroiled, their frustration quickly deteriorates into anger and a sense of abandonment. Finally, disillusionment sets in and the spirit begins to wither.
This can even occur in very young children who are vulnerable to feelings of rejection from God. I’m reminded of a boy named Chris, whose face had been burned in a fire. He sent this note to his psychotherapist:
Dear Dr. Gardner. Some big person, it was a boy about 13, he called me a turtle. And I know he said this because of my plastic surgery. And I think God hates me because of my lip. And when I die, he’ll probably send me to hell. Love, Chris.
Chris naturally concluded that his deformity was evidence of God’s rejection. It is a logical deduction in the eyes of a child: “If God is all-powerful and He knows everything, then why would He let such a terrible thing happen to me? He must hate me.”
Unfortunately, Chris is not alone. Many others come to believe the same satanic lie. In fact, the majority of us will someday feel a similar alienation from God. Why? Because those who live long enough will eventually be confronted by happenings they will not understand. That is the human condition. Let me say it again: It is an incorrect view of Scripture to say that we will always comprehend what God is doing and how our suffering and disappointment fit into His plan. Sooner or later, most of us will come to a point where it appears that God has lost control—or interest—in the affairs of people. It is only an illusion, but one with dangerous implications for spiritual and mental health. Interestingly enough, pain and suffering do not cause the greatest damage. Confusion is the factor that shreds one’s faith.
The human spirit is capable of withstanding enormous discomfort, including the prospect of death, if the circumstances make sense. Many martyrs, political prisoners, and war heroes have gone to their graves willingly and confidently. They understood the sacrifice they were making and accepted its meaning in their lives. One is reminded of Nathan Hale moments before he was hanged. He said to his English executioners, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” Soldiers in battle often die valiantly, even throwing their bodies on live hand grenades to protect their comrades. Others charge deadly machine gun emplacements in order to achieve military objectives. Their attitude appears to be, “The cause for which I’m risking my life is more than justified.”
Jim Elliot, one of five missionaries who were speared to death by Auca (now Waorani) people in Ecuador, best described this ultimate investment. He is quoted in Elisabeth Elliot’s book Through Gates of Splendor: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” That biblically based understanding turns martyrdom into a glorious victory.
By contrast, Christians who become confused and disillusioned with God have no such consolation. It is the absence of meaning that makes their situation so intolerable. As such, their depression over a sudden illness or the tragic death of a loved one can actually be more severe than that experienced by the nonbeliever who expected and received nothing. It is not uncommon to hear a confused Christian express great agitation, anger, or even blasphemy. This confused individual is like a little girl being told by her divorced father that he will come to see her. When Daddy fails to show up, she suffers far more than if he had never offered to come.
James C. Dobson and R. T. Kendall, When God Doesn’t Make Sense (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale Momentum, 2012).
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