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Why Doesn't God Stop Pain and Tragedy?

I Want to Believe, But...  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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On February 14, 2018, a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing seventeen students and staff members and injuring seventeen others.
On September 28, 2016, Hurricane Matthew formed in the Atlantic Ocean. It was the first Category 5 Atlantic hurricane since Hurricane Felix in 2007, and also caused catastrophic damage and a humanitarian crisis in Haiti, as well as widespread devastation in the southeastern United States…killing at least 603 people and cost over $15 billion in damages.
On April 23, 2018, a man drove a rented van and sped through the North York City Centre business district, deliberately targeting pedestrians, killing 10 and injuring 16, some critically.
October 1, 2017, during a Jason Aldean concert at a festival in Las Vegas, a mass shooting occurred…killing 58 and injuring hundreds more.
School shootings. Racist attacks. Police brutality. Famines. Wars. Cancer. LeBron James leaving Cleveland again!
The single biggest obstacle for seekers is the issue, “Why a good God would allow evil?” According to a Barna study, the #1 question people want to ask God is this: “Why is there suffering in the world?” Seventeen percent (17%) of people want to ask God that question. Think about it for a minute…wouldn’t you agree that only villains and bad people should get broken bones and cancer…only cheaters and crooks should get Parkinson’s. If you’ve ever struggled with the idea that a “good God” would not allow evil…you’re not alone. A lot of people are stumped, saying, “I want to believe, but...”
Bridging Sentences
Job’s life was filled with pain and suffering (MIT). We face pain and tragedy on a daily basis in our lives (MIM). So why doesn’t God stop pain and tragedy? Our text today reveals 5 principles about why God doesn’t stop pain and tragedy in our life.
Background Information
Take your Bible and turn with me to the Old Testament book of Job.
· Job 1-2

Division 1: God is not the creator of evil/pain/tragedy (v. 1-6)

God is not the creator of evil and pain and tragedy. When we come to the book of Job, we are reminded that God allows Satan to attack Job (Job 1:6-12). But be clear about one thing, God did not do the evil. He did not create the evil that attacked Job. But when we read Job 19:1-6, it sounds as if Job is blaming everything on God. The issue here is that we have to understand how to read the book of Job.
Job is considered “wisdom” literature, and it is very different from the narratives of the Old Testament and the New Testament. First of all, it is written in Hebrew poetry, filled with images, parallelism, and emotion. The driving purpose of wisdom literature is to get you to “think.”
Now the context of Job 19 is it comes immediately following Bildad’s speech in Job 18. Bildad was one of Job’s three friends…who come to console their friend, but who end up being miserable comforters. Earlier in the book, Bildad seems to bring hopeful encouragement to Job (Job 8:1-7, 20-22). But here, he brings a condemning speech, focuses on the fate of the wicked.
Job 19 comes as a response to Bildad’s words. Job begins by asking, “How long will you torment me?” (Job 19:1). But then in verse 6, Job says...
Job 19:6 NASB95
Know then that God has wronged me And has closed His net around me.
Has God indeed wronged Job? Is God able to do evil? Absolutely not. Everything that God ever made was good. Go back in your mind’s eye to Genesis 1:31
Genesis 1:31 NASB95
God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Everything that God had made…and it was very good. This is the God we serve…a good God. God is all-powerful, He can do everything that is meaningful. But there are 2 things that God cannot do. First, God cannot make himself cease to exist, and second He cannot make good evil. If you want to add a third, God cannot make a mistake.
The problem is that sometimes we see the things that God does and WE consider them to be evil. And inside, they may be painful…and sometimes hurt, but in the long run, God intends them for our good.
Consider for a moment a bear trapped in the woods. Someone has put out a trap and snagged themselves a great big black bear. (Recently Stephanie and I went to the Outer Banks, and on the way we saw not “deer crossing signs” but “bear crossing signs.” Oh my!) Anyway, a man has caught a bear.
You happen upon the bear. You want to release the bear, but you can’t just walk up to black bear…it’ll chew your head off. So you take out your tranquilizer gun…and you shoot him in the hip. The bear thinks you’re evil and are trying to hurt him. Then you get down on the ground and start wrestling that bear trap off its paw. Every time you move it, it hurts the bear. It tears the skin. Blood comes forth. On and on until finally you release the bear.
The bear does not see your “pain” as a means of helping until much later. The same is true with us and the pain and suffering we often experience in life.
Let’s consider for a moment the two types of evil. There really are 2 types. The first type of evil is what you might call “moral evil.” Moral evil comes about from our choices. We choose to do something evil in this world, and the result is someone else is hurt. If a person pulls the trigger of a gun, slaps their spouse, abuses a kid, or whatever it might be…that is “moral evil.”
The second type of evil we experience is “natural evil.” That is, things like tornadoes, earthquakes, droughts, and the like. The people who were devastated last year with Matthew experienced natural evil. Those events were not caused by our choice (moral evil) but rather by nature. The affect of sin on our world affected not only our morality (our choices to commit sin), but it also affected the natural world. Paul writes it this way,
Romans 8:22 NASB95
For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.
The source of evil in the world is not God’s power…but a result of man’s sinfulness. Our freedom to commit sin is the “cause” of evil in this world. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, sin infected our world. The reason we have natural disasters and birth defects, murderers and liars is because of mankind’s freedom to commit sin.
So the question might be posed: Why didn’t God make a world without human freedom? If there is no ability to hate, to suffer, to choose…then there is no ability to love. Without choice, there is not love…there are only robots.
Creating a world where there is no free will and no possibility of sin is a self-contradiction…and that opens the door to people choosing evil over God…with pain/tragedy as the result. Because God loves us, because wants us to love him, because God is good…God gave us a choice.
And let’s be honest…the overwhelming majority of pain in the world is caused by our choices to kill, to slander, to be selfish, to stray sexually, to break our promises, to be reckless. Lee Strobel, I believe it was, says that 95% of the evil in this world is based on our own choices…the other 5% from natural disasters, etc. As my wife says, “You play stupid games, you get stupid prizes.”
Famine. One of the great tragedies of our world today is famine, the widespread scarcity of food, caused by factors like war, inflation, crop failure, population imbalance, or government policies. As we head back to school in a few weeks, we are reminded of the multitudes of children who live in Cumberland County who survive on back-pack buddies, free lunch, and the grace of others. Some might say, “If God was good…He would supply for those children.” Yet did you know that the world produces enough food for every person on the planet to have 3000 calories per day. God has provided…but mankind hasn’t supplied and divided it so that these people can get it.
Guns. Look at your hand. It’s a bit unfair of you to shoot someone with a gun in your hand…and then blame God for evil. The gun didn’t pull the trigger. (Don’t send me emails…I don’t even have a gun, and I’ve shot one gun, one time, in my life.) But you cannot blame God for the evil events in this world when we’re holding the smoking revolver.
As an old cartoon once quipped, “We have seen the enemy, and he is us!”

Division 2: God will one day judge evil (v. 7).

One thing that drives people crazy is it appears that people get away with doing evil. But a second principle we need to remember is that God will one day judge evil.
In Job 19:7, Job cries out,
Job 19:7 NASB95
“Behold, I cry, ‘Violence!’ but I get no answer; I shout for help, but there is no justice.
Job sounds out to God saying, “Hey God…I’m crying out to you…but you’re not answering. These people are doing things to me…and you’re just letting them do it.” But we need to remember that God is all-Good.
One of the classic statements on this issue is: “Justice delayed is not necessarily justice denied.” God will bring accountability. Just because a person “gets away with it” here on planet earth does not mean God will allow it to go unpunished forever.
So the question is then asked, “Why not curtail ‘some of' the evil?” OK…so God will rectify it all later…but why can’t He do something about some of it now? So imagine the scenario: If 6, but not 7. If 6 murders is enough, but not 7. If 6 famines is enough, but not 7. If 6 wars, but not 7. Or, what about if 60,000 but not 60,0001…or if 6 million, but not 6,000,000,001.
There can’t be a dividing line. Besides, we’re not God…and we don’t know how much pain is needed!!! We don’t know at what point one more situation is going to make a person turn back from their sin and turn to God. We don’t know at point one more thing might result in ultimate good.
And some would say, but that person is so good. They aren’t evil, bad, mean, ill-spirited. But the truth of the matter is that none of us is good enough. The Bible is clear there are no “good” people versus “bad” people. Paul puts it this way,
Romans 3:10 NASB95
as it is written, There is none righteous, not even one;
Again, people ask, “If God is all-powerful, why doesn’t He simply eradicate all pain/evil/tragedy?” Well, to prevent all evil, He must remove all freedom. But the truth of the matter is that God is working in the midst of it all.
2 Peter 3:9 NASB95
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
God wants all people to repent. All means all?! Yes.
So by removing all pain/tragedy, you may create a world of precision that an engineer might like…but you’ll lose the kind of world a Father would want…where His children choose to love Him. Parents…do you want kids who are forced to love you like little robots, or who choose to love you?
Just remember: One day, God will judge our deeds…their punishment is delayed, not denied.
A few Scriptures to cling to this week as you wrestle with this:
Hebrews 9:27 NASB95
And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment,
Acts 17:31 NASB95
because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”
And in Revelation 20:11-15, “And I saw the dead…and they were judged, each according to his works.”

Division 3: God can use evil/pain/tragedy to accomplish good (v. 8-21).

In Job 19:8-21, we hear Job recount no less than 7 images of how pain has been in life. It’s an array of pain, suffering, tragedy, and evil of all kinds against Job. He describes it this way, (1) He feels like an animal trapped (Job 1:6). (2) He felt like a criminal in court (Job 19:7). (3) He saw himself as a traveler fenced in (Job 19:8). (4) He feels like a king dethroned (Job 19:9). (5) He says it was like a structure destroyed (Job 19:10). (6) He then describes himself as being a tree uprooted (Job 19:10). And then finally, (7) Job is a besieged city (Job 19:11-12).
Read Job 19:8-21.
How many of you believe God is all-knowing (all-wise)? He knows not only the present good and evil…but also the future? Absolutely!
If He is all-knowing, then He could deliberately tolerate horrible things like starvation today if he foresees that in the long run more people will be better off than if he miraculously intervenes.
Consider the following 4 realties about pain.

(1) Pain Draws People Toward Christ

Pain draws people toward Christ. No doubt we could canvas the room this morning and hear testimony after testimony of people who God used pain in their lives to draw them to Jesus Christ. But had there been NO pain, that person might never have come to saving faith in Jesus.
Paul tells us,
2 Corinthians 7:10 NASB95
For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.
Did you hear it? Sorrow leads to salvation!
Peter Kreeft, long time professor of philosophy at Boston College and The King’s College once said, “The meaning and purpose of suffering in history is that it leads to repentance. Only after suffering, only after disaster, does Israel, do nations, do individuals turn back to God.”
How true?!
A few years ago I was pastoring in Carthage, NC. On Friday, September 21, 2007, young Emily Elizabeth Haddock was home sick with strep throat. Her grandfather was watching over her while her parents went to work that day. Her grandfather needed to run to the pharmacy and pick up some medicine for the young girl, so he left her at home sleeping. While he was gone, 3 teenage boys broke into the home…perhaps surprised by the young girl being home, shot her twice with a .22 caliber gun. But an incredible tragedy. As a pastor in that small town, I can tell you it shook people up. Grief. Heartache. Hatred. Disbelief.
Days later was the annual event known as “See You at the Pole.” At New Century Middle School, there were over 150 people at the flag pole. Pain draws people toward Christ.
As C.S. Lewis once said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

(2) Pain Sharpens our Character

Secondly, pain sharpens our character. Remember the old sports adage: No pain, no gain. There’s a lot of truth to that in sports. As an athlete, I experienced a lot of pain. But in the pain is where the body builds back stronger. And the same is true in our lives as well. Paul writes it this way to the church at Rome,
Romans 5:3 NASB95
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;
Tribulation brings about perseverance. Tribulation is a cause of great trouble or suffering. When we face suffering, we grow stronger in our character, our person.
Consider with me a child who is learning to thread a needle. They miss the first several times…pricking themselves…bleeding. But in the end, the child learns to thread the needle. That pain produced perseverance…and that perseverance produced character.

(3) Pain Disciplines Us for Our Own Good

Third, pain disciplines us for our own good. There is a big difference between abuse and discipline, but how many of you agree that there is a strange connection between our brains and our backsides! Discipline goes a long way in training our children. In fact, I think there is a great absence of discipline in our world today that results in the chaos that we live in.
But the Bible says that God disciplines us too. In fact, the Bible says that a loving father disciplines his own. If he did not love us, he would let us do whatever we wanted. But hear the words of the author of Hebrews,
Hebrews 12:10–11 NASB95
For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
Did you hear that? He disciplines us for our good! No one here would say that “discipline” feels good. But discipline is good. Discipline is good in our life…and God sometimes uses pain in our life to make us more like him, to draw us to him, to get us to stop doing something, or even to get us to start doing something. Pain is good.

(4) Pain Allow God to Turn a Negative into a Positive

Fourth, pain allows God to turn a negative into a positive. Remember the verse in Romans 8.
Romans 8:28 NASB95
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
God causes all things to work together for good. God can take the strangest thing and make it into something incredible. Recall the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis. Hated by his brothers. Sold into slavery. Left in jail. Looked over by Pharaoh. Accused of rape. The list goes on and on. But do you recall all that God did in the life of the nation of Israel through the results of Joseph’s life? Had Joseph not been sold into slavery, he would not have ended up in Egypt. Had he not ended up in Egypt, he could not have interpreted the dream that foretold of the famine…that led to his conservation methods. In the end, had Joseph not been sold into slavery, the nation of Israel would have perished and died. That’s why Joseph could say,
Genesis 50:20 NASB95
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.
Consider for a moment the greatest, most painful event in human history…DEI-CIDE. You’ve heard of suicide (killing self) or homicide (killing a person), but what about “dei-cide.” Dei-cide is when God was killed…when Jesus died on the cross.
The crucifixion of Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of good coming from bad! Christ’s death equaled our forgiveness. The death of Jesus was our victory.
I imagine the disciples couldn’t see how anything good could result. In fact, time and time again, as Jesus told them about the suffering and death that the Messiah would experience, they denied it. In the same way, as we face trials and struggles…we cannot imagine the good. But they can.
Indeed, many of the greatest Christians in history seem to say that their sufferings ended up bringing them the closest to God.

Division 4: God can turn our pain into peace and courage (v. 25).

The fourth principle we see is that God can turn our pain into peace and courage. Let’s be honest, Job didn’t understand everything that was going on. No doubt he struggled in the midst of his pain and suffering…just like we do today! But he makes a statement in this chapter that is incredible:
Job 19:25 NASB95
“As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth.
Job believed that though he was experiencing intense suffering, in the end, he would see his Redeemer. Now, did he understand the coming of Jesus? Probably not. Remember, Job was a contemporary to Adam and Eve…writing in the earliest days of written Scripture. He didn’t have anything to read and compare that forecasts a Messiah, a Son of David, a Christ.
The term “redeemer” is the word “Go-el.” It’s used 102 times in the Hebrew OT. Perhaps the most familiar to us is in the story of Ruth and Boaz. Boaz was Ruth’s “kinsman redeemer” who was able to resolve her greatest issue in the time of her suffering (see Ruth 4:4-6). Here in Job, he basically says the same thing…I know my Kinsman-Redeemer…my Go-El lives and He will take care of me. In fact, the phrase “I know” is emphatic…I, yes, I know. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Job knows His Redeemer lives and will provide.
In the greatest pain and suffering of Job’s life…he believed in God’s provision. The psalmist claims the same truth,
Psalm 19:14 NASB95
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.
For us, God’s ultimate answer is not an explanation, but the incarnation!
Corrie Ten Boom, the Dutch watchmaker and Christian who helped many Jews escape during the Holocaust of World War II by hiding them in her closet, once said: “No matter how deep our darkness, he is deeper still.” God is deeper…and God provides ultimate peace and courage.
Jesus puts it this way in the Gospel of John.
John 16:33 NASB95
“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
So that we might have PEACE…and take COURAGE. Jesus offers us peace to deal with our present and courage to deal with our future! That’s our God!!!
Are you broken? He was broken, for us.
Are you despised? He was despised and rejected of men.
Do you cry out that you can’t take any more? He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
Did someone betray you? He was sold out for 30 pieces of silver.
Are your tenderest relationships broken? He loved and was rejected.
Did people turn from you? They hid their faces from Him as if he were a leper.

Division 5: God has a wonderful blessing in store for His believers (v. 26-27).

The fifth and final principle we learn from the life of Job is that God has a wonderful blessing in store for His believes. Listen to his words in verses 26-27:
Job 19:26–27 NASB95
“Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God; Whom I myself shall behold, And whom my eyes will see and not another. My heart faints within me!
God didn’t let Job suffer because he lacked love, but b/c He did love…in order to bring Job to the point of encountering God face-to-face…which is our supreme happiness. Job’s suffering hollowed out a big space in him so that God and His joy could fill it!!!
Imagine with me the first day of 2018 was a terrible day – painful root canal, crashed your car, stock portfolio took a nosedive, spouse got sick, friend betrayed you, and it was just a bad day!!!
But every other day of the year was terrific! Get promoted…friend gives you $25 million, Time puts you on the cover and makes you “The Person of the Year”; your first child is born; marriage is great; health is fabulous; 3-month all-expenses paid vacation in Tahiti.
So how was your year??? It was great!!! Started off rough…but when I look at the entire year, it’s been gr-r-r-eat!
Same will be true in heaven…doesn’t deny the reality of your pain in this life. It might be bad for 72 years…but in heaven, after 54 million days of pure bliss in heaven…!!!
One Christian who lived a life full of pain said, “In light of heaven, the worst suffering on earth, a life full the most atrocious tortures on the planet, will be seen to be no more serious than one night in an inconvenient hotel.”
Paul writes the church at Corinth. He says in 2 Corinthians 4:17,
2 Corinthians 4:17 NASB95
For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,
"For our light and momentary afflictions.” You’re thinking…they ain’t light and they haven’t been momentary! But consider Paul: 5 times his back was shredded when he was flogged 39 lashes with a whip; 3 times he was beaten to a bloody pulp by rods; yet he says “light and momentary afflictions.”
To the church at Rome, he puts it like this:
Romans 8:18 NASB95
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
These present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed to us!!!
Nothing we will experience here on earth will even compare to the blessings of heaven!!!
You see, suffering is God’s tool to work in our lives! If a carpenter is going to do work, what tool does he use? (Hammer) If a mechanic is going to work on a car, what tool does she grab? (Wrench) If a cook is going to slice and dice some veggies for a meal, what tool does she use? (Knife) If a seamstress or tailor is going to make a piece of clothing, what took does he use? (Needle)
When God is going to do work in the life of a believer…He uses suffering. Suffering, as E.K. Bailey once said, is our badge of identification. God has never used anyone greatly until he has first hurt them significantly. God has only one Son without sin, but he has no children without suffering.
Oswald Chambers once said, “You can’t drink grapes.” You can’t drink grapes…they must be crushed. Before grapes will tender the sweet nectar of the vine, they first of all must be crushed. God is looking for the person who allows His hand to fall onto their lives…and crush their pride, crush their self-reliance, crush your self-dependence, to learn how to lean and depend on Him. You can’t drink grapes…they must be crushed! (EK Bailey)


Marc was shoveling snow on his driveway when his wife said she was going to move the car and asked him to watch their younger daughter. As the car backed out, their worst nightmare occurred—toddler crushed beneath a wheel.
Held his dying child in his arms. His initial despair was so deep. Had to ask God to help him breathe, eat, function. But he increasingly felt God’s presence, his grace, his warmth, his comfort, and very slowly his wounds began to heal.
Marc, having experienced God at his point of greatest need, would emerge from this crucial of pain a changed person – abandoning his career for seminary!!!
1) God didn’t create evil; (2) God will one day judge evil; (3) God can make good from evil; (4) God gives peace and courage in the midst of our pain; and (5) God promises His blessings to us!!!
John R.W. Stott, the prominent British pastor, once wrote:
“I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross…In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time after a while I have had to turn away. And in imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in God-forsaken darkness.
“That is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our suffering become more manageable in light of his. There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross which symbolizes divine suffering. ‘The cross of Christ…is God’s only self-justification in such a world’ as ours.”
In the midst of suffering, pain, tragedy…like Job, we can say, “I know My Redeemer lives!!!”
Let’s pray.
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