Chaplain’s Corner: CXXXI


The Bible’s accounts of the signs and wonders that accompany the growth of the early church are inspiring.  They’re also exasperating.  If God really exists, and if he heals the sick, why doesn’t he do this all the time?  Why are there intensive care units?  Why is there a special row of graves for young children at many cemeteries?   If God performs miracles, why do some of those wonderful people in our lives linger for years as their bodies are gradually claimed by cancer or ALS or any number of other merciless diseases?

More than anything else we want to know.  Why doesn’t God tell us why?

Author and journalist Philip Yancey wrote Where is God When it Hurts?  His best seller on the problem of pain-when he was 27 years old.  When he was well into his 60’s he wrote a sequel.  It’s called The Question that Never Goes Away.  That title says it all.  Yancey admits that the answers he hears most often from Christians only seems to make things worse.

Why are you suffering?  God is punishing you:  No it’s Satan!  Neither:  God has afflicted you out of love, not punishment, for you’ve been specially selected to demonstrate faith.

No, God wants you healed!

Scripture, amazingly, never seems to come to God’s rescue.

Job, the central character in the Bible’s most extended discussion of suffering never learns why his life is falling apart even when he has a private audience with God in the closing chapters.  We never learn the “why” of pain in Ecclesiastes, the Old Testament’s tortured reflections on the apparent meaninglessness of life.  Paul, the New Testament preeminent theologian never gets around to answering the question that never goes away, nor does Jesus.  Even though he exudes God’s healing power like no one else-restoring sight to the blind, healing the deaf, mobility to the lame-he never tells us why such gifts aren’t given to everyone.

Instead of tackling the Why of suffering and the Why Not of universal healing, the Bible’s authors tend to direct us to the What Next.

Our call is to weep with those who weep.  To come alongside those who are hungry and in prison, and mistreated.  To intercede for the widow and the orphan.  To care for the dying and sick.  That’s not to say we don’t find powerful hints about the meaning of supernatural interventions on the pages of scripture.  Signs and wonders tend to happen throughout the Bible.

Despite the confident claims of certain preachers, there is no biblical teaching that God is obligated to eradicate all our pain in this world.  But we do receive God’s assurances that all our pain will be redeemed.  Ultimately, we have to make peace with the fact that we don’t always hear the Why we so desperately want to hear.

In the end, the questions that swirls around Acts 3:16 can only be addressed by the verse from John 3:16 which we consider on Good Friday.  (“God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believed in him will have everlasting life.”)

Sometimes in my life I think I’m hanging by a thread when illness comes, stress overwhelms or grief interrupts.  But fortunately, the thread is knit by God.



Ron Naylor, Chaplain