Last weekend, I tried to tackle an issue that challenges many people’s faith. While conducting a funeral service, I helped people wrestle with the existence of an all-powerful God.
Many people struggle with the idea of Jesus being an all-powerful King when life doesn’t go according to plan.
As a pastor who has seen a lot of people go through intense suffering and a warrior that has witnessed many terrible deaths, tragedy can often undermine a person’s faith. I’ve found that it’s easy to ignore God when life is going well. However, people don’t ignore God when life gets hard. Often, their faith takes a very different turn.
Many people ignore Jesus when life is good and then get angry with him when tragedy strikes! It’s this second circumstance that I want to deal with in this article.
Does Jesus have all power?
Many people start to lose their belief in God when something terrible happens to them. Maybe the only thing more devastating to a person’s faith is when something terrible happens to a loved one. This sense of helplessness can often cause a person to run to Jesus in desperation for help. But when you don’t find the help you’re looking for in Jesus during the moments of greatest desperation, it can shake the very foundations of your faith.
My friend, Mike, just passed away after losing a battle with cancer. I visited Mike and his family several times during this fight with cancer. I prayed for him fervently. I prayed with him for God to heal him, and I prayed constantly for his family while he suffered from the pain and shriveled to a shell of the man he once was.
We all prayed for God to heal Mike from this terrible disease. Unfortunately, after a long, painful battle with cancer, Mike passed away.
Is Jesus good?
Many people struggle with the goodness of God when tragedy strikes, especially when they pray many long, painful prayers for God to do a miracle and make the tragedy go away. I’ve met countless people who have told me how they lost their faith in God when he didn’t answer their prayers during a tragedy.
This is the moment that causes millions of people to question if God truly has all power. Many people get to the point where they stop believing in a God that is all powerful because he didn’t stop the tragedy. Some stop believing in the existence of God at all during moments like this.
The people who cling to the belief in God’s power to heal or to perform miracles will struggle with questions about God’s love. This is the moment when people are forced to wrestle with the challenge of a God who has the power to heal, yet chooses not to heal.
Some, come away from this challenge convinced that God doesn’t love them. During tragedies like Mike’s family just experienced, one side of the coin challenges you to believe that God has all power; the other side of the coin challenges you to believe that God is loving.
When it doesn’t make sense
I don’t feel the need to defend God’s power. I believe he can do a better job at that than I can. Nor do I feel the need to argue for God’s goodness. During moments of tragedy, people don’t need someone to argue about the logic of their spiritual beliefs. What most people need is someone to hear their pain when life doesn’t make sense.
Now, let me tell you one of the biggest challenges of being a pastor.
When I was officiating Mike’s funeral, I was looking at a family that was deeply grieved by this loss. I wanted to find words that would minister to this family. I wanted to say something that would make the pain go away or at least make it much less difficult. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the words to make it any easier for this family. So, I chose to just be very honest with them.
“It’s okay to be confused. It’s common to question God during times like this. And it’s even natural to get angry with God for not healing him. Just don’t think that God didn’t hear your prayer. And I can promise you that he answered your prayer… just not the way you wanted him to answer it! Rather than physically restoring his health, Jesus completely and eternally healed Mike. This is a promise from the Bible in Revelation 21:4. (He [Jesus] will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away.)“
The good and great King
Because we all go through moments of intense tragedy which can challenge our faith, I asked Mike’s family if I could share my thoughts with you. I want to give you a framework to understand the “goodness” and the “greatness” of King Jesus.
When I use the word good to describe King Jesus, I’m referring to the fact that he always does what is right. However, sometimes what we believe the right answer to our prayer is, is not necessarily what Jesus views as the right answer.
It’s totally normal for Mike’s family to want more time with him here on Earth. This was the basis for their prayers to heal him. However, Jesus always acts for the eternal good of his people. This means that healing Mike by calling him home to Heaven was an infinitely more gracious answer to the family prayers. Jesus gave Mike more than he asked for when he eternally healed him, rather than temporarily healing him from cancer.
Which brings me to the final point of this article: Jesus is not just a good king… He is also a “great” King.
I’m using the word great to refer to Jesus’s power. When Jesus conquered death, hell, and the grave on Easter Sunday morning, he demonstrated his power over all things. As a Christian, Mike had nothing to fear while facing cancer. Because he had placed his faith in Jesus as the all-powerful King of the universe, Mike faced death without fear. Only the Good and Great King can help you face your biggest challenges and greatest tragedies without fear.
If you’re facing big challenges to your faith right now, I want to give you the same permission that I gave Mike’s family. Take your fears and your pain to King Jesus. Tell him that you’re confused. It’s okay to admit that you’re angry if he doesn’t answer your prayers the way you want him to.
Just leave the door open for the fact that Jesus looks at your problems from a different perspective than you do. Because he can see eternity, he will always work in a way that is for your eternal good and his eternal glory!