If you have spiritual conversations with unchurched people, you’ve heard this question already: “If God’s so good, why do some Christians get cancer? Lose a child? Get laid off work? Have a spouse run out?”
These are good questions—even as they are filled with pain. They also provide a good opportunity for powerful insight about life. First, this “tough stuff” of life proves we don’t live in a perfect world. It’s loaded with challenges. The Bible calls it “fallen.” The word “sin” is used to describe the reason we’re faced with troubles. It’s not God’s fault, it’s ours. We rejected God. That’s why believers are so glad Jesus is perfect and forgives our sin. That was His mission. And He got the job done. It works for everyone who trusts in Him. But the world we live in is still fallen.
There’s more to be said about our troubles. I live on a tree farm. I grow trees—as a hobby, for timber. In a perfect world, I think they would all grow straight and tall. In this real world, they don’t. They need pruning. God turns our set-backs in life into opportunities. God lovingly uses them to prune us, so we grow straight and tall.
When I was in high school, I wanted a scholarship to college to play football. But in my senior year, I suffered a knee injury. My football dreams were over. I was severely “pruned.” While I was in the hospital, God touched my life in a new way. It happened when my roommate almost died before my eyes. They barely saved him. He was my age. For me, it was a wake-up call. I left that hospital trusting God in my heart in a new way. I felt called to ministry. God has used me all over the world, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. When I teach pastors for hours and my knee hurts, I silently thank God.
Some people who get cancer receive prayer. Sometimes (not always) they are healed. Some people who have marriage problems get back to church and their relationship is restored. I prayed for my dad when he was suffering terribly in a nursing home. I prayed God would heal him completely. And God did. My dad died!
Pruning is not fun. But it can be very good. Sometimes, God even prunes churches. Sometimes, he prunes denominations. I recommend, no matter what, we thank God. He knows what He’s doing. The Bible says He “works all things out for good for those who love Him” (Romans 8:28).
So, “if God is good, why…?” Wrong question. “I’m suffering – what is God going to do with it?” Right question!
How have you seen God use suffering for good? We welcome your comments below.
Kent Hunter, founder of Church Doctor Ministries, is known as the Church Doctor. His most recent e-books are The Future Is Now and The J-Dog Journey, available at no cost. Contact him at (800) 626-8515, by email, Twitter,Facebook, or visit www.churchdoctor.org.