Here’s the news Dawn and I have received in the last 24 hours:
〉A loved one’s recent surgery to remove a lump in his colon revealed cancer in four lymph nodes.
〉An elderly woman whom I had once pastored, and who had always loved Dawn and me unconditionally, died yesterday from Alzheimer’s and cancer.
〉My elderly uncle who recently had prostate surgery isn’t doing well.
〉My one-year-old grand-daughter who has been having fainting spells, has been admitted to the hospital for observation and testing. There is concern that something is wrong with her heart or brain.
All of this bad news arrives against the backdrop of Dawn’s and our daughters’ emotional health struggles for which, each are in counseling and both daughters take medication. And of course, this is to say nothing of all the horrible, bad news happening in the world.
Some of our bad news may turn out to be nothing so bad at all. But in the moment of uncertainty, it feels exhausting. It’s moments like this that make me weary of living in this world.
❯ BAD NEW PRESSES THE BIG QUESTION
I haven’t shared this with you to gain sympathy (though I appreciate your prayers) or to compare the degree of our life struggles with yours.
I’m writing so that when a string of bad news arrives on your doorstep to press the question, Where is God? you’ll know the only answer that can be an anchor for your soul, as it is for Dawn’s and mine.
❯ UNBIBLICAL FAITH WON’T HELP YOU
Where is God when all your news is bad?
Don’t make the mistake of believing He has nothing to do with the bad news.
The Bible won’t allow for that. Jesus won’t allow for that. The quotes from Moses, the prophets, Jesus and the apostles are so numerous and clear I need not reference them here. A thoughtful conviction of the sovereignty of God and providence won’t allow for that.
Christians cannot be deists who believe in creation, but not providence. Christians are, and must be, theists, whole-heartedly believing that what God created, He also governs, in every detail. The world and all that happens in it, is under His control. Or, the Bible is a lie.
Don’t make the mistake of believing He only plans pleasant things which you would receive if you only had enough faith.
I knew a man whose mid-twenties daughter was ill with an aggressive cancer. This man had put his faith in the false teaching of popular faith healers. He believed that his daughter would be healed if he, his wife, and daughter, just believed hard enough.
Out of concern for him I asked, “What if God doesn’t heal your daughter?”
“I’ll never pray again,” he replied.
I’m sad to say his daughter died less than a year later. I never heard what became of his faith. But, but it certainly was tried by a fire made doubly hot by believing half-truths about God’s non-role in our bad news.
❯ ONLY BIBLICAL FAITH WILL HELP YOU
I shared this recent string of bad news so you would know that ours isn’t an ivory tower philosophy. It isn’t untested, untried.
It’s the teaching of Scripture handed down through millennia by the church, and a practical anchor of hope to refresh the souls of countless generations of Christians who experienced bad news and death, each in their turn.
It is the anchor we cling to in 2014, and the anchor I commend to you:
⟩ that God is there (the doctrine God’s existence)
⟩ that God is near (the doctrine of God’s immanence)
⟩ that God cares (the doctrine of God’s love)
⟩ that God is in control of all things (the doctrine of God’s sovereignty)
⟩ that God does all things well (the doctrine of God’s goodness)
⟩ that God does all things for His glory and the salvation of His people (the doctrines of creation, providence, and redemption)
⟩ that God most often withholds His detailed purpose—the why—but gives us ample reason to trust His character, power, and purpose (the doctrine of revelation)
⟩ that God promises the comfort and peace of his presence to save us through suffering in this bad-news life, and to save us out of suffering in the next (the doctrine of last things)
⟩ that bad news, suffering, and death will only serve the greater joy of those whose hope in God endures to the end (the doctrine of glory)
⟩ that this hope and promise belongs only to those whose trust is in Christ alone. (the doctrine of justification)
Without a biblical faith in God to give perspective to our bad news, how could we become anything but cynical, bitter, angry, and faithless?
❯ WHERE IS GOD WHEN ALL YOUR NEWS IS BAD?
Exactly where He has always been, and will always be:
On His throne. The King of the ages. Sovereign. Mighty. Good. Just. Merciful.
For us. Saving us. In Christ.
We may never know the detailed why when all our news is bad. But if the Bible is true, then it can’t be because He isn’t there. It can’t be because He doesn’t care. It can’t be because He isn’t powerful enough. And it can’t be because you don’t have enough faith.
If your trust is in Christ, it must be that He plans to bring good to you and glory to Himself that only eternity will reveal.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?—Romans 8:31, ESV