“Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
One of the questions that has haunted humans since sin entered into the world is why bad things happen. How do we reconcile the presence of evil in the world with our innate sense that the world was designed to be good? For those who have heard the Christian claims of a God who is perfectly loving and all-powerful at one and the same time this challenge becomes even more acute.
There have been hundreds of thousands of pages written with millions of barrels of ink trying to understand this. That means a full answer goes well beyond the scope of this short reflection. But, what we have in the Christian worldview which no other worldview has is a series of explanations that, while perhaps not resolving the issue in our minds and hearts, certainly make it more manageable.
Here, Paul points to one of these explanations. When we face difficult, painful, impossibly hard times, one of the reasons could be that God is teaching us to rely more fully on Him than on ourselves or anything around us. This is not by any means an exhaustive explanation and it should not become a trite retort to those who are suffering.
The reasons we are facing a particularly difficult situation are no doubt manifold. But, it could be that God has allowed the pain or the challenges to draw us into a greater reliance on Him. Now, it may be hard to square that He would do something like that, but look at the bigger picture for a moment. We face a second’s worth of hardship (in the scope of eternity) for a lifetime and beyond’s worth of joy in our relationship with Him. Is the hardship worth it? Of course it is! It will not undo us if we lean into Him, and when we lean into Him we will come out stronger than we were before. The moral sufficiency and even surpassing wisdom of this should be immediately obvious.
Now, does this make the experience any easier? Will it take away the pain? Will it undo the consequences of the decisions we or someone else have made? No, and that is why so many folks remain unsatisfied by an explanation such as this. They aren’t actually looking for an answer to their pain, they are only looking for a way out of it. The Christian faith doesn’t necessarily offer that in the short term. Instead, what this explanation does offer is hope. And hope is powerful stuff. Hope is powerful enough to get us through whatever we are facing. With hope we can overcome any trials and tribulations.
This is what the Christian worldview offers on this challenging issue: An invitation to hope; to a hope that will lead to life if we will have it. This won’t remove our pain, but it will make it bearable. It will not lead us out of the hardships directly, but it will enable us to bear up under it and keep moving forward. That is something worth having.