When it feels like God’s unkind

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Some days, what we know to be true simply doesn’t feel true. Normally, if you asked me ‘Is God kind?’ I’d tell you a myriad of truths any Bible believing Christian could about the kindness of God. But if you’re anything like me you have some days when you really struggle to plant your heart in the truth that our God really is kind.

Last month in the space of just a few days my daughter came out in a nasty case of chicken pox, my son had a sickness bug and my husband had to sit his biggest set of exams yet while here at Oak Hill. These few days of carnage came off the back of what was the most pressurised month we’ve ever known. I know in the grand scheme of things that week will pale in insignificance, but at the time it felt, well awful. It all hit at once and to be honest it destabilised me. Amidst the sleep deprivation, vomit and pox creams I felt one particular question snap at my heart – ‘how can this be God’s kindness?’

If God is kind, really kind, then why does he ordain weeks like this? Because the thing is – I can’t just chalk it down to fate, it wasn’t just ‘one of those things’. No, the Bible teaches me very clearly that God is sovereign. He’s over all things and in all things all of the time.

This is where a truth can initially feel more like grit than gold. God is sovereign, and this means I can never say ‘it was just one of those things’ because all things are his things.

A.W. Pink puts it like this

“The Lord God omnipotent reigns…… No revolving of a world, no shining of a star, no storm, no movement of a creature, no actions of men, no errands of angels, no deeds of the Devil—nothing in all the vast universe can come to pass otherwise than God has eternally purposed….It is not blind fate, unbridled evil, man or Devil, but the Lord Almighty who is ruling the world, ruling it according to His own good pleasure and for His own eternal glory”

But if this is true, how do we get out hearts to a place where they trust in both God’s great sovereignty and in his kindness? If he ordains all things, including hard things, is he really good?

It’s an age-old question, and for most of us it’s a personal one. How can God both be kind and ordain hard times? In moments of suffering how do I navigate the minefield of my heart and find a place of rest in the uproar?

The twin truths of God’s sovereignty and his kindness are sometimes a real struggle to hold together. They raise questions and emotions in us. I can’t just swallow these feelings, nor does Scripture ask me to. There are countless examples in the Bible of individuals wrestling with this exact question. How can God be kind, and ordain hard things?

Where should I direct my heart when it flounders? Where do I go when doubts about God’s kindness creep in?

Last week Ed Welch commented in our BCUK lecture that we have a tendency to want to over interpret our sufferings, we want to understand them, we feel as though if we could understand the ‘why’ we would somehow cope better with the ‘what’. This is certainly feels true of me. I love how knowledge helps me feel orientated, so I always want to understand things, especially suffering. But so often we don’t get to. God doesn’t offer us exact explanations for individual moments of hardship. So how do we cope? Ed went on and simply said – in hard times, ‘it is enough for us to know that Christ suffered’.

Christ suffered. This is the key to my suffering. His suffering.

When all I consider is my own hardships, they can consume me. They can turn me inward in self-pity which then breeds anger at my God and my neighbour. So, when sufferings destabilise my heart I need to take my doubts about God’s kindness and journey with them to the foot of the cross, and stand there a while.

Stand still. Look up. What do you see?

At the foot of the cross I come face to face with a dying king, a king who at first glance looks like a failure, rejected and alone. And yet, as I look closer, I see that what appears to be defeat is in fact victory. I see how, through death, comes life. A sovereign hand has penned a plan of redemption that weaved even this greatest miscarriage of justice to be the high point of human history. This king is at work, even in his own death, even when the waves pound us hard, he is Lord of the storm.

Don’t stray from here, plant your feet firmer, look closer.

At the foot of the cross I find the crucified Son of Man, the one who chose to share our humanity and thus knows us perfectly in it. He knows the frailty of our flesh, the weariness of our frame. He knows the nature of my heart, how it’s quick to doubt and slow to hear when trials press in. He draws close, feels our sorrows and counts our tears. This Son of Man suffered, and by his sufferings he’s become truly acquainted with even the depths of our grief. He knows us, he understands us.

Don’t stray from here, reach out to him.

At the foot of the cross, I find a friend, a brother who gave his life for me, who stood abandoned in my place that I might never face trials alone. And this friend now reaches out a nail marked hand to lift my drooping head. He lifts my eyes, that they would fix on him once more. He is with me, even here.

Is our God kind? Yes, he is kind.

The cross, not my circumstances, is the measure of his kindness. Even in the hard times the loving kindness of the cross pursues us, chasing away our doubts. Nowhere do I see the kindness of our God clearer than at the foot of the cross.

So, when your heart whispers the lie that God is not kind, don’t stray from the cross.  

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