The most important thing to do when people are going through hard times is just listen and pray. Nothing can take the place of these two key things. Life is hard, life is broken, and we need people who will just be with us – listen and pray.
Sometimes, though, people need some mental answers to their questions. Why is life broken? Where is God through all of the suffering? The simple answer: Selfishness. Human beings have selfishly abused the power God gave them, and ruined the world (and then blamed God). We are like kids who have made a mess of our rooms and then asked why our parents allowed us to make such a mess. Like a wise parent, the Lord will not clean up all of our mess for us (He did pay for our eternal debt by His grace). Rather, His plan is to give us the strength and encouragement – in Him – to clean up our own mess.
Why is life broken? There are 5 main reasons:
- Authority. God gave us authority over ourselves and over creation (Gen 1:27-31). He has not taken this authority away. This is free will, but more. We have used our authority and power selfishly, and caused hurt, not for the good of each other or the planet.
- Nature. Natural disasters, sickness, and death – all show that creation (which, under God, we have authority over) has been affected by our sin (Gen 3:17). Some parts of nature always have the possibility of pain – wood is hard, fire is hot, the hill is uphill.
- Pain. Hurt people hurt people. There is suffering because of pain without healing – a cycle of suffering and sin. When people don’t find forgiveness for themselves and for others, they take out their pain on others – and create more pain, and the cycle continues.
- Warning. God can’t (and shouldn’t) change the pain as long as the problem (sin) is still there. We need pain to let us know to take our hand off of the hot stove – or even worse damage will be done. As CS Lewis said, God shouts to us in our pain. Pain is a wake-up call that lets us know that life is not the way God intended it to be.
- Redemption. Pain, with Jesus, produces perseverance and stronger character. God does not cause evil, but He can cause even the bad things done against those who love Him to be used for good – if we work together with Him (Rom 8:28).
These 5 reasons can help in a conversation, but they can never take the place of listening and prayer. If we do share, it is usually best to share a story of a time when you were broken and God brought healing and strength. You can then ask a question or invite further discussion or a decision. Listen and pray.
Life is broken, and we will be broken. But take heart – Christ has overcome the world, and we are resurrection people. May our selfishness die so that we can be re-created and take the authority He has given us, and – with Him – take care of each other, and this planet, and ourselves.