Faith amidst the flames

Burning cross

This is an article I wrote for my University student newspaper. It is short and for a broad audience, and thus I’m not able to say as much as I’d like to say. If it was to a specific audience (e.g. Christians only) and I was afforded a large word count, there’s a lot more I would cover.

Last Thursday started off like any other. On my way to uni I passed a couple of fire trucks screaming up the road, but I didn’t really think much of it. Not having checked the news while at uni, I had no idea how bad the fires had become. To my surprise, one of my friends raced home to see what state his house was in. Sadly he lost his house.

And now – what devastation we’ve seen! There have been over 200 houses, people’s homes, lost to this blazing inferno.

Of course, amidst all this devastation, many people are asking “Why?” It’s not long before they add “Why God?” For if, as Christians claim, God is an all-powerful and all-good creator, then why does he allow such suffering?

When asking this question, there are some important claims to consider: that God has graciously given us free will, that he’s experienced suffering personally, and that he knows the big picture. All these things help us to understand why God allows suffering.

Firstly, we live in a broken world consumed by evil. But it wasn’t always so. When God created this world it was perfect, free from pain. But God allowed us humans to rebel against him. In doing so, evil entered the scene, and with it, all kinds of suffering. But the freedom to choose also means that we can relate to God in a genuine way, not as mere puppets on a string.

Furthermore, God gets pain – he knows it through Jesus. Betrayed by one friend, denied by another, mocked by the crowds, crucified by the authorities – Jesus really knew what suffering meant. How much it must have hurt God to see his son treated like that!

Lastly, one of the great things about God is that he can see the big picture – so much more than we can ever see. Can devastation and tragedy be used to bring about a greater good? I think so. Will we ever know what this greater good is? Maybe, maybe not. But if God is good – as the Bible shows time and again – then we can trust that there is a greater good at work.

For those going through suffering of any kind, words on a page are often little comfort. Material loss on this scale is devastating – precious items are irreplaceable, one’s sense of security is destroyed and the prospect of re-building is exhausting. Healing obviously takes time. But God is ever-present – we can always turn to him. He offers something greater and more valuable than material goods; something that can never be taken away. He offers you his love and peace.

After telling his followers some parables, Jesus said: “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33)

If you are looking to turn to God but don’t know where to start, a Christian friend or a local church are good places to go. On campus, CBM runs regular bible studies you are welcome to join – don’t hesitate to come along to ask these questions.

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