Today is not an easy day for me, which I’m sure many can relate to. In the midst of difficulties questioning God’s goodness is not reserved to the Atheist and Agnostic. Every Christian I know, including myself, has at one point or another faced pain. And in the pain we’ve wondered where God disappeared to. If he is good and just, why does he allow certain things to happen? If he loves us, why doesn’t he step in and stop the pain? It’s a very personal question that touches us all. As an apologist, I wrestle with this not only intellectually, but spiritually and emotionally.
In this post I don’t want to give you all the intellectual reasons on why you can trust that God is good (though I will recommend you listen to Lee Strobel’s talk on why God allows suffering here.) Instead, I want to share with you a thought close to my heart and a prayer.
One of my favorite verses is found in John’s Gospel. On the night Jesus was betrayed, a few short hours before he went to the cross, he looked at his disciples and said something very profound. “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” This is a big promise from a man about to die. Yet it is a promise he can make and keep because he did not stay dead. He is alive. He has defeated, is defeating, and will ultimately defeat all that is wrong and evil; not only the evil out there, but the evil within me. He is my reason for hope and trust in the goodness of God, because he is God, the Word made flesh.
The prayer I want to share with you comes from a book called Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions. It’s not nearly as archaic and boring as the title sounds. It’s an amazing little book filled with prayers that beautifully show what it looks like to know God and to communicate honestly with him. Wherever you are in questioning God’s goodness, I hope it speaks to you as it has me.
Sovereign Commander of the Universe,
I am sadly harassed by doubts, fears, unbelief,
In a felt spiritual darkness.
My heart is full of evil surmisings and disquietude,
And I cannot act faith at all.
My heavenly Pilot has disappeared,
And I have lost my hold on the Rock of Ages;
I sink in deep mire beneath storms and waves,
In horror and distress unutterable.
Help me, O Lord,
To throw myself absolutely and wholly on thee,
For better, for worse, without comfort,
And all but hopeless.
Give me peace of soul, confidence, enlargement of mind,
Morning joy that comes after night heaviness;
Water my soul richly with divine blessings;
Grant that I may welcome thy humbling in private
So that I might enjoy thee in public;
Give me a mountain top as high as the valley is low.
Thy grace can melt the worst sinner, and I am
As vile as he;
Yet thou hast made me a monument of mercy,
A trophy of redeeming power;
In my distress let me not forget this.
Thy never-failing providence orders every event,
Sweetens every fear,
Reveals evil’s presence lurking in seeming good,
Brings real good out of seeming evil,
Makes unsatisfactory what I set my heart upon,
To show me what a short-sighted creature I am,
And to teach me to live by faith upon thy blessed self.
Out of my sorrow and night
Give me the name Naphtali –
‘satisfied with favor’ –
Help me to love thee as thy child,
And to walk worthy of my heavenly pedigree.