“If the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us?” (Judges 6:13).
Gideon asked the question thousands of years ago, and we have been asking it ever since. Haven’t we all asked that question secretly, if not out loud, at some point in suffering?
The Israelites were disheartened by the Midianites’ continual oppression. To many, like Gideon, these hardships didn’t make sense if God truly was with his people. They had heard the stories of God’s power, but since they had never seen it displayed, they doubted his presence. That’s why Gideon asked the angel of the Lord, almost sarcastically, “Where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us?” He followed his question with bleak despair, “But now the Lord has forsaken us” (Judges 6:13).
Looking at the circumstances, Gideon saw no evidence that God was there or that God cared.
Why Did This Happen?
For years I felt like Gideon. I wondered why hard things happened when a loving God was supposedly in control. When people told me that God loved me, I thought, If God loves me, then why did this happen to me?
As a polio survivor from infancy, I had multiple surgeries each year, living in and out of the hospital. Throughout my childhood and adolescence, I was convinced that a good God couldn’t love me and watch me suffer. So, I had concluded that God wasn’t good, didn’t exist, or didn’t care. If he was good and cared about me, then why had all that happened to me?
But when I was 16, God in his mercy answered that lifelong question through John 9. His answer was simple and direct: “that the works of God might be displayed” (John 9:3). And with that revelation, my world shifted.
One Little Word Fells Us
I took comfort in the truth that God was with me and could use my suffering to demonstrate his glory, but when new struggles surfaced, sometimes I would return to that familiar question: If the Lord is with me, then why did all this happen?
After my son died, I felt abandoned by God. If God loved me, why didn’t he spare Paul’s life? And after my husband left me, I would scream into the darkness, “God, if you love me, why are you letting this happen to me?”
Those questions must have delighted Satan. Satan turns truth into doubt with that little word: if. Satan’s temptation of Jesus began with the words “If you are the Son of God” (Matthew 4:3). Satan and Jesus both knew that Jesus was the Son of God. Everyone at Jesus’s baptism knew he was the Son of God (Matthew 3:17). Yet when Jesus was alone in the wilderness, Satan tempted him to doubt what he undeniably knew to be true.
The Lord Is with You
Satan tempts us in the same way. When our prayers seemingly go unanswered, Satan wants us to mistrust God and question his promises. Satan wants us to doubt God’s goodness and demand proof of his love, inciting us to ask, “If God loves me, then why am I suffering?” Or as Gideon asked, “If the Lord is with us, then why has this happened?”
If the Lord is with us? If God loves me? Those statements should never have an “if” before them. God’s presence and love are guaranteed to those in Christ. When Satan tempts us to question God’s character, we must stand firmly on the truth of Scripture.
In Christ we know that God is always with us. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4). Jesus says, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). He will never fail us or forsake us.
Results of His Love
Our Lord loves us extravagantly. God says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3). Jesus says, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you” (John 15:9). In love, God sent his own Son to die for our sins. Nothing can separate us from his love.
All of Scripture assures us that God is with us and that he loves us. Many of us have known this truth from childhood: “Jesus loves me — this I know. For the Bible tells me so.” With reassurances everywhere, we must reframe our question, instead asking, “Because God loves me, then why did this happen?”
Because God loves me. This phrase changes everything. It reorients my heart. It turns me Godward. When I ground myself on the truth that God loves me, I view my situation through a new lens. Rather than questioning his love, I seek to align my thoughts and actions with his, knowing everything in my life is a result of his love and his presence, not his disfavor or absence.
Rather than insisting that God answer me, I can instead ask myself: What is God doing in my suffering? What can I learn from this trial?
Receiving Trials with Faith
With this new perspective, believing by faith that my trials are given out of love, I can deliberately look for the good that God is bringing from my suffering.
Sometimes the good is hard to see. And the little I do see can feel insignificant in comparison to the pain I’m enduring. It is then that I must remind myself that my afflictions are producing “an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17). And God has a purpose in each of them.
While we may not learn the specific purpose behind each struggle, we do know that God uses suffering to increase our dependence on him. To deepen our faith and draw us closer to him. To refine our character, to prepare us for ministry, to comfort others with the comfort we’ve received. And as we rejoice in him even through pain, God is glorified.
God doesn’t love your suffering. He loves you. He will walk with you through the darkest valleys and will never ever leave you.
When God brings trials into your life, don’t question his love or turn away. God is doing something breathtaking in you, for you, and through you. Because the Lord is with you, and because the Lord loves you, everything that happens to you is filled with divine purpose. Every trial you endure has passed through God’s loving hands. And one day, when your faith becomes sight, you will thank him for every difficulty.
Vaneetha Rendall Risner is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to Desiring God. She blogs at danceintherain.com, and is the author of the book “The Scars That Have Shaped Me: How God Meets Us in Suffering.”
A version of this article previously appeared on the Desiring God website under the headline, “If God Is With Me, Why Did This Happen?”
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