My daughter asked me a big question the other day. “Dad, why did God make bees and mosquitoes?”
I could see her 5-year-old theological wheels turning as she pondered the mystery of why a God who cares for her and who is powerful enough to make whatever he wants to make, would choose to create something that wants to bite and sting her.
Maybe we become less uptight about bugs as we get older, but we still wonder why God allows cancer, tornadoes, terrorists, miscarriages and other sources of misery.
When we ask these questions, we are in good company. The Bible is full of the cries of Job, David, Jeremiah and other faith heroes who wonder out loud if their pain is evidence that God has gone AWOL.
God is frustratingly silent about the question of why suffering happens, but he has a great deal to say about what he is doing about suffering.
One of my favorite reassurances is found in Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Even in the middle of our pain, God is at work.
This verse does not say that only good things will happen to us if we love God. It is not a promise of an invisible pain-proof force field around us.
The verse says that in everything that happens to us, the good and the bad, God is working to bring something good out of it for us.
Difficulties will come our way, but none of it will make God throw up his hands in surrender.
God is so creative, loving, wise and strong, that he can work in the worst of circumstances to cause his good plans to be fulfilled in our lives.
No matter what happens, God never stops working for our good. Perhaps you have experienced this reality before through a disaster that caused you to grow in your discipleship.
For example, a family crisis that leads to new family closeness. Or a time of heartbreak that causes your heart to beat with his. The pain is still real, but the pain is not wasted. God works through it to bring about something good.
The next time suffering comes, look for God to act. After all, a God who can turn a crucifixion into a resurrection can do remarkable things with your misery.
And he promises that he is always at work for the good of those who love him.
When something awful happens, you have a couple of options.
You can let your pain push you away from God. You can stop praying, cut yourself off from Christian friends, and otherwise seek to create some distance between yourself and the deity who hasn’t performed up to your expectations.
Or you can let your pain push you toward God. You can edit your prayer from “Why, Lord?” to “Help, Lord,” realizing that God is the one most qualified to come to your aid.
You can stubbornly choose to trust him even when you don’t have all the answers, and when your pain is urging you to accuse him of dereliction of duty.
You can run to him, desperately urging him to come through on his promise that in all things, he is at work for your good.
Blake McKinney is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, and the author of “Refresh: A Moment with God in the Middle of Your Day.” He and his wife, Gayla, write a marriage blog, and you can follow him on Twitter @JBlakeMcKinney.