In HOPE 8.38

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David Timms  


Prayer for Today

Father, my pain and fear squeeze the very question from my lips. "Why?" I know You're big enough to hear the question without growing angry. And I'm grateful for Your patience. Help me trust You more with the unknown that envelopes me.

When my heart melts like wax within me, when words fail me and my faith falters, hold me.

Amidst my ashes, give me a glimpse of Your beauty. In my anxiety, touch my heart with Your peace. I affirm again: You are my confidence and hope. Amen.


One of the most helpful books I've read on this topic of evil and suffering is D.A. Carson's How Long, O Lord? (Baker, 1990; 275 pages). While the book has been around for nearly two decades, it provides timeless insights into this thorny issue. The stated goal of the book is to help Christians "establish patterns and habits of thought that are so strong that when the hardest  questions batter the soul there is less wavering and more faith, joy, and hope."

Hope International University
Fullerton  CA  92831


My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? 
Why are You so far from saving me, 
so far from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry out by day, but You do not answer, 
and I am restless all night.  (Psalm 22:1-2)


In January 1994, doctors diagnosed Kim (my wife) with cancer. The turmoil of our schedule over the next six months of treatment matched the inner turmoil of our souls as we wrestled with the age-old questions. Is this God's punishment for something we have done? Or discipline? Or a test? Or just something that happens in a fallen world?

We've had plenty of opportunities since then to ask the questions again, and over time I've drawn the following conclusions.

Under the new covenant I'm not sure God punishes anyone this side of the grave. He's not in the business of dealing out retribution for its own sake and the proliferation of evil suggests that He stays His hand far more often than not.

Secondly, we know that the Father disciplines those He loves (Hebrews 12:6). Could our hardship fall under this category? Absolutely. But no good parent disciplines their child without clear explanation. An unexpected and unexplained smack on the backside serves no purpose but to confuse a child. It fails to train them. Similarly, the Father's discipline will always have a clear reason and origin.

Our third possibility is a "test." The Bible tells us that the Lord tested Abraham (Hebrews 11:17). Perhaps our suffering falls in this category. But remember, God never tests us to defeat us. His tests have a single purpose: to build us up. Satan, by contrast, tempts us to harm and destroy us. Not so with the Lord. But ultimately, we can only discern a test with hindsight.

How then should we evaluate our pain or suffering?

Punishment is so rare we can virtually rule it out. If we see no clear cause and effect, we can also dismiss the likelihood of discipline. And since a test is best assessed in hindsight, we're left with just one authentic option -- persist in faith.

Faith in His goodness is our best response.

It's natural to ask "Why?" We all do it. But for those who follow Christ, the more important question to eventually ask is "How?" How shall we draw nearer to Him and express our trust in Him, despite the chaos in which we find ourselves?

Then perhaps we shall declare with the Psalmist after his anguished cry in Psalm 22:1-2:

"Yet You are enthroned as the Holy One .... In You our fathers put their trust; they trusted and You delivered them. They cried to You and were saved; in You they trusted and were not disappointed." (Psalm 22:3-5)

In HOPE --



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David Timms serves in the Graduate Ministry Department at Hope International University in Fullerton, California. "In HOPE", however, is not an official publication of the University and the views expressed are not necessarily those of the Administrators or Board. "In HOPE" has been a regular e-publication since January, 2001.