I was visiting with a Samaritan’s Purse chaplain the other day. He asked me how I would answer the question they hear so often when they are helping people suffering disaster and loss. “Why did God let this happen?”
Samaritan’s Purse is a Christian service organization, named after Jesus’ parable about the Samaritan man who helped a victim of robbery along the road. Their mission is to help hurting people. Think war (Ukraine), poverty (Haiti), mass casualty (Uvalde), and disease (COVID). No wonder they are challenged with that question so often.
The question assumes that God exists, which is an important starting point. It also assumes that God is knowledgeable and powerful enough to affect what happens in this world. That implies He is also capable of having reasons for allowing evil to continue for now, reasons that are beyond human understanding.
But He has already done something about it. “If God has willingly suffered death on the cross,” Vince Vitale writes, “He has made such an extravagant display of His love for us that it is rational to trust Him, even when we lack full understanding.” God identifies with our suffering and meets us in the midst of it. He is the God who is for us even when life makes no sense, and loss seems so random and pointless.
Jesus could have prevented his friend Lazarus from dying. But he didn’t, and he wept over it. He explained to Lazarus’ sister Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies” (John 11:25). Then he proved it by raising Lazarus from the dead. Tears are part of the journey for now, but by faith in Christ Jesus you will arrive in the place where “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain” (Rev. 21:4).
So with that explanation, here is a short answer to the question. “I cannot say anything that will take away your pain in this moment, nor can I explain why this happened. But you need to know that God loves you and knows what has happened to you. This is the same God that came to earth to endure human suffering just like you. He did that to take away your sin and offer you a home with Him in eternity where there is no suffering. Until then, He will be with you. And He has sent me here to make sure you know that.”
Samaritan’s Purse chaplains are wiping tears from the eyes of people whom God loves. Shall we do the same?