Enduring the Severity of God in the Context of His Grace
By Greg Wright, July 2006
No matter how solid and biblical a person's theology is, when tragedy strikes that person's home, he is going to ask, why me? He may believe that God ordains all that comes to pass. He might affirm that God either causes or permits everything that happens. He may be familiar with the hundreds of ways that God uses suffering for good. He might even be able to read Romans 8:28 in Greek. Still, when it is his life and his family that is afflicted, the why me question is going to arise.
The purpose of this article is not to lay out possible solutions to the why me question. Nor is it to criticize those who ask it. In fact, it is not even an attempt to explain how God uses suffering for good purposes. Rather, I have written this article to help all of us bring the right context to bear upon the why me question. The right context would take into account all of our dealings with God, not just particular instances of suffering.
For example, everyone experiences some measure of the common grace of God, and we usually do not ask why me questions about that. Both kind and wicked people benefit from rain, from sunshine, from people they love, and from the work of their hands.
At the same time, everyone experiences some measure of the severity of God, even Christians.
- A late-night knock at your door reveals that your child's car was hit by a drunken driver. Although she survived, she will be paralyzed for the rest of her life? Why your child? Why your family?
- The spouse you married for life abandons you and your children? Why you? Why your children?
- In spite of your healthy lifestyle, a visit with your physician confirms that you have cancer. Why you, of all people?
- The tornado strikes. While your neighbor's house remains unharmed, yours is totally destroyed. Why your house?
- While your son is working at a fast-food restaurant, a robber pulls out a gun and kills him. Why him? Why your child?
- Faithful to God, you have saved your body for your future husband, only to become the plaything of a rapist. Why you? Why didn't God protect you?
The situations that prompt us to ask why me are as diverse as suffering itself. The diversity and prevalence of suffering unnerves us. Even in peaceful times, we know that suffering is peaking around the corner. It threatens us. It scares us, and we run from it. But no matter how fast we run, like an untiring football player, suffering eventually tackles us and sends us crashing against the ground. For a little while, nothing seems bigger or more important than the suffering we are enduring.
Then, by the grace of God, our eyes catch a glimpse of Calvary. Once again, a familiar voice reminds the Christian, "He died for you." Suddenly, a different form of the same question arises:
- Loved with an everlasting love: why me?
- Chosen by God before the foundation of the world: why me?
- Sovereignly brought into circumstances where the Bible could be heard, correctly taught, and believed: why me?
- Enabled to repent and believe through the secret heart-work of the Holy Spirit: why me?
- United to Jesus Christ through faith: why me?
- Made to be the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit: why me?
- Declared to be forgiven of all my sins: why me?
- Given access to the Father through the mediatorial work of Jesus Christ: why me?
- Blessed with the guidance and comfort of the Holy Spirit: why me?
- Made to share in the glory and eternal inheritance of Jesus Christ: why me?
Meanwhile, the unbeliever continues to experience the severity of God. At the same time, the unbeliever also experiences a measure of common grace, but this is only temporary. For when death comes, grace will be withdrawn, and the severity of God will be poured out into an overflowing cup of eternal suffering. This could have been our destiny.
Instead, even while we continue to experience some measure of the severity of God, for us, this is only for a season. Like the unbeliever, we also have God's common grace, but we have much, much more. We have God's particular grace--the grace whereby God saves and sustains his people. We can boldly face tomorrow, because we know that whatever happens, God's grace will be there for us. And we can bravely march forward towards the sunset of our lives, knowing that all of our suffering will soon be over, replaced by the indescribable joys of heaven.
Why us? Why me?
Faith is demonstrated when, in the midst of enduring the severity of God, we are encouraged by the grace of God. The question why me is an important question, but we need to see more than the severity of God when we ask it. A careful reflection upon the grace of God will help us to have a redemptive perspective as we, for a season, continue to experience some measure of the severity of God.
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