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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Craig Groeschel » Craig Groeschel - Why Did God Let It Happen?

Craig Groeschel - Why Did God Let It Happen?

Craig Groeschel - Why Did God Let It Happen?
Craig Groeschel - Why Did God Let It Happen?
TOPICS: Ever Wonder Why, Sufferings

We love to start our services this way. I say "God is good". You say, "All the time," I say, "All the time," you say, "God is good". Let's try it. God is good. All the time. And all the time. God is good. Let's do it again. God is good. All the time. And all the time. God is good. Question: have you ever doubted that? Have you ever doubted the goodness of God? I know as a Christian, we're not supposed to ever doubt. We should always have faith in the goodness of God, but I wonder if any of you, like me, have ever doubted in a moment when you're experiencing something that didn't seem fair, that didn't seem right, and you thought, "God doesn't really feel good right now".

It might have been when you lost a job, or maybe when your parents divorced. It could have been when a spouse betrayed you and left or maybe when a loved one died. It might have been when you asked the question, "Why, God, won't you take away these migraines"? Or, "Why am I still battling with depression"? Or, "God, why won't you take this temptation away from me"? Maybe it's just an ordinary, everyday moment when you're thinking, "God, I'm trying to do what's right. I go to church. I read my YouVersion Bible app, I give some. I try to help people. I'm trying to do what's right, but God, I'm just not happy. I just thought by this point in my life, at this point with you, God, I'd be so much more happy".

Or if it's not those issues, when you look at the global issues around the world, sometimes you just say, "God, where are you when children are starving? What's going on with all of the wars? God, why do the innocent suffer"? If you've ever questioned the goodness of God, today's message is for you. The title of today's message is "Why Did God Let It Happen"?

Father, we pray that as we open up your Word, that your Holy Spirit would do a work. God, do a work in the hearts of those who are questioning and those who are struggling and those who are hurting. Even in the middle of pain and disappointment, God, help us to see your goodness. We pray this in the name of the one who is good, Jesus, and everybody said? Amen. Amen and amen.

Why did God let it happen? This is a question that's been asked really probably since the beginning of time. In fact, if you go way back 300 years before the birth of Jesus, there was a Greek philosopher named Epicurus who came to these conclusions about the nature of God concerning good and evil. He had two statements and a question. The first statement, he said, is this. He said, "If God is not able to prevent evil, if he can't stop bad things from happening, then God must not be all-powerful". His second big statement was this: "If God's not willing to prevent evil, then he must not be all good". That led him to ask this question: "If God is both willing and able to prevent evil, then why does evil exist"? Why did God let it happen?

Today as we look at scripture, you're going to see that evil and suffering is actually not contrary to the story of the Bible. What you'll discover is that evil and suffering is actually central to the story of the Bible. If there's one thing that I wanna accomplish today, it's through scripture, I wanna show you this big thought: that Christianity, following Jesus, the Son of God, Christianity makes sense of, gives meaning to, and offers a solution for the evil and suffering that we experience. One more time, my goal is to show you that Christianity makes sense of, gives meaning to, and offers a solution for the evil and suffering that we experience. In order to embrace that idea, what I wanna do today is give you a foundation from scripture. I'm gonna show you that the Bible doesn't avoid pain, evil, and suffering. In fact, as you read through all the stories of the Bible, you're gonna see countless expressions of anguish and confusion, rage, suffering, and pain.

In fact, if we look at just four of them, in the Old Testament, you can find Jeremiah the prophet, he's known as "the weeping prophet," and he's wailing out to God in grief because of the unrepentance of the people. "God, why won't they turn to you"? If you look at David in the Old Testament, a man described "after God's own heart," so in love with God, so worshiping God, trusting God again and again, yet, even a guy after God's own heart cries out to God, "Are you listening, God? Do you even care? Why don't you come to my defense when I'm in trouble"? If you flip over to the New Testament, one of the more troubling stories is John the Baptist, the guy whose sole purpose was to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord. "I'm not even worthy to untie his sandals. I just wanna bring forth the word that he's coming. Jesus is coming. Jesus is coming"!

And then John the Baptist, whose whole ministry and life was devoted to the Lord Jesus, is wrongly arrested, awaits potential execution. When Jesus could have come and delivered him, instead, Jesus did not, and John was beheaded. And surely, he sat in that prison cell going, "Where in the world are you, God"? The most interesting and powerful personal example to me is from the Old Testament, from a prophet named Asaph. Has anybody ever heard of Asaph before? Anybody heard of Asaph? If you've never heard of Asaph, there are actually 12 different psalms that are attributed to Asaph. He was not only a poet, but he was also a prophet, and he was the leader of the choir tabernacle. So if he were at Life.Church, he'd be in the tight jeans and the really cool look, 'cause he was a worship leader, okay? This guy was a great worship leader.

And so, this is what Asaph did. He was very close to God, but yet, he said, "I was starting to stumble". He was complaining that the wicked, those who did wrong, seemed to get all the blessings, and he didn't understand where God was. So in verse 11, he said, "What does God know?, they ask. Does the Most High even know what's happening"? Have you ever felt like that before? God, do you even see this? Then he says, "Look at these wicked people enjoying a life of ease while their riches multiply". Then he asks, "Did I keep my heart pure for nothing? Did I keep myself innocent for no reason? I get nothing but trouble all day long. Every morning brings me pain". The worship leader wonders, "Where's God? Why are you letting this happen"?

Today, I wanna wrestle with some very weighty questions, and I wanna tell you up front, I'm not gonna have clear, clean-cut answers to all of them. But I wanna wade into these questions, and I wanna challenge you to think. If you're willing to think, say "I'm willing to think". Are you willing to think? I'm willing to think. We're gonna have to think a little bit today, and we may not have clear answers, but we wanna take some weighty questions before God, because God can handle our doubts. One of the most common questions that you're gonna hear asked or you may have asked is this: if God is a good God, if God is loving, then why would he allow suffering? If God is a good God, then why would he let someone who didn't do anything wrong go through what they're going through? Why would God allow this to happen? To answer that question, if God is loving, why would he allow suffering, I'll give you the answer, and I want you to think. What is the answer? Why would God allow suffering? If God is loving, why would he allow suffering?

This answer is, if love is a choice, suffering is a possibility. If it's possible to love, it's also possible to hurt, why? I'll try to explain it logically and scripturally. We have to understand that the only way that love is possible is to have a choice to choose love. The theological term that I learned in seminary, I went for four years, so I better use the term somewhere, the theological term is free will. What does free will mean? Free will is simply the ability to choose. In other words, if you have the ability to choose love, you also have the ability to choose hate. If you have the ability to choose what's right, you also have the ability to choose what's wrong. And that's what makes evil and suffering possible. So, why did God give us free will, then? And the answer is, because that is the only way that love is possible. If he didn't give us the ability to choose, then we couldn't choose to love him. Why did God do this? Why did he give us free will? And the answer is, because he didn't want a rock or a robot. What he wanted was a relationship.

God is love. He wants us to receive his love, and he wants us to choose to love him back for who he is. He wants to be loved. And in order to be loved, we have to be able to choose love. The challenge is this: in order for us to have the freedom to choose love, we also have the freedom to choose evil. And when we choose evil, we choose what the Bible calls sin. And what does sin do? Unfortunately, sin leads to pain and suffering. So, for God to remove evil and suffering, what he has to do is he either has to remove our freedom to choose, or he has to remove us. Now, a question that most people don't ask, but people should ask, is this question: if there is no God, then who decides there's evil? If there is no God, who's gonna decide, that's right and that's wrong?

I'll give you an example. How many of you have a brother or a sister? Raise your hand. How many of you love your brother and sister? Not as many hands. How many of you fought with your brother and sister? And all the hands go up. I have a little sister who's three years younger than I am. Her name is Lisa. Here's some photos of us growing up. Lisa was my little sister. I love her. I will defend her 'til the day I die, but I picked on her all the time. We fought and we fought and we fought, like all good brothers and sisters do, and when I fought her and did something wrong, she would say, "Stop it," and then she would rhyme every word possible with "stop it" back to me. "Stop it, pop it, cop it, lop it, whop it, hop it". That's what she'd do. Then she'd say, "I'm telling"! And she would run to Mom and Dad as fast as she could to tell. My counterattack was to yell louder, "I'm telling," and try to run first to Mom and Dad to plead my case, to tell her how she was wrong.

Here is the question: if there were no parents, imagine that. What if there were no parents, and there were no rules? Then who would there be to say if there was right or wrong? In other words, there has to be an authority in order to have a standard. If there is no God, then there is no moral point of reference. If there is no God, then who determines what is good and what is evil? So if we're honest and we have integrity as we look at this issue, we cannot use the presence of evil and suffering as proof that God does not exist. In reality, the fact that we do believe in evil and suffering is more proof that God does. Amen. It's proof that he does. Some people will say, "Well, if you suffer, that means God doesn't love you". What we have to do is understand that suffering isn't evidence of the lack of love. We see it every day. For example, I had a surgery done on my body, and the surgeon did not hate me. At least, I don't think he hated me. He gave me surgery, even though it hurt. He gave it to me with the vision that something better was coming.

My good friend Doug is here today, and Doug is a physical therapist. And Doug hurts me sometimes. He puts my leg behind my head, and he pounds on me and puts creams on me and says, "This is gonna feel good". Why does Doug do that? Does he enjoy it? Possibly. But the deeper reason that he does this is because he believes something better is coming. If you ever go to a counselor or a therapist, and they take you back to some more difficult time in your memory or your childhood, is it because they're cruel? No, it's because they care about you, and they believe that by going there, you can find healing, and their goal is to bring you to something better.

Those of you who have children, how many of you have children? Have you ever disciplined your child? Are we still allowed to do that? I don't even know. You know, time out or whatever you do. Why do you do this? Is it because you hate your children? No, it's because you love your children, and you have something better for them. You wanna keep them out of jail and off of drugs and employed and in church and things like that. The presence of pain isn't a lack of love. In fact, oftentimes, the presence of real pain is the evidence of real love. That raises a question. Well, why do bad things happen to good people? Have you ever wondered that? Why does someone who didn't do anything wrong have something so bad and so tragic happen in their life? And this is difficult to answer, because you're not gonna wanna hear what I'm gonna say, but whenever we ask, why do bad things happen to good people, we're really not talking about ourselves. The reason is, we have to understand that scripture tells us we're actually not good people. We're not good people.

You may say, "Well, I got a good heart". Well, I don't know about you. I got a bad heart, 'cause my heart leads me to do some bad things a lot of times. I've hurt a lot of people. I've done a lot of sinful things. I've said things that I shouldn't have said. I've done things that I wish I hadn't done. I have some thoughts that if you knew my thoughts, you'd be like, "We're finding another church"! If you find that pastor's thought, you'd find another one, and another one, and another one, and another one, because our hearts are deceitful. Every single one of us have sinned, and we fall short, scripture says, of God's standard, all of us. There's not a single one of us in this place, wherever you're watching, that actually is good. In fact, the only one who ever lived that is truly good, who is it? Jesus. Jesus, the Son of God.

So why do bad things happen to good people? Truthfully, something bad only happened to someone good one time, and Jesus volunteered for it. The innocent one who never did anything wrong took on the punishment for our sin. He is the only one who is good. What did God do for us? God suffered for us. He suffered for you. He surrendered the glory of heaven and was born into poverty into Jesus Christ. He was mocked as a bastard child born to an unwed mom. Jesus was rejected by those closest to him, his family, and abandoned by his friends. He was falsely accused when he did nothing wrong. He was wrongly imprisoned. Jesus, the only one who was good, was beaten, tortured, stripped naked, hung shamefully on a cross, and the worst of all is that the one who was good, the Lamb of God, became sin for us. The innocent one took the sins of the world to die on it, so that we could be forgiven.

Jesus did this for us. And in doing so, what did Jesus do? He was separated from the Father because he became sin on our behalf. After a lifetime of perfect intimacy with the Father, Jesus was separated from that intimacy, and then he cried out the same question you might have cried out before. He said Matthew 27:46, "My God, my God, why? Where'd you go? Why does it feel like you've left me? God, why have you forsaken me? I didn't do anything wrong, God. I've served you faithfully. I've been obedient in every single way. I've loved you and lived for you. My God, my God, why"? And Jesus did that for us. He did that for you. He did that for me. And he felt more pain than we'll ever feel, and God the Father watched his innocent Son suffer.

So why does God allow that? Why would God allow suffering? And I can't answer directly every question to every single situation. Why are you going through what you're going through? Why doesn't God do what he could do in your situation? Why did someone do what they did to you when God could have stopped it? And the answer is, I don't know what it is. But I do know what the answer is not. And the answer is not that God doesn't love you, because scripture is ridiculously clear when it comes to the love of God. John 3:16 says this: "For God so loved the world", for God so loved. Love is not just something that he does; it's who he is. "For God so loved the world that," what did he do? "He gave his one and only Son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life".

What did God do? How much does he love us? God loves us so much, God loves you so much, that he took your misery, he took your suffering so seriously that he was willing to let his Son take it. Why? Because God knew something better was coming. He knew something better was coming. He knew that it takes a death to have a resurrection. He knew that sometimes, it takes a hurt to have a healing. Sometimes, it takes a loss to overcome the loss and find victory. Sometimes it's out of bondage that you step in and find freedom. He knew that even out of the darkness, he is so good and so powerful and so present that he can bring good even out of the bad. That's how good our God is. He knows in your life, something better is coming.

What does the Bible say? The Bible doesn't say you won't have a hard time. The Bible doesn't say you'll never hurt. The Bible doesn't say you won't go through something unfair. The Bible says that we will suffer, and the Bible says one day we'll die, and the Bible says one day we'll rise. Those who use our free will, our choice, to follow Jesus, to know Jesus, to serve Jesus, to love Jesus, they will meet him in eternal glory, and one day, you will suffer no more. Amen. Something better's coming. Something better's coming. Revelation 21 verse four tells us that one day, after this earth is gone, there's a new heaven and a new earth, and Jesus reigns in every form and fashion from the throne, that God "will wipe every tear from their eyes. There'll be no more death and no more sorrow and no more crying and no more pain. All of these things are gone forever," because something better is coming.

Imagine in the presence of God, no more loss. No more sickness. No more rejection. No more heartache. No more shame, no more grief, no more depression, no more abuse, no more crying yourself to sleep. No more pain. But, we're not there yet. We're not there yet. We're still in a sin-stained world, where because love is possible, so is evil. And so, even in my own little circle of people that I know well and love, I think about a mom and a dad that we know that tragically lost a teenage son, and when they ask why, I can't offer anything in this moment. Pastor Craig's got nothing to say but to pray, to cry with them, and to love them. There's a sweet little girl that Amy and I know and love whose dad abused her horribly. She finds it almost impossible to trust anyone and asked me why.

A 31-year-old mom of two at our campus passed away, and her husband wonders, why? Even on our own staff this year, Pastor Danny from Overland Park, 41 years old, and Jordan from Norman, 35 years old, no longer on this earth, but in heaven. Why? And I can't answer those questions. And we may see some reasons, or I may not be able to tell you ever. We may never know on this side. And that's why, at any given moment, a snapshot, a moment in your life, when something seems unfair, it's easy to conclude, "God must not be good". But, not in just a moment, but when you walk with Jesus, you feed on his Word, you learn to trust his presence, you let him comfort you in the middle of grief, and somehow, he gives you a peace that doesn't make any sense, and you see his people, as flawed as they are, love you and surround you, in a given moment, he may not feel good, but if you walk with him over a lifetime, you'll see his faithfulness, and you will conclude, "God is good". And all the time, our God is good.

Remember Asaph, the guy who thought a lot of things you were afraid to say out loud in LifeGroup, 'cause they'll judge you? "Gotta pray for Sister So-and-So! She's losing her faith"! Remember Asaph? He's the guy who said this: "Does God even know what's happening"? The guy who said, "Did I keep my heart pure for nothing, I've got trouble all day long, The morning brings nothing but pain," this is what he said after walking with God faithfully. He said, "When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply". I love the honesty, because it's okay sometimes that we don't like it and we don't understand. He said, "It bothered me. It didn't seem fair. It troubled me deeply, 'til I entered the sanctuary of God, until I got in his presence, until I experienced his goodness, until his grace sustained me". And Asaph the prophet said, "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. I didn't understand it, and I didn't like it, until I entered the sanctuary of God".

So I came to tell somebody today that the problem of evil and suffering is not contrary to the story of the Bible. It's central to the story of the Bible. And more than anything else, Christianity makes sense of, it gives meaning to, and offers a solution for the evil and suffering that we experience. So, for those of you that are suffering right now, and you're hurting, what I want you to know is, God hurts with you. And what may feel like the worst thing in your life, and it may be the worst thing, there could come a day, weeks, months, years later, where you look back at that worst thing and you say, "I wouldn't want anybody else to go through it, and I wouldn't ever wanna go through it again, but I did experience the presence of God through it, and somehow, God did use it".

So if you're hurting, and you're wondering, where is God, just remember, you're living in the not-there-yet. But the good news is by the grace, the power, the glory, and the goodness of God, something better is coming. God is good. All the time. And all the time. God is good. So Father, today, I pray especially on behalf of those who are hurting. At all of our churches, or those of you watching somewhere online, if you say, "Yes, I'm experiencing something that I don't like. I wish God would change it. It doesn't seem fair and I may not understand. I need God's help. I need God's presence," would you just lift up your hand? I wanna pray specifically for you right now. At all of our churches, just lift up your hand. If you're watching online you can say, "Please pray for me". Just type that in the comments section.

God, I cannot even imagine the weight and the pain of what your children are experiencing right now. God, my heart is heavy, and God, I know that you hurt when your children hurt. And God, as a human being with a limited mindset, I wouldn't even attempt to offer a reason why, but I would cry out to you, God, even at times would agree and say, "I don't understand why you let this happen". But at the same time, God, we wanna dwell in your sanctuary. We wanna push into your presence. And I ask, God, in the name of Jesus, that in the middle of hurt and heartache and grief and pain, that you would start to reveal your goodness, if even for just a moment to sense, God, you're with us. God, I pray for miracles. I pray for provision. I pray for healing. I pray for restoration. I pray, God, for a peace from heaven that goes beyond our human ability to understand. And God, when we're asking why and don't understand, God, we thank you that you're a God that lets us come to you. Help us to cling to you and trust in you, even when we don't understand. God, I pray that over a lifetime of walking with you, even though we may hurt in the moment, we would conclude you are truly good. We put our trust in you.

As you keep praying today, without looking around, there may be those of you who would acknowledge honestly, you don't know God personally, don't know where you stand with God. I can remember, I was a church kid. We went to church growing up, so I thought, hey, I go to church; I must know God. But I recognized, I went to church, but I didn't know God. What does it mean to know God? Remember, what is God? Who is God? God is love. Therefore, God wants to love you. He does love you. He wants you to feel and experience his love, and he wants you to choose to love him back. What's our problem? Why is it that it's so difficult? Well, our problem is sin, that just like God turned away from God when he became sin, God is so holy that sin separates us from God.

And here's the good news. This is how much God loves you, that he sent Jesus, his Son, to become sin. The innocent, perfect sacrifice died in our place. He paid the penalty for our sins, and God raised him from the dead, why? 'Cause God had something better coming. The way that you're made right with God is not by you being good enough, but the fact that Jesus was good enough. He was perfect. He gave his life and he rose again so that you could know God, so you could be forgiven, so you could love God back in the way that God loves you. Wherever you're watching from today, those of you who say, "Yeah, I honestly don't know God. I feel far from God," what are you gonna do? Just step away from your sin, your past, whatever's holding you back, and say, "Jesus, I trust you. I give my life to you".

When you call out to Jesus, he'll hear your prayer. God will forgive your sins right where you are. He'll make you brand new. Wherever you're watching from today, those who say, "Yes, I give my life to Jesus, I need Jesus," that's your prayer today, "I surrender and give my life to Jesus," would you lift your hands high right now? All over the place, lift them up. As we see hands going up around here, praise God for you guys. Somebody worship. In the chat, just type in the chat, "I'm surrendering my life to Jesus". Just put that in the comment section. And as God is thrilled in heaven loving you, would you just pray to him? Everybody pray:

Heavenly Father, I give you my life. Forgive all my sins. Save me. Make me new. As you have loved me, I choose to love you. I give you my whole life. Fill me with your Spirit so I can know you and walk with you and know your goodness and share your goodness. Thank you for new life. I give mine to you. In Jesus's name I pray.

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