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Puzzled – When Life Leaves You Asking, "Where is God?"

Tragedy at any level can lead to people questioning God's goodness and love.

I hate puzzles. To me, nothing is inspiring about 1,500 almost-identical pieces lying on the table waiting for some patient soul to assemble them.

My wife loves puzzles. She loves the challenge. And she's always saying, "Honey, come help me."

So, in the name of spending time together, I plop down beside her. But I can't handle it. After patiently searching for an important piece for two minutes, I'll lose my calm and try to hammer a piece that almost fits into the space. That usually gets me banished from the table.

It would be nice if picture puzzles were the only confusing things we had to deal with. Sometimes life itself seems to fall into a puzzling heap.

You're 50, and your husband walks out on you. You've lost your job, or maybe a life-threatening illness strikes your family. Any of a hundred hardships can reduce your life to a jumble of pieces that defy all attempts to reassemble them. And you ask, "Where is God?" Your faith totters.

When we lived in Luxembourg, some friends of ours who pastored in nearby Belgium lost their oldest son. The young man had psychological problems for several years but seemed to be doing well before he hit a snag. A visit with a secular counselor didn't help.

When the counselor told Luc he would be sick his whole life with no hope of complete healing, something snapped. He took the family car and didn't return that night. The next morning his father and younger brother found him in an abandoned workshop. He had hanged himself.

Two friends and I went to pay our respects to the family and try to comfort them. But what could we say? Pious platitudes and cliches are hollow in the face of overwhelming pain.

I need not have worried because my friends encouraged me. Though their faces were gray and drawn from grief and a sleepless night, their words were honest and sincere praise to God. Their faith strengthened me.

Before we left, we prayed together. One of my friends with me prayed, "Lord, there are some things we don't understand, and we never will understand."

That's exactly how I felt. We long for order in our universe. We want to explain everything in a way that fits our perception of how the universe is (or ought to be). Only good things should happen to good people. The bad ones ought to catch it. But when things happen that just don't fit, then what?

When my puzzle-assembling wife starts to work, she looks at the pattern on the box for certain foundational parts. When she finds these pieces, she builds the whole puzzle on them. That is also a good way to rebuild a broken life. Three foundational pieces must be in place in our hearts if we are going to get everything together again.


First, we must realize God is good. The enemy screams, "If God is good, why did this happen to you? Couldn't God have prevented this?"

Tossing on your bed you cry, "Why, Lord? I don't understand."

In moments of tragedy, we may question God's goodness. There is no ready explanation. But listen: "The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord" (Psalm 33:5, NKJV). "The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him ..." (Nahum 1:7).

"Lord, there are some things we don't understand and never will understand." But we know one thing: God is good.

And let's be honest. When we hurt, we forget the thousands of other blessings He gives us daily. Jeremiah cried out from a devastated city, "Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, 'The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.' The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him ..." (Lamentations 3:22-25).


The second puzzle piece snuggles firmly into the first: God is just. How many times have sinners regarded sickness, hunger, and war and sneered, "If there is a God, why so much injustice?"

Of course, they willingly ignore that men who rebel against God's Word are responsible for all this injustice. God will one day even up the score.

But what about bad things that happen to good people? "It's not fair. What happened?" you may ask.

My friends weren't asking that question. They knew God so well that despite outward appearances, they trusted Him. He is just, and they praised Him. There is coming a day when all wrongs will be set right. "The Lord within her is righteous; he does no wrong. Morning by morning he dispenses his justice, and every new day he does not fail, yet the unrighteous know no shame" (Zephaniah 3:5).


One final piece completes the base so that you can reconstruct that beautiful picture on it: God loves you.

The mourning period after a tragedy often causes a spiritual dryness, a sense of being far from God. Does He still love me?

Yes. No terrible situation can change it. No lack of emotions can negate it. The Lord Jesus loves you. He died for you. He rose again for you. He is for you. He is at the right hand of His Father praying for you.

Your enemy says, "If God loves you, how could He let this happen?" God's Word is still true: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us" (Romans 8:35,37).

God is good. God is just. God loves me. The pieces fit.

David Porter

David Porter is an AG minister and a recently retired AGWM missionary.