There is NO connecting-the-dots on every instance of pain. You can’t tell everyone, “God has a plan for your life.” You can’t always say, “Everything happens for a reason.”
A blind theology on suffering only works for the unquestioning. It can work until you have to comfort a young boy with cancer, a mother who has lost her son, a suicidal high schooler, an entire nation oppressed by genocide, a family torn by a school shooting or drunk driver, a pregnant victim of rape. At this point: it is atrocious to say, “Pain forces you to grow” or “It takes a painful situation to change your ways” or “God is teaching you to trust.”
I think we probably say those things because most of us have had it way too easy. And actually: they’re not biblical or from the heart of God.
What if there really is no spiritual lesson from your pain?
What if “God’s amazing plan” only makes sense to the privileged upper-class?
What if you never see the reason for why you’re going through this horrible ache?
What if you’re that starving, kidnapped, beat-up kid in a scorched third world country?
Certainly there is some accommodating theology, but we jump to that too quickly. The hard truth is that we live on a fractured planet with a broken people who are dislocated from their source, and nothing is as it ought to be. Ugliness is bound to happen, and when we try to moralize or spiritualize, we find ourselves on unsteady ground with unanswered questions.
We’re not to gloss over this with pat doctrine and retroactive theology — but to enter into the fray with sleeves rolled up and armed with the strength and mercy of God. To say “God has a plan” while people are suffering is not incorrect, but it is incomplete.
God does have a plan, and that was the sending of His Son to redeem this fallen world. It was the inauguration of a Kingdom in which we are the participants, and until Jesus comes again, we’re called to fight evil in its every form.
All this “Let go and let God” complacency has us sitting on the sidelines. If you are united with Christ: you are an agent assigned to aid in the healing of your corner of the universe. God is still the God of every situation — but more than that, God is the God IN the situation, suffering with us, embracing the broken, restoring wounded hearts, and waiting for us to get involved too.
I hope we are not too quick to declare a life-lesson for every pain, but instead show solidarity as Jesus did. His very presence as God in the flesh means we do not need more talk, but rescue.