One of the most difficult things to explain to Christians and non-Christians alike – and indeed to myself – is this idea that God works through “bad” things to bring about his good purposes. “Why do bad things happen to good people?” “How can God be good, and still let such bad things happen in this world?”
Well, now we have an opportunity to live through some very bad things happening in this country. To be clear, our town is completely safe and comfortable and pretty much normal, but there are many places in Honduras that are not safe right now, where suffering and hopelessness and frustration have brought about anger and conflict.
There was a presidential election a couple Sundays ago on the 26th of November. There still has not been an official announcement of the winner. The incumbent seems to have the lead in votes, but the opposition is entirely convinced that the vote count is fraudulent. Neither side is showing any signs of backing down, and protests in major cities have been violent, destructive, and deadly. Protests taking place between major cities have blocked roads throughout the country, making travel dangerous or even impossible at times. Even international airports have been functioning in a reduced capacity. The future is very uncertain.
A few days ago, a nationwide curfew was set for ten days starting at 6PM, but then yesterday it was relaxed until 8PM. While this may not greatly impact the daily lives of a family with two small children, it is no small thing to revoke the constitutional rights of the people of an entire nation. Even the police have taken issue with it, as many of them are refusing to enforce this curfew, saying they are here to protect the people, not to fight them. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing depends on who you ask.
And in the midst of all this uncertainty, I’ve met so many incredible people in Honduras. Incredible in their own right, but especially through the boldness of Christ living in them. People on both sides of the political struggle are on their knees in prayer. Police officers are joining in prayer together before beginning their shifts. It is “normal” for a business place to have a time of prayer before opening their doors in the morning, and that was even before all this. So while the situation may seem intimidating, I know the potential for God to do something good through these people during all this tragedy is incredibly high… it’s palpable. I’m not just expecting the best and planning for the worst… I’m bracing myself to perhaps be able to better handle the immensity of God when he rolls out his goodness on this country. And I’ll give you the main reason why.
I know our students… the real future of this country. The immediate future may be unclear, but in the not-so-distant future, because of them, I have great hope and expectation for Honduras.
Another teacher here asked our tenth graders when in their lives they have felt the closest to God. The answer of one student was very telling. They said that they feel closest to God during the bad times, during their struggles. Because they know God is with them, helping them through it. There is great truth about the nature of God bound up in that seemingly paradoxical sentiment.
This week, I’ve had the chance to enter into extended times of prayer with the ninth grade and tenth grade students. We’ve prayed for peace and unity. We’ve prayed for love to drive out any spirit of fear. I’ve listened to them pray and I’ve been blown away by their boldness of faith. They are stronger than I am. If the worst happens, I can simply return to the states and go about my business, but no matter what, they’ll be living with the outcome. Even in the face of this uncertainty, their prayers contained incredible hopefulness and the expectation of redemption in this country. Their faith is strong. Their trust is deep.
If the desires of their hearts are any indication of the future condition of their country, then Honduras will become an even more breathtaking place than it is already. God is bringing the next generation of leaders of this country closer to himself through everything that is happening here.
This is why a good God allows bad things to happen… to bring his creation, his dearly loved children, closer to himself. To align their hearts with his. To teach them perseverance in the face of adversity, and give them joy in the face of sorrow.
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. – Romans 5:3-5
The two times I have felt closest to God in my life, I did not expect to experience God in the way I did. Once, I was driving and praying. The other time, I was sitting and reading the Bible. Both times, he felt the same, and both times, he was overwhelming. It wasn’t an ecstatic feeling. It was actually a very sad feeling. But it was a sadness enveloped by comfort. Perhaps it is best described as empathy. It felt like someone came up beside me and gave me a hug that said, “I understand what you are going through. I understand what everyone is going through. And I’m here to tell you that it is all going to be alright. Indeed, it will all be wonderful. I am the source of infinite joy, and I’m here to share that with you.” God is not an artificial happiness that fades when things get difficult. He is a permanent joy that shines with even greater contrast in the face of sorrow and adversity.
If we tell ourselves that we’re pursuing God, but we spend our time chasing after a happy feeling or perfect circumstances, then we fool ourselves. If we think that God is only in the safe and the ecstatic, then we’re missing so much of who he is. Certainly, he is there. But he is also in the tragic and the melancholy. He is in all things. He spends his time where we live our lives… in the good and the bad. That gives us reason to trust him more. That gives us reason to grow in faith. That gives us reason to find true joy in him. And for that, we should be grateful, in all things.