Is God kind?
This question is scribbled throughout my journal, appearing at various times in my life when I have wrestled through life’s difficulties and disappointments.
I asked myself that question when the doctors told me I’d never be able to bear my own babies, when I lost my job, when I walked through challenging family situations, and through many smaller, more mundane daily disappointments.
God, you don’t feel kind in this situation.
God, this circumstance feels wildly unfair, and I’m upset.
God, if you don’t come through quickly, I don’t know what I’m going to do.
God, I’ve waited for this blessing.
God, please don’t forget me. Don’t forget to be gracious to me.
THE PSALMISTS’ MOANS
Chances are, many of us have uttered similar prayers to the Lord when we’re in distress. These feeble cries echo the intimate and honest prayers of the psalmists:
“Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me! O LORD, be my helper!” —Psalm 30:10
“I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.” - Psalm 69:3
“Restore us, O God of hosts: let your face shine, that we may be saved!” —Psalm 80:7
“Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress. Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call” —Psalm 102:2
When we’re in our darkest valleys, we often instinctively cry out to the Lord. Our prayers are often mingled with tears as we wonder how the Lord is going to come through for us.
Many people admit that they wrestle with God’s goodness in seasons of trial, but at the core of that admission is something a little more nuanced. What I think people are really questioning in those moments is not necessarily God’s goodness, but God’s kindness.
We know that any good earthly father disciplines their children for their good. Fathers will often allow their children to go through struggles in order to grow their character and teach them lessons they can only learn through difficulty. Many of us tend to view our heavenly father in the same way. Scripture teaches that God uses and redeems our trails, but our hearts often tell us something different. A result of this mindset is that when we’re in the middle of suffering, we grit our teeth, put our head down, and just try to survive, armed with the knowledge that the trial is somehow, ultimately for our good.
This response is neither honoring to the Lord nor helpful for our souls. In fact, it’s a misrepresentation of who God really is. The Bible never commands us to simply get through trials. Instead, we’re invited into a rich relationship with our Father. In moments of trial and sorrow, what our hearts really long for is to know and be reassured of God’s intimate and personal kindness to us.
How do we move from intellectually knowing things about God, to experiencing his kindness even in our darkest moments?
Suffering will come to the Christian. In John 16, Christ tells his disciples that they will face tribulation in this world. In the very same breath, Jesus reminds his disciples to take heart because he has overcome the world.
That promise changes everything. As Christians, we can stake our entire lives on the claim that Christ has overcome the world, and that he promises his steadfast presence to his children. On this side of heaven, there will be circumstances in life that we don’t understand, and that frankly don’t feel kind. But we cannot allow our circumstances to inform us of God’s kindness.
Our feelings and our circumstances are unreliable and ever-changing. God is steady and trustworthy. Deeper than any suffering is God’s promise to be present. And his tender presence is the greatest kindness in the world.
In your singleness, God is present.
In your infertility, God is present.
In your cancer, God is present.
In your job loss, God is present.
In your sexual temptation, God is present.
In your financial struggle, God is present.
In your disappointments, God is present.
In your waiting, God is present.
In death, God is present.
But God isn’t merely present in your trials and temptations. He also offers a rich wealth of resources.
PRAY THE BIBLE
One of the most mind-blowing realities about being a Christian is that we can converse with our heavenly father whenever we want. In Scripture, we are told that we have not because we ask not (Jas. 4:2-3). Ask God to show you his kindness in your difficult moments. Ask for a clearer vision and picture of what he’s doing in the darkness. He might not always answer in the way you’d like—in fact, I’ve found that he rarely pulls back the curtain. But when you engage with him in honest prayers, you will grow in intimacy with him.
Knowing the “who” in your suffering is always more precious than knowing the “why.”
Pray the Bible. One of my favorite ways to pray when I’m questioning God’s kindness is to pray the Psalms:
“Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!” —Psalm 4:1
“Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing.” —Psalm 6:2
“Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.” —Psalm 25:16
“Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me! —Psalm 27:7
The ways of the Lord often feel mysterious to us. But Spurgeon reminds us that “when we cannot trace the hand of God, we can always trust his heart.” When we don’t know the Lord’s purposes or plans, we can trust that he is present, he is faithful, he is in control, he is good, and he is kind.
DON’T GIVE UP
In my most difficult moments, I’ve seen and experienced the kindness of the Lord in many ways—through his presence in prayer, through meditating upon his promises, through Godly friends, and ultimately, in the promise that one day he will wipe away tears from my eyes and suffering will be no more.
Make it your aim to go on a treasure hunt to find God’s kindness. In Scripture, we see examples of God’s common graces, such as sending rain on the just and the unjust (Matt. 5:45). We can see God’s kindness to his chosen people, the Israelites, as he delivers them out of slavery and provides a permanent home for them.
Most importantly, in the New Testament, we see the pinnacle of God’s kindness. He sent his only son to earth as a man to live a sinless life, die a cruel death in our place, and defeat sin and death three days later. He overcame for us, and we can trust that he will be with us every moment of our life.
Because of the great goodness and kindness of the Lord to send his son, we have reason to hope. The next time you wonder if the Lord is kind, fix your eyes upon the cross and remember. Christ is present, Christ has paid the price, and Christ is kind.
May our lives reflect his kindness. May our lips speak of his kindness. May our hearts trust in him.
Chelsea Patterson Sobolik is the author of Longing for Motherhood - Holding onto Hope in the Midst of Childlessness, and serves as a Policy Director for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Previously, she worked in the U.S. House of Representatives on pro-life policies, domestic and international religious freedom, adoption, and foster care issues. She has a B.A. in International Relations from Liberty University, and lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband Michael.