@Vivi_O2 Your concerns are very appropriate and are really big issues, worthy of a long post. In response, this may be a long-ish answer. I’m not a theologian, just one who tends to be skeptical, and so I’ve kicked this same issue around (as most have) over the years.
We had a similar and very personal experience years ago, wherein it was the perfect opportunity for God to come through in a pinch and save the day. It was true life or death, and He did not do what we hoped and prayed that He would do. Despite that, my wife and I have a very strong faith and maintain a personal relationship with a loving and caring God. Here’s how I’ve dealt with this issue, and these answers may or may not be satisfying to you.
- People have always been evil, this is nothing new. This problem has existed from the very beginning and yet it still surprises us when we’re touched by it. In this world, we will have sorrow.
- God allows for free will, and free means free. That we do what we do and implications follow means that our decisions have significance, both good and bad. If God intervened every time that something was unfair would negate free will. Unfortunately, this means that the entire spectrum of good and evil is ever present.
- Our perspective is earth-based. We do not see things from God’s perspective until we join Him. This can be challenging, because there are truly terrible things that happen that we cannot imagine to be a legitimate means to an end. That we go to a place where there are no more tears, no more pain, no more suffering and no more terror, necessarily means that those all exist where we are now.
- I agree wholeheartedly with Laura, that God’s response (or lack of such) to prayer is not a gift to the good ones because they have earned it (nor a punishment for the bad, either.) I would suggest, rather, that Jesus healings (and those of his followers) were not really about the earthly need, but rather a sign of His greater purpose, which is our salvation. He will heal us (from death) if we have enough faith (in Him)… but that is for eternity, not for now. Jesus raised Lazarus (and many others, too) from the dead, but they all died in the end. That he is worthy and able to overcome death is the point, not that we will be saved from physical death.
- God the Father allowed his own Son to suffer similarly. Jesus considered it to be completely necessary. And thanks to Him for that!!
Many say, and I think that they are probably right about this, that the purpose of prayer is to draw us closer to God, not to draw God closer to us. To bring us to His will, and not Him to ours.
I have written more words about this, which also may or may not be helpful. The big issue may be our assumption that things should be “right” when the injustice of the situation seems to be so clear. Throughout scripture, though, this is not the case. It’s not what we’ve been promised.
I think of Jeremiah 29:11, which is so often quoted … “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” This is true, but it is completely out of context if it isn’t read with the prior verse. Here’s what 10-11 say:
10 “For thus says the Lord, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.
It is wrong to read this passage and think that God’s plans don’t involve our pain, suffering, and sorrow.
They almost always do. After seventy years of exile in Babylon, God promises to fulfill his word to his people. Seventy years is a lifetime for many people, so many would have died in exile before the promise was unveiled. This is very important to understand if we hope to understand this text and this problem. Life here may be very tough… but there is an answer. God will fulfill his promise, after a lifetime of exile, and bring his people back home.
Apologies for the long reply. (EDIT: Somehow I missed Daniel’s reply and so I’ve echoed many things that he said, too.)