2 Fundamental Questions We All Ask In a Season of Pain

Everyone’s pain is different. It’s different not only because every circumstance is unique; it’s different because of the manner in which we experience it. Each of us brings our own, unique perspective to life, and that perspective is based on a variety of circumstances, experiences, and influences. So when we come up against a season of difficulty, it’s always going to be at least a little bit different than someone else’s experience.

Even so, it seems to me that there are still two very broad but very fundamental questions we all have when we suffer. And because suffering forces us to examine what we really believe about the world, about ourselves, and ultimately about God, both of these questions are fundamentally about Him. Here they are:

Question 1: Can God?

Question 2: Will God?

And we find the collision of both those questions in Mark 9. There, we find a hurting father who had brought his son to Jesus to be healed. He, along with his son, had suffered for a long time. There must have been years of struggle; years of financial and marital strain; years of social ostracism because of the dangerous outbursts from his boy. But the father still had one, last hope – he had heard Jesus could help people like him. People like his son. And so he brought the young man to Jesus.

And that’s where we find the collision of both those fundamental questions:

Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”

“From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’? Everything is possible for the one who believes” (Mark 9:21–23).

You see the first question right away. This man had one too many disappointments. One too many false hopes. One too many other shoes drop. He wanted to believe, but he was at a point of such desperation that whatever faith he once had was hanging by a thread. So he asked that first fundamental question, and it took the form of one little word:


  • If you can.
  • If you are able.
  • If you have the power.

The first question is one of ability. It’s one aimed at the power of God. Can God do anything to affect change in my situation? In the world at large? Or in this case, for the man’s son? And the answer to the question of ability is a resounding “yes.” 

Yes, God can. The God who spoke and all was created. The God who brings life from death. The God who holds all things together. Yes, He can. But that still leaves the second question. The second question is not one of ability; it’s one of volition. Yes, God has the ability to do what He wills… but will He?

This answer is not so clear cut, because God always does what He wills. But many times what He wills is not particularly what we desire – at least not in the moment. How do we deal with that second question?

One of the ways – and maybe the most important way – is that we look to the cross. It’s there that we see the will of God in action, and God’s will was that He would give the life of His Son for us. He is so committed to our eternal good that He was willing for Jesus to die in our stead. The cross gives us the assurance that God loves us, and that He is going to do what is right. All the time. Even if it doesn’t seem right to us in the moment.

Can God? Yes, He can.

Will God? Yes, He will – He will always do what is good and right and ultimately what is for our good.

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