How do I best respond when people ask why bad things happen and how a loving God could allow such hurt and suffering?
Melissa, from Wisconsin
Many questions like these arise in a Q Place. Your job as a facilitator is not to be the answer person. I hope this is good news to you!
As a matter of fact, an immediate, definitive answer will probably be unsatisfying and maybe even irritating to the person who asked the question—as if you are devaluing a difficult and complex question.
So, what is a good way to respond? Here are some ideas:
- A few seconds of quiet would be appropriate, showing that you’re listening and absorbing the impact and gravity of the question. In that moment, silently ask God to guide your response.
- Affirm the question. You can say something like this: “I think you just expressed really well a struggle that many people have,” or “I feel honored that you would share that difficult question with us.”
- Gently try to see the reason behind the question. “A lot of people wrestle with that question, but for you, why is it an important one?” (This may help you discover if the question is connected to a personal circumstance in their lives.)
- If the question does arise from a personal circumstance, then respond compassionately to what was shared. (If an impersonal reason is given initially, there still may be a deeper reason, but don’t push anyone to open up more than they are willing to do at that time.)
- Communicate that it’s unlikely you would be able to give an immediate answer that is likely to be satisfying. If you sense it’s appropriate, ask if the group would be willing to explore that question. Offer to look for a good resource to guide your discussions.
Q Place has materials that help groups process tough questions like these. After you log into our website, see the 7 Big Questions videos (produced by Explore God) or our Bible Conversation Cards, or check out some resources for tough questions in the Q Place store.
One woman told me that after attending a Q Place, her initial questions for God were not fully answered, but that didn’t bother her anymore. She was relieved to be able to discuss her issues and find God’s (and the group’s) comfort and support. Allowing a person a safe place to discuss heartfelt queries can be deeply healing, even if a specific question is not answered. The important thing is for you to provide a place where people can ask their questions and process them with others.
Q Place facilitators are trained to listen much more than they talk, to ask great questions, and to help everyone process their thoughts about God and the Bible together. In this atmosphere, everyone is respected, valued, and heard, so they can actively explore their questions without judgment. Everyone is learning together. This kind of inductive or discovery learning is how many people learn best.
Some of our questions won’t be answered this side of heaven, but as people in your group grow in their understanding of God, you can trust that God himself will meet them in the questions and in the messiness of life.