Girl (with cancer) meets boy (with cancer). The two fall in love, head off to Amsterdam to meet their favorite author (who is a cranky drunk), and you have the basic plot for The Fault in Our Stars, a best selling book , and now a major motion picture.
What’s encouraging about this story is that it doesn’t need to rely on shimmering vampires or post-apocalyptic eye candy to draw the audience into its world. Nope, this is pure and simple “when bad things happen to good people” and the myriad of philosophical rivers and streams that flow from the headwaters of life’s unexpected tragedies.
The title, The Fault in Our Stars, comes from a quote in Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar. Ironically, the quote is actually expressing the polar opposite viewpoint from the sentiment of the book and movie.
“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”
—Julius Caesar (I, ii, 140-141)
Cassius’ point is that fate is not what drives the human condition; rather it is our own weaknesses. But this modern day story explores a very different viewpoint, namely that the fault is indeed “in the stars” – that is to say that sometimes, bad things happen through no fault of our own.
In this case, it is cancer in the life of two teenagers – but we all know that at this moment in every corner of the planet, evil and tragedy color the landscape of life for no obvious reasons. In those excruciating circumstances, it is normal to wrestle with the question of “why?” And many times we are tempted to answer that difficulty with a new title: “The Fault in Our God.”
After all, God is “in charge,” right? Couldn’t He simply put an end to all the horrific and wicked things we are bombarded with on a regular basis?
But that’s not really the solution, is it? The vast majority of evil and tragedy are the result of our own choices, the choices of others, or THE choice that our first parents made in the Garden of Eden. What’s worse is that when we point the finger at God, we miss the whole point of suffering in the first place!
And what is that point? I believe Jesus Christ offers the best explanation in the universe: “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Here’s another version of this truth: “In this world you will have troubles. But be brave! I have defeated the world!”
Jesus offers a radically different approach to processing the suffering that happens in the world – and in our lives, as well. When we ask “is the fault in the stars (or God)?”, we are asking the wrong question. We are imperfect beings with inadequate understanding, so Jesus drives us a different direction to this question: “How will God redeem this evil?”
In other words, what kind of good will be brought out of this tragedy? How will our Lord rework the reality of suffering into ultimate redemption? We know that Jesus has overcome and conquered the world –including all its tragedy and suffering –s o we can be confident that at some point, God will bring good out of evil.
When you think about it, this is best answer I have ever encountered in the face of misfortune and heartache. Why?
Because Eastern religions counsel you to avoid or deny suffering.
Atheism advises that you endure suffering because it is your destiny.
But Jesus says, “Embrace it! Because I will redeem it!”
That’s what He did for us when He endured the greatest agony possible on the cross of Calvary. And through that darkest of all events, He purchased salvation and ultimate healing for all humankind!
My friend, I may not know you, but I am certain that you have (or are) experiencing difficulty. It is in those times that we must avoid the futile pursuit of “solving” the problem of evil. Jesus already did that for us, so we can “take heart” in the fact that He will bring good out of the bad things that happen.
In suffering, relationships are often healed – that’s good!
In suffering, communities come together and we see the best in people – that’s good!
In suffering, priorities and values are realigned to what is truly important – THE Cause of Christ – and that’s good!
And most importantly, in suffering, people turn to Jesus for salvation – and that’s as good as it gets!
The fault may or may not be “in the stars,” but one thing is for sure…
The answer is in Jesus Christ!
Flashpoint: Ignite Into Action
This week, seek out people who are suffering and listen to their pain. Pray for opportunities to share the amazing hope found in our suffering Savior, Jesus, who has experienced, overcome and conquered evil and suffering. Part of THE Cause of Christ is helping those in distress discover that Jesus understands and is in the business of redeeming our suffering.
Accelerant: Fuel for THE Cause
Pray: Jesus, thank You that You have overcome the world. Help us to be courageous and share Your hope and healing through the message of the gospel with those who are suffering.
Read: Romans 8:28. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Get: Lifted. Perhaps you or your friends have seen pain and suffering up close and personal. For anyone who’s ever struggled with the tough stuff of life, Katie Payne’s story of overcoming a painful past will encourage you to embrace a different future—the future God wants for you.
As a child, Katie Payne experienced the trauma of abuse. For years she carried the shame and pain in isolated silence—self-injuring and sliding deeper and deeper into a pit of despair. Then one eventful night, she discovered God’s deep, unconditional love for her. Lifted is a remarkable story of hope overcoming pain and despair. Of Jesus’ redeeming the suffering.
Discussion Guide for Leaders
Big Idea: Trying to solve the problem of evil is a futile pursuit. Instead, we should focus on how Jesus will redeem all suffering, because He has conquered the world.
Key Scripture: John 16:33
- How would you answer someone who asked you why God allows bad things to happen?
- How have you experienced the redeeming power of Jesus in your life?
- In what specific ways can you help your friends who are suffering?
- How can you apply this Soul Fuel to THE Cause?