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A stumbling block for Christians, atheists, and agnostics is the question of how and if God acts in the affairs of humans. For some Christians, God is a bandage to fix every ill. They assume that passages like Matthew 7:7, which says, “Ask, and it will be given you … ” is a credit card where God fulfills every request. When God does not answer a sincere needed request, people start to doubt God. For example, atheists point to the horrors of the war in Ukraine continuing despite millions of people begging God to stop it. They say that is clear proof that God does not exist. One of the main atheist arguments to support their denial of God's existence is the question of human suffering and why God would allow it.
A major answer to the question of suffering is understanding how God acts and why. The Bible makes it clear that a war between good and evil is going on. If God forced his will by destroying evil, that would only prove he is a more powerful being. It would not prove that good is superior to evil in every way. The book of Job, the temptation of Christ by Satan, the crucifixion and resurrection, and the entire book of Revelation make it clear that the war continues and that humans are the vehicles through which this war is being waged. The atheist response is to claim that evil does not exist, which most people cannot accept.
With the war between good and evil in mind, what is the purpose of prayer and miracles? A study of the miracles of Jesus reveals that they always had a purpose. Jesus dealt with only a small percentage of the myriad of needs that existed, but each miracle reached a different audience and addressed a different human need. In the early church, miracles were a tool to identify who spoke for God and who was promoting fake news. There were many charlatans in the first century, just as there are today (see Acts 8:9–11, 18–19; 19:13–16). Until the Bible was available as a testimony to the gospel, there was no easy way to tell who spoke for God and who was a con artist. The ability to perform miracles solved this issue.
Today, we have those who desire miracles to serve their own selfish purpose. They do not view the Bible as the one trustworthy source of information from God. They ignore passages like 2 Timothy 3:16–17 that clearly tell us that we can obtain completeness (perfection) by following God's Word. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul points out that miraculous abilities would not be needed when “that which is complete comes” (1 Corinthians 13;10). The context and the passage in 2 Timothy indicate that this refers to God's Word. We no longer need a miracle of raising someone from the dead to prove that a person is speaking for God. We have God's Word, the Bible. Miracles of the kind performed by Jesus and the apostles simply do not happen today because they are no longer needed. But, God can do anything he wants, and asking for a merciful solution to a situation is not wrong. However, denying God's existence because he does not do what we ask is an unfortunate action.
So does God act today, or did he just wind up the universe and let it go, leaving us on our own? The Bible gives examples of situations where God acted, not by sending a miracle to solve the problem, but by managing human affairs to reach the desired objective. For example, when Jesus was crucified, why did he not use “twelve legions of angels” (Matthew 26:53) and blast his opponents into oblivion? He said he could do that, but when Peter pulled out a sword and cut off the ear of the high priest's servant, Jesus condemned that action and healed the man's ear.
In Genesis 37–45, we see the story of Joseph, who, due to human bad judgment, was thrown in a pit and sold into slavery by his brothers. Joseph eventually had the opportunity to get even with his brothers for doing that horrible thing. Joseph was in a position to have them put to death, or at least put in prison. Instead, in Genesis 45:4–5, we see Joseph understanding how God works when he tells his cowering brothers, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you … to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.” God did not force Joseph's brothers to do what they did but used their actions to accomplish his will.
Romans 8:28 tells us that “all things work together for good to those who love God.” God is alive and well on planet Earth today and works through us to accomplish his purpose. Likewise, Philippians 4:6–7 tells us, “Do not worry about anything, but under all circumstances, by prayer and entreaty joined with thanksgiving make your requests known to God and the peace of God which is deeper than all knowledge shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.” Notice that this passage does not promise a physical answer to our requests. Instead, God promised to give us peace and guard our hearts and thoughts. Several times in my life, I have witnessed the death of someone I loved, and in virtually every case, for them to leave this “vale of tears” and be free of the pain and suffering was a great blessing.
Things have happened in my life that I cannot attribute to luck or chance. I praise God for those things and rejoice that God has blessed me with purpose and direction in my long life. I have not always enjoyed the things that have happened, but I have seen good come from each incident. The providence of God has blessed me, and the Bible has been the only thing I could count on 100% of the time. My faith has grown because of my study of God's Word and its truth. It has given me freedom from human scams and distortion. I have learned not to trust humans no matter how many degrees they have behind their name or how eloquently they can speak. Instead, I rely on the Bible to guide my life's actions and purpose. Truly, “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105).
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Scripture links/references are from BibleGateway.com. Unhighlighted scriptures can be looked up at their website.