What we witness unfolding in Afghanistan leads to many questions. Did President Biden get it wrong when he withdrew the American troops? What went wrong with the 20 years of training the Afghan army that they just crumbled when the Taliban went on the march? Can we still avert a humanitarian crisis? Will the Taliban be as ruthless and vicious as they were last time they were in power? There’s one question that is more difficult to answer than any of them. Where is God in all this?
At times like this, when we see the potential for huge suffering we want to know why God isn’t doing anything about it. Why doesn’t he just step in and stop the Taliban in their tracks? This is such a difficult question to answer and it’s led many people to doubt the existence of God, or to decide that he’s a cold-hearted ruthless God who has no concern for this world. Nothing could be further from the truth but I understand how people could reach those conclusions if they have not sought out the God of the Bible.
What is man’s greatest enemy? If you live in Afghanistan you may say it’s the Taliban. If you’re a member of the Taliban you may say it’s western interference in your country. We would probably say it’s Covid-19. Eighty years ago we would have said the Nazi party in Germany. They would all be good answers but they’re wrong. Our biggest enemy is one we play down and even joke about. It’s sin. I can almost hear the mocking voices as I write but it’s true. Something we consider irrelevant has been destroying us for thousands of years.
Sin is rebellion against God. It’s an attitude of heart and mind that says to God, “I don’t care what you want, I’m going to do what I want.” Sin began with a simple act of disobedience in the Garden of Eden but it has since affected every one of us. Sin is a part of us and it makes us strive to satisfy our desires even if they conflict with what God wants. Maybe we don’t use the words sin or sinner but we are happy to recognise them as such when displayed by terrorists, rapists, paedophiles and the like. If you tell me you’re not like that I believe you, neither am I. I could never imagine myself doing those things, but the Bible clearly says “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (1) I know that’s true of me. I’ve spoken unkind words designed to hurt, I’ve lied, I’ve criticised, I’ve gossiped, I’ve done so many ‘small’ things that God regards as sin and I can’t deny it. Sin is my greatest enemy because it separates me from God and that has eternal consequences. I don’t believe life ends when I die and decisions I make in this life affect my eternal existence, absolute bliss with God or absolute horror without him. These are the only two choices.
If you’re wondering where is God when the Afghan people are terrified, I’ll tell you. He’s right there with them. My God is a loving, compassionate God who does not want us to suffer and does what he can to alleviate our pain, but he always has his eye on the bigger picture. While quietly being there to help us in our suffering his overall aim is to deal with sin. Then you rightly ask, why hasn’t he done anything about it, and I reply he has but we’re not seeing the full impact of his actions yet. This is what the Bible says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2)
2000 years ago God dealt with sin when his son Jesus was crucified on a cross of wood. That was a once and for all act that has dealt with sin forever, but a patient, loving God is holding back from revealing the full impact of that act upon the world until it is clear to him that no one else will be sorry for their sins and turn to Jesus for salvation. When that happens you can be sure that God will deal with the Taliban, if they still exist, and any like them. He will establish peace on earth through Jesus, who is one day returning to earth to be its rightful king. Jesus is going to deal with the sin of all people unless they come to faith in Jesus before he returns and their sins have already been forgiven.
- Romans 3:23
- 2 Peter 3:9