Ahead of the New Year, famed evangelist Billy Graham offered words of encouragement for those who endured a difficult 2017 and said that while God allows hard times to come, He provides eternal hope through His son.
In an advice column published this week by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, a reader asked the 99-year-old Baptist pastor to explain why God seemed so absent throughout the last year.
"I can't wait for this year to end. It's just been one problem after another-family sickness, a couple of deaths, financial issues, you name it. I begged God to solve them, but nothing happened. Where was God in all this?"
Graham first explained that the most important thing to remember is that "God knew what was going on in your life, and He deeply cared about you, even if it didn't seem like it at the time."
"In the midst of a terrible time for God's people, the prophet Jeremiah could still say, 'His compassions never fail' (Lamentations 3:22)," he said.
The pastor said he wished he knew why God allows hard times to come to us -- but admitted he doesn't fully understand.
"What I do know is that evil is real, and sometimes it seems to gain the upper hand, at least for a time," he said. "I also know that God knows all about evil and suffering, for His only Son, Jesus Christ, endured the suffering and death of the cross. But beyond the cross was the empty tomb, and because of Christ's resurrection, you and I can have hope-both now and forever."
When hard times come we can do one of two things, Graham said.
"We can either become bitter and turn against God, or we can turn in faith to Him, and find in Him the strength and hope we need," he contended. "Which will it be for you?"
As we anticipate 2018, Graham encouraged readers to turn to Jesus Christ.
"Ask him to come into your life," he advised. "Then ask Him to give you His strength and wisdom as you face life's challenges. Remember: When we know Christ, nothing 'will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord' (Romans 8:39)."
Graham, who currently resides in Montreat, North Carolina, this year ranks among the Gallup Poll's annual list of most-admired men for a record 61st time. This year, he placed fourth behind Obama, Trump and Pope Francis.
BGEA notes that Graham has been among the top 10 most admired men every year since 1963 (except 1976 when the survey didn't happen). While he has never placed first (a spot usually reserved for U.S. presidents), he has been on the list more times than anyone else.