Archives for posts with tag: Truth

Suffering is a universal, shared, human experience. Everyone suffers at different times and to varying degrees – it’s something we can all relate to. Sometimes the pain is so overwhelming and sharp that it leaves us feeling like we can’t move forward with life. Suffering leaves us dazed, scared, weak, depressed, confused. A question that often gets asked in the middle of our trouble, more so when it’s especially poignant: Where is God in this suffering?

So where is He? Where is God in poverty and starvation? Where is He when a baby dies? Why does He seem silent while abuse takes place or addiction overruns and ruins families? Will He not lift a finger to relieve cancer and chronic illness that drags on for year after miserable year?

The evangelical in me wants to point a finger squarely at Satan; to say that God has nothing to do with suffering but to use it for good. And He does use it for good. But when I look at the way God works in the Bible, I see a God who not just allows suffering to happen, but proactively brings it to our lives to accomplish a certain goal. A King who does sometimes choose to inflict pain to bring about His will. So is God not good?

Jonah refuses God’s request and tries to sail away in hiding. God sends a massive storm. Intense fear is suffered by not only Jonah, but by the other people on the boat who had nothing to do with Jonah’s disobedience. Jonah is thrown overboard to save the ship and is swallowed by a whale. He suffers inside – in dank, dark, disgusting fish guts – for three days, praying for another chance. God grants him this prayer and the Ninevites hear Jonah’s message of God’s love and concern for them; hearts are changed, lives are saved in an eternal way.

Joseph grew up being favored by both his father and by God. His brothers resent and hate him; they sell him into slavery. He is falsely accused, stripped of his rights and his freedom, thrown in jail and forgotten about for many years. He always believed he was destined for greatness and didn’t become bitter or outraged in his suffering. He maintains his hope and people notice. He gets released from prison and promoted to second in command of Egypt. He is reunited with his family. Hearts are changed, lives are saved in an eternal way.

Jesus leaves heaven to come TO the suffering. Like a firefighter running in when everyone else is trying to get out. He didn’t pad himself with luxury or even basic comforts. He looks for people who are physically, emotionally and mentally sick and afflicted. He goes to them with the intent of taking on their burdens, makes them his own, is shamed and ridiculed by those same people – ignored or despised by everyone else. He is beaten, tortured and executed on a cross. Hearts are changed, lives are saved in an eternal way.

sufferingSuffering is everywhere and it’s a part of life. But not in a vague “everything happens for a reason” kind of way where we don’t seek to assume what is happening through the pain. Suffering is exactly the opposite. It is very purposeful, intentional, and anything but vague. God is in the suffering. Right there in the middle. He’s always working for our good, but that does not mean He’s always working for our comfort or relief.

When we are buried in grief and sadness – and let’s not dismiss how deep and dark our pain can be – we feel like what we’re going through is the worst suffering we could encounter. I think this is where we can misunderstand God and His love. What we believe is the worst suffering (death, cancer, affliction, poverty, crisis, etc) is actually not the worst suffering. Separation from God is the worst suffering. Eternal separation.Not whatever is happening here and now, no matter how dark. God can use our suffering here on earth to spare us eternal suffering. And, as we see in the examples above, sometimes our suffering is the medium through which God changes others’ hearts and saves lives.

Think about one of your dark times. When you came out the other end, you were not the same person. In the toughest times, we either bend and break to God’s will and develop an insight and maturity unmatched to that of our former self or we dig our heels in and put up walls. But we do not stay the same. We’ve seen too much; we’ve become aware of our limits and powerlessness in times of our greatest desperation. Hopefully it leads us to a knowledge of our need for a Savior.

If we believe that our earthly suffering, which is surely temporary even if it is long-lived, can bring about relief from eternal suffering, can we manage our pain better in our darkness? Can we glean some hope in knowing that the pain will not last forever? Will we allow our hearts to be necessarily broken and softened or will we become more proud and hardened? Are we willing to suffer for the sake of someone else’s life beyond this earth?

I have borne witness on several occasions to God’s people handling immense and extreme suffering with grace, truth and a light that spreads hope and points to the Lord. All suffering – all things in life – are meant to bring glory to God. When we seek and proclaim God’s glory through suffering or by the testimonies of those who suffer, we are doing what God wants us to with pain. Sometimes, our pain isn’t even about us. Can we still proclaim God’s goodness when intense sorrow enters our lives for the purpose of impacting someone else’s life?

One thing I am convinced of: We must not let each other suffer alone. Every time I see God glorified through life’s pains, I also see God’s people standing alongside those who are suffering. Through prayer and fasting, in bringing meals and incidentals, with time spent and relationships strengthened. And how God is glorified in those acts alone!

Suffering will happen in your life. What will you do with it? Will your question be, “Where is God in this suffering?” or will you have some degree of expectancy, “Whose heart and life will be changed through this pain?” Because God is certainly at work; we need eyes to see a bigger picture, humility to endure without getting lost in self, and devotion to a God who is always working for our good even with pain in the process.

My kids were being pretty annoying in the car last week. Cortland has figured out Harper’s annoyance triggers, not that Harper hides them super well, but, in no time at all, Cort has become an expert in exploiting her sister’s weaknesses. Here is how it went: We were driving home from gymnastics and Cortland started saying, “I’m five! I’m five!”. Harper, who actually is five, became quickly agitated and started yelling, “You’re not five! You’re TWO! YOU’RE TWO!!” As any other parent can attest, Harper’s tantrum reaction only served to encourage Cortland’s insistence of being five. “MOM! Are you listening to her? She’s saying she’s five! She’s NOT five! She’s NOT! She’s two! She’s saying she’s FIVE!” Tears. Balled up fists. Screaming. Kicking my seat in frustration.

That's right. These angels.   Photo by Brighten Photography

That’s right. These angels.
Photo by Brighten Photography

I could not believe how ridiculous the scene had become. I talked Harper down eventually and somehow was able to reason with her. We talked about how I am the final authority on how old Cortland is. I was there when she started being a person. She wouldn’t be here without me. Just because Cortland says she’s five doesn’t make her five. She is completely, totally, and helplessly obligated to the same system of time and counting and aging that we are all tied to. She doesn’t get to skip ahead or fall behind. Maybe she wants to be five, but she is two. Maybe she says she is five, but she is two. Maybe she even really believes she is five. Know what? She’s still two. I am the final authority on this topic. I know the real truth, despite what anybody says. So, Harper, trust that what is truth will continue to be.

The whole conversation stuck in my thoughts later for quite some time. I noted that her behavior is not far from lots of adults I know, at times even me. We throw (super annoying) adult sized tantrums (typically on social media) when our feathers get ruffled over something another mere man says or decides. We who are in Christ should know by now that God is our final authority. He knows the truth. He was there when this all started and we wouldn’t be here without him. A man saying he’s a woman does not make him a woman. Legislation going into effect governs the law of the land; it does not govern the law written on our hearts. We look ridiculous with balled up fists, screaming, red-faced, kicking the back of God’s seat, “Did you hear that?! Do you hear what they’re saying?? It’s not true! It’s NOT TRUE!”

Maybe you’re not a tantrum thrower (and thank you), but you feel anxiety mounting when you hear unsettling news, whether it’s national news or a disagreeable set of views from someone close to you. Don’t stop after the first verse of John 14, but that’s what I’ll include right here. From Jesus: “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me.” I have to include verses 16 and 17 because they’re so interesting: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.” My takeaway here? If I’m getting all up in arms or letting worry nag at me and trouble my heart, I’m showing a lack of faith in God’s sovereignty and a fundamental distrust that Jesus is who he says he is.

Once more: We who are in Christ should know by now that God is our final authority. Not the President. Not the Courts. Not strangers, not friends, not family, not even our emotions with all their twists and turns. If you don’t know what’s real and what’s not, ask the One who is Truth to reveal it to you. You will waste a lot of time finding out the Truth if you’re sifting through talk shows and blogs and articles and newsfeeds. Just go straight to the source. God knows the real truth, despite what anybody else says. So, friends, trust that what has always been truth, is yet truth, and will continue to be.