The mistake we often make as parents, friends, children, sisters/brothers, husbands or wives, is that we can control the outcome of the situations we find ourselves in. We live in the false belief that some past sin or wrong doing has led us to the suffering we are in, or that we are being ‘taught’ a lesson. We live in the suffering, working constantly trying to change our circumstances. We find ourselves tired, stressed or just plain burnt out because the reality is, we are not in control, we don’t have the resources, we don’t have the strength, we don’t have the fore knowledge necessary to see the big picture.
In my head I know this, in my head I know that my theology around suffering has been on a long road to change, and that there is no rhyme or reason to the things that happen along life’s path. Consequences happen, yes. We sin, and there is a consequence. That’s not the kind of suffering that I am referring too. I am talking about the things that happen that have NOTHING to do with us. The spouse who loses their life partner to terminal cancer, the child who’s parent dies, the friend who walks another friend through troubling times, or the child born with a broken heart. The kind of suffering that we need answers for. The kind of suffering that just seems cruel, the kind of suffering that leaves people asking ‘who is this God who is supposed to love us?’.
In churches today we often hear of only one side of God, the good, the kind, the loving God that makes him easier to digest. What we forget, what we rarely hear anymore is the whole story. The story of the God who hates sin, the God who says we are all born dead, the God who is jealous and wrathful. Not that suffering comes from wrath, that’s not what I am saying. I guess I am just saying that if we are to believe in the one side of God, and not the other, then we are actually worshiping a false God.
Too many times I have seen churches preach about the love of God, the squishy feelings God has for us, the ‘Father’ who would do anything for his children, and then trouble hits and people are left thinking that they have done something wrong, sinned in some grievous way that caused God to hate them. They can’t reconcile the God too often taught to us and the God who would allow suffering to enter our lives.
However, if we see the whole picture of who God really is, we see a God who does indeed hate suffering, who cries at the pain he sees in our lives, but also a God who knows that this will bring him Glory, this will grow us stronger, this will allow us to be drawn closer to his embrace, this will build our relationship with him.
We serve a plastic God, a false God if we believe any less, we hear of one in our churches if they don’t tell the whole story. Serving Christ, following God is nothing more than living in relationship with him, following God and living for him is not about what happens on this earth, but what happens in eternity, who we will see there, who we won’t.
Suffering, in all it’s crappiness is not something we are dealt, but rather it’s the result of the world we live in, the result of the sin we are born into. Why do some people get miraculous healings, and other don’t? Why do some people never seem to know a day of real suffering and others live a life that knows no end of suffering? In many ways only God can know the truth to that question. How we tackle the suffering is what I think is more important. (I could be wrong… this is still a path I am on, and I am by no means at the end of the road yet).
What I know is this. When Josh was born and we began to live with this ache deep inside, we also grew closer to God, we struggled with all of these questions, we looked for the sins of our past that could have been the root cause of this unending suffering, we did our best to ‘learn’ the lesson that we felt God must be teaching us so that we could see Josh whole. These last four years have taught me much. No sin we committed caused Josh’s heart to be born broken, no lesson was needing to be learned. It simply just was. I have learned that even in the midst of the pain we have see so many amazing things happen, not just in Josh’s life, but in the lives of others who are suffering. I have learned that God is the victor and he can bring good out of all pain. His good. Not always ours.
My heart grieves for the suffering in the world, I hear it, I see it, I feel it and I know that He does too, because the reality is that he does LOVE us, he does CARE what happens, he does CRY when he sees us hurt, but he also knows (ALWAYS) the big picture, he can see the circumstance we are in through a different lens.
I didn’t mean to start preaching (that’s Tim’s job… ) this is just me thinking through some things from the week.