The ministry paper in my mailbox detailed a young black girl and her brother’s gruesome attack. After wickedness was forced on her and her brother, her brother was killed before her. Then after having all her limbs cut away from her body by her attackers, she was left alone in a field to die.
To have died would have been a mercy. But to live? How could a loving God have allowed this in the first place, much less continue her agony with full memory and the severest handicap?
I wrestled with this for many years. I couldn’t speak of it but to God. I only knew that what had happened should never have happened to anyone. I held this against God for some time, recognizing of course, that this was not just her story. It was a story that is played all over the ages. In other areas of personal experience, I had no answers for the pain.
As I said in the last post, from childhood I suspended things I didn’t understand about God until I knew more and until God Himself gave understanding. When reckoning between my feeble brain and the Creator’s, it is mine that needs adjusting. I am the one without all the pieces of the puzzle. But this was too hard to suspend. It crippled my faith. The realization sunk in that there are no guarantees in life; being a Christian is no guarantee against the wickedness of the world.
While this does fit into the truth of the Bible–God has always warned us this was so–I knew I could not apologetically defend the gospel if I didn’t understand how it applied here. Where was God? What kind of comfort and security does Christ give, if not protection from evil?”
Whom have I in heaven but you?
Certainly, the world, with all its religions and philosophies, has no satisfying answers for this. My only recourse has been to depend on the Word of God. I leaned in to the scriptures to explain and also to give comfort.
I studied the life of Job. When Job suffered such repeated and chronic, irreversible sorrows, he went directly to God with his court case. He put God in the dock, as C.S. Lewis would say. And God never did answer the “Why?”.
God did, however, show him the context. “Are you the creator of the world? Can you give reasons for the snow? Did you make the heavens? Tell me, oh you who know so much that you can stand in my presence and challenge me to give an account!”
God’s sarcasm was not unkind. He was lifting Job’s heart and mind, and my own, to a higher truth. Job’s life was nestled safely in the hands of an all-knowing, all-wise Creator in a way that transcends temporal, earthly suffering. There’s more to this life than this life! Job’s arguments against God were overtaken by awe and wonder. He worshipped!
God’s Word, a Solace in time of need
This may not help you who are reading this right now. There is more to this story that speaks into your suffering (see Further Resources), but it helped me then.
First, my fears do not disturb God, he already knows. He does not punish me for being fearful, he asks me to face Him with my fears and He teaches me out of them. God corrects my short-sightedness in love and kindness.
Second, as much as it seems otherwise, God is still in Sovereign, loving control; he has a longer tether than what makes me comfortable, but his tether is still there for my safekeeping. I suffer, but I am not destroyed by it (2 Corinthians 4:5-18).
Third, I will be restored. God does not desire my destruction (Lamentations 3:31-33), but has paid the highest price in Christ Jesus to win me back from the grip of the evil one. My spirit was enslaved to my nature of sin, but Christ’s sacrifice has set me free (John 8:34; Hebrews 2:14; Romans 6:18). My body may suffer here on earth, but my spirit is free. I can choose love and not hatred, I can choose righteousness and not be a slave to wickedness, and I can choose to forgive and not be a victim of bitterness and regret. Both body and soul will one day be transformed in the twinkling of an eye and we shall see Him as he is and there will be no more death or pain or suffering (1 Corinthians 15:51-58 ). Regardless of all that the evil one can accomplish here on earth, we have a beautiful future with God, beginning now.
No easy answers; still…
This is not an easy answer. Suffering is suffering and no one can toss off their own or anyone else’s suffering lightly. What does one do in the midst of suffering?
The one thing Job did not do was to run away from God when he questioned. If he had run away from God instead of approaching him, he would never have come to know God in this larger, encompassing way. He would still be in his anger, bitterness, and vengefulness. He would have never forgiven those “good friends” who counseled out of their own understanding.
In the end, Job was never chastised by God for coming to Him with his fears and anxieties, questions and even anger. God met him there. God patiently corrected Job’s misguided thinking to look to the bigger picture.
Knowing that Job could not see all the scope of eternity, God patiently guided Job to look to the things he already knows about God’s character; to trust in His character when there is nothing else in this tangible world to hold on to.
Where did Job learn about God’s character? He had the scriptures, such as they were at the time of Job’s life. Scripture is recorded in three places: a) the written word of God, b) the record of the created world, and c) the witness of the Holy Spirit’s teaching and convicting power in one’s own heart and mind. That is what Gimel is all about. The psalmist holds to what God has said when everything else seems like dry sand filtering though the fingers.
This is Part I of a two-part post. Please read on for Part II and for very important FURTHER RESOURCES…
© July 25, 2018 by readpsalm119.com; posted Oct 9, 2018.
Her country origins had been long since forgotten by me, swamped by the emotional impact of her story
I have always been and still am a student of history of all ages and all cultures.
All of 1 Corinthians 15 is a discussion of the Resurrection and how Christ’s Resurrection makes a difference for our present suffering and our future glory. I recommend reading this full passage.
FURTHER RESOURCE: (NIV, quoted from Bible Gateway at biblegateway.com)
Psalm 73 The entire chapter. Select verses quoted below:
21When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,
22 I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.
23 Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
27 Those who are far from you will perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
28 But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.