So, what of suffering?

By Krystal Woods

I don’t know about you but in my life there are areas where deep, deep wells of sadness reside. Places that can, at times, cause me to wail and sob in throws of great anguish. Places that still sting sharply with shock and bewilderment. The kind of deep sadness that calls to me, often in the dark of night with a guttural response of, “I can’t believe that happened” followed by a gasp of breath escaping my open mouth. Somethings, I am just not ok with.

I’m not ok with how they turned out or that they happened at all. If I had my own way I would change it or keep it from happening. But I can’t and therefore I can’t stay in this place my whole life, it wouldn’t be much of a life really. I truly believe that I, and you too, can have peace no matter what occurred. And I’m not talking about a drug or alcohol induced haze of peace (if there is such a thing). Or a life so frantic and busy that my mind is numb to anything but “doing” to keep me from “dealing”. I’m talking about real peace from a real person who displayed to me and you and the whole world how to be honest about not being ok. His name is Jesus.

In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus so clearly and powerfully shows us all how to handle not being ok with what is happening. He tells his disciples that his soul is deeply grieved to the point of death (Mark 14:34). On the ground he prays while sweating drops of blood in great physical and emotional torment. The cross is before him and he doesn’t want to go. In this moment he is broadcasting his humanity in all its bloody beauty. Father, if there is any other way… please, there has to be another way… take this cup from me. (Mark 14:35; Luke 22:42) I don’t believe for one minute that his Father told him to buck up, get yourself together, or remember, this is what you came to do. Not for one minute do I believe that in his full lament to his Father he was brushed off or scolded! Scripture tells us that Jesus only does what he sees his Father doing (John 5:19) so I believe his Father wept with his Son in that garden. (I treasured pondering these verses through a teaching by Melissa Helser, found on YouTube with the title: Engaging Hope in Seasons of Disappointment). Jesus grounds his sorrow in prayer to his Father and in doing so was infused with strength and grace to say, “Not my will, but your will.” (Mark 14:36) If that posture of kneeling and crying out to God in his suffering is good enough for Jesus, well then, it is certainly good enough for me. You and I would be wise to process our grief and suffering the same way.

Sometimes I think we believe that to have peace we have to be ok with something. That can really hang us up and keep up from moving forward with our lives. It’s ok to not be ok with what God has allowed in your life. Job is a great example of someone who questioned God, honestly and out of intense heartbreak. My goodness, he lost all of his children, possessions and his health! He questioned and God was audience to it, and catch this: God responded to him. What a God we have that he entertains such finite creatures that know so very little, yet believe they can accurately judge a situation. Folks, you may not like me telling you this, but you know nothing. We were not there before time or when the universe was made. We did not place the order of all things into practice. We cannot instruct God on matters that only he can truly understand and yet, he is with us in our questioning and our suffering. Job is left with his hand over his mouth and the truth of his insignificance on his lips (Job 40:4). God is not harsh with him but he is truthful to him and gives Job a reminder of something that is so important for us all and that is, our position.

We are finite, fragile, near-sighted, mouthy beings. He is all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present. Nothing is hidden from him and nothing can stop him from accomplishing his purposes and his plans. It is when we suffer that we must study and know the character of God the clearest. Never is there a greater time to understand who he really is then when we are drowning in pain and grief. Our shout must be, “I have to know who you are, God!”

If you want a really good picture of what God is like, look at Jesus in the Gospels. He is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being (Hebrews 1:3). When Jesus encountered suffering while he was walking the earth he didn’t run from it. Rather, he walked right into it. He met people exactly where they were and healed, ministered, and wept with them. This is our God, this is his character, and this is where we meet peace in our suffering and pain. Face to face, on the ground, with our savior who holds us as we weep and heals and binds our hearts as only he can. He isn’t callous; he doesn’t turn a cold shoulder. He gets in the dirt with us, he is not afraid of your emotional pain or outburst. In fact, he wants you to give it to him and in exchange he will give the grace and peace needed to walk out and live!

We may want to lay down and die in our grief, that is so natural and understandable but we must fight our way back. What I propose is that we remember our position in the universe, the grand plan. What is most critical about position is that we acknowledge that he is creator and preserver of all things, including us, and we are not. We have to be able to say, “He could have stopped it! And yet, he didn’t. And he knows so much more than I do.” We must remember our place in it all and while that doesn’t change what happened, it does change how you and I view what happened. And it is so vital to recount that this is not all there is. This isn’t it, there is an after this that is coming and all will be made right and whole and as it should be. Suffering is a guarantee, like breathing and death. It is going to happen. Our response to it, what we learn from it, and how we walk through it and out of it is what we are responsible for. Let’s continue to grow in suffering and pain. Let’s see beyond into the eternal and know that there is more, it is not over, it will be right in the end.

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