Answers about Suffering
In our last blog we looked at the dilemma we face when we suffer. Suffering demands that we choose between two apparently opposing truths about the nature of God. Logic tells us that God cannot be both all-powerful and all loving if he doesn’t intervene to stop our suffering. We turned to the story of Job for the answer to this conundrum.
The only answer Job had was to find the presence of God. He knows that if he can just come into God’s presence his questions will be answered and he will be vindicated.
Job 23:3-5 “If only I knew where to find him; if only I could go to his dwelling! I would state my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments. I would find out what he would answer me and consider what he would say.”
Asaph comes to the same conclusion in Psalm 73 where he is overcome by the success of the evil all around him.
Vs 2-5 “But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills.”
Vs 16-18 “When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God [came into God’s presence]; then I understood their final destiny. Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin.”
Finally, he comes to one of the most profound truths in the Bible and the place of true peace:
Vs.25 “Whom have I in heaven but you? And being with you, I desire nothing on earth”
Job and Asaph are saying the same thing: the answer to our deepest questions and doubts is often not a propositional truth but a presence. In the presence of God, the question is no longer of concern; the doubt is no longer relevant.
The key to understanding God’s pleasure with Job and displeasure with his friends is not that Job’s arguments or statements about God were truer than his friends. The difference between them was that his friends could only see God as the keeper of a religious system in which good is rewarded and evil punished. Job could not come to an acceptable answer within that religious system. There was no good answer, but he looked beyond all of that to the simple answer of coming into the presence of God. Religion requires answers; relationship needs only the presence of the Father.
In the middle of suffering we have no answer to the question, “why is this happening to me?” Because there is no answer to the question, it leaves us hopeless. If we will change the question to a “what” question rather than a “why” question we will find meaning in the midst of our suffering. The question becomes, “Father, what are you trying to teach me in the middle of this suffering?” This is a question He will always answer. Once we know what he is trying to build into us in our crisis we begin to see His hand at work. We find a purpose in our suffering and it becomes a lesson rather than meaningless pain. Change your “why” to a “what”.
Beyond finding some redeeming purpose for our suffering, our deepest need is to find our Father in the midst of our suffering. His presence with us in our suffering is the comfort we need to survive. Satan would have us believe that God is untouched by our suffering. That he is incapable of sharing it with us. That He does not feel what we feel. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Your Father God lives within you and feels every emotion you feel while you are feeling it! He shares your suffering with you.
Year ago, I sat with a young mother in the hospital after her baby was born dead. We were sitting on chairs side by side. Her arm was resting on the arm rest of her chair. She was sobbing and asking me why a loving God would allow her baby to die. I had no answer to her question and I refused to dismiss her pain with some sort of “pat” answer.
As I was sharing her pain I happened to look at her arm. I had one of the few open-eyed visions I have ever had. I saw small drops of what appeared to be water falling onto her arm. I realized they were tears, but they were not hers or mine. God spoke to me and said, “I am crying for her pain”.
Jesus did just that when He found Lazarus dead in his tomb. Jesus wept. What a strange thing to do minutes before solving the sister’s pain by raising Lazarus from the dead. He could have simply said, “Stop crying, I am now going to raise your brother from the dead!”
Instead, Jesus chose to enter their suffering with them!
What an amazing God we have who chooses to share our suffering with us.
You are never alone in your suffering while you wait for your prayer to be answered.
He is the God who can be found in suffering.