Yesterday was one of those days. You know, the ones that bear weight where you can barely see the end of that day, and must actively repeat God’s promise in your head: “His mercies are new everyday.” But even in those moments when you remind yourself of God’s goodness, it can be hard to actually see and believe it. That’s when we must ask God to transfer head knowledge to our hearts. There’s a huge difference in the two. You can know something and you can know something. Trust doesn’t come until we truly know and believe that promise in our hearts. Yesterday, I couldn’t just make myself believe in God’s promise that He is good and does good. I had to first of all repent of failing to believe He has a purpose for all things- even the sucky things. And I had to ask him to help my unbelief. It’s okay to confess to God that we find ourselves doubting His promises. In fact, he encourages honesty and allows it because Jesus died even for our very doubt on the cross. I wish I could tell you it’s easy for me (and every other believer) to believe what God says to be true in all circumstances, but it is by God’s grace that our eyes are opened to truth. It would probably help if I told you my indirect experience with suffering and burdensome heart this past week. Just to name some subjects that have occurred: a miscarriage, another shooting on Mother’s Day, notice that my friend’s brother passed away, and yesterday, witnessing one of the most tragic situations I’ve ever come across in my 20 years of life- an old man who was in a walker was with his wife, walked out of the restaurant we were at and took a crucial fall onto the sidewalk, busted his head and was knocked unconscious. The ambulance came, performed CPR and shocked him a few times but it didn’t look good at all and we are unsure if he made it. It was so devastating to watch his wife stand there, helpless and crying. In a moment, her husband could be gone. The odd thing about this situation is that when he and his wife walked in, I looked to my friend and said, “Man, I feel bad for people like that” because he had a breathing thing through his nose (clearly I’m not cut out for the medical field since I don’t know what it’s technical term is). Then, when he and his wife walked out as we were still sitting there, his wife had trouble helping him get through the door and I honestly thought in my head to get up and help them out, but I didn’t. I began to play “what if’s” and “what could have been’s” over and over, but I was graciously reminded that I cannot be in control. God is in control. He is sovereign, and for some reason that I don’t know, he allowed it to happen. I was also reminded that God holds our lives together. He literally allows us to move and breathe. I take that for granted so often. To what seemed like the longest day in years,10 tornadoes touched down in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area that same day, and 6 people lost their lives. Yesterday was a heavy one to take in.
I’ve never really experienced death of a close loved one (other than my dear Uncle), but I have felt so burdened these past few days and overwhelmed by the inevitability of death and suffering. I’ve had to be careful of attaching these dreadful circumstances to the character of God. That is a trigger that Satan gladly likes to pull, but God, in every way is faithful and perfect in his love and holiness. He cannot partake in evil because his very essence is love. He is glorious. I so often must pray: “God forgive me for doubting Your goodness in these times, for allowing my thoughts to consume me and to vent to others before approaching You. God forgive me for taking Your place and assuming that life is simply there waiting for me and for others around me each day. No, You provide. You alone. You have given and you have taken away. You have opened my eyes to the gift of life; to Your sovereignty and to the fact that You alone are in control. I so easily become overtaken by a burdened heart to the point of tears. But in that, I am called to press into You, to struggle well, and to learn to be more satisfied with You and less satisfied with this world and its fleeting moments.”
There is a purpose for suffering as hard as it is to see in the midst of it. It’s always hard to have words for someone who is immensely crippled by grief at the time. However, it’s easy to answer with the right Christian “cookie-cutter” answers, but that doesn’t cause their hurt or pain to disappear. Sometimes we just don’t have answers and all we can do is weep and mourn with those who find themselves in that season. As I’m writing this, I honestly have no clue why certain things happen. I would choose not to suffer if I could, but if suffering means I get more of Jesus in the end, that is the end goal. Jesus sympathizes with our suffering (Hebrews 4:15). We are not alone in it. He actually suffered on our behalf, yet was without sin. Therefore, if we get to taste a glimpse of what He has gone through, and in that, fall more deeply in love with him, then I say it’s worth it. Suffering should lead us to Jesus–it should prompt our hearts to thank Him for what He has done, and to surrender our lives to His because He has conquered death. Hebrews 2:9-11 says: “But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.” Christ suffered and tasted death for everyone so that we will no longer have to experience death (or sin). God is making all things new through the blood of Jesus. We who believe in Christ as our Savior, are being made perfect through suffering as well. God is redeeming all things to their right place. He is in the process of repurchasing what has been lost due to the fall of man. This is a reality. One day there will be no more tears, no more sorrow, no more phone calls that say a loved one has passed, no more cancer, and no more evil. If I’ve learned one thing about suffering, it has caused me to long for the day that will approach when Christ returns and destroys death for good. John Calvin would say it like this: “Our sufferings should serve us for medicines to purge us from worldly affections, and retrench what is superfluous in us, since they are to us the messengers of death, we ought to learn to have one foot raised to take our departure when it shall please God.” This is what I mean when I said we are being made perfect through suffering. Suffering has a purpose, ultimately for good. We should glory in our sufferings because they produce perseverance, which leads to character, and character, hope (Romans 5:3-5). Suffering reminds us that this is not our home. Like Calvin said, we should have one foot raised, and always be ready to leave this world.