Suffering – The problem that doesn’t go away!

A believing (opposed to nominal or in name only) Christian friend of mine recently suffered the devastating loss of one of her sons. It is the worst nightmare for any parent; to survive his or her own children! He contracted a rare form of cancer and, aided by possible medical mismanagement, passed away two months later!

She prayed and believed for a healing miracle…and now has to reconcile her grief, disappointment and loss of reasonable expectation (after all, we are encouraged to believe that God still heals) with the reality that no (earthly) healing occurred!

This is where a believer can go through a “dark night of the soul”, where one’s childlike faith, which is commended by Christ Himself in Matthew 18:2-4, is deeply challenged.

The question of why, although problematic, nevertheless unavoidably arises.

It is interesting and somehow comforting that Christ Himself, in His humanity, was also challenged with these issues. When faced with His imminent crucifixion and death, he wrestled with his natural, in-built human desire to avoid the humiliation, suffering and death awaiting Him. A wrestle between His own preference at that moment and the knowledge of His Father’s will. He chose the latter, after a herculean spiritual battle, where “his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44).

As well, when hanging on the cross, no doubt in unimaginable agony, He too exclaimed with that heart wrenching question: WHY? (Psalm 22 and Matthew 27:46: “About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” [which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”]).” He felt abandoned by His Father on that cross, due to taking on the sins of the world, but the Father never abandoned Him, for He had destined Him for eternal, glorious victory!

This is why Christ rightly is our only  Intercessor before the throne of God (according to the Scriptures, especially described in Heb. 2:17); having fully experienced the depth of human suffering, encompassing its physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects.

Grief and loss can be devastating, as experienced by my friend and by so many. Our faith will be deeply challenged during those times. The temptation is and will be great to turn away from God, blaming Him, feeling abandoned by Him, unloved and betrayed. Many, sadly, stay stuck in that place.

Stealing our faith and distorting the true nature and heart of God has always been Satan’s greatest strategy! It began in the Garden of Eden, where that bait was swallowed: hook, line and sinker! “Did God say?…” presenting the lie of the “real” intention of God towards man.

Job, despite his understandable moaning, nevertheless never allowed himself to reject or blame God, contrary to the advice of his wife, who told him to “curse God and die”  (Job 2:9). On the contrary: despite horrendous affliction, his declaration was “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him…” (Job 13:15)

Another great declaration in times of utter devastation, was made by the prophet Habakkuk: “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” (Habakkuk 3:17-18)

Pain and suffering are part of living in an imperfect, sinful world. They are hard to bear when they touch us and they will, sooner or later. What will be our response during those times?

In the meantime, let us not shrink from it when we see it in others but prayerfully and with gentle sensitivity provide comfort and strengthening to those in the midst of it! They don’t need many words, just our heart of love and compassion.

 

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