Seven Truths About Suffering That Bring More Comfort Than Knowing “Why?”

“Why?”

“How long?”

That’s what we really want to know. We want God to answer, to give an account of Himself.

“How long will the pain last?”

“Why did he leave me?”

“Why did she die so young?”

“How long will I be unemployed?”

“Why won’t they leave me alone?

“Why me? Why now? Why this?”

Sometimes we learn the answers; often not. But still, we ask.

The asking is built into us; we can’t help it. We ask, “Why?” because we understand cause and effect. We ask, “How long?” because we discern beginnings and endings. We ask because we’re human. Even Jesus, the divine human asked, “Why have you forsaken me?”

❯ SEVEN QUESTIONS ABOUT SUFFERING

“Why?” and “How long?” rarely have clear answers. But there are other questions to which you can always know the answers. They have definite yes/no clarity anyone can grasp. But, I hope you won’t ask them when you suffer.

❯ Is God here?

❯ Does God care?

❯ Is God part of this?

❯ Did God cause this?

❯ Does God have a purpose for this?

❯ Is God punishing me?

❯ Will I be okay?

I say, I hope you won’t ask them when you suffer, because I know you’ll need the answers before you suffer. The answers, part of a biblical perspective on suffering, are so much harder to find in the storm. And yet, we rarely think about such things before we need them. We are often like Aesop’s grasshopper who idled away the summer with never a thought of preparing for winter.

People who expect suffering to come will read and think and pray and wrestle with these questions well before the storm hits. Then, in the storm, they hang on to those truths for hope and comfort. Without them, suffering preys upon our pain or grief injecting fear and doubt that eats away at our hope.

❯ SEVEN ANSWERS THAT ARE ANCHORS

But with clear answers to these questions, we have an anchor for our souls and a reason to hope.

A biblical perspective on suffering accepts the certainty of suffering but embraces the hope of God’s reign over it.

I have observed this in my wife, Dawn, who has had a life-long struggle with panic disorder. A storm that never lets up, she fights it every day. On the outside she’s conversing with a friend, or washing the dishes, or hiking in the woods. But in her mind, she’s straining to hold the door closed against a biting wind of anxious thoughts.

What holds her together is a biblically-informed perspective on suffering.

❯ She knows God is real and He is here, holding the door against the storm with her.

❯ She knows God cares, having the empathy of one who has experienced ultimate suffering and sorrow himself.

❯ She knows God is in this with her, like a father who wraps his child in his coat and bears the worst of the wind.

❯ She knows we live in a broken, cursed world full of sin, death and suffering, and yet God directs all things as the Sovereign Lord of all. Though she cannot fully grasp this mystery of providence, she knows her suffering does not escape His loving notice, nor is it beyond His power. She knows she is neither a victim of fate, nor the devil.

❯ She knows His purpose toward her is only good eternally. And although the path in this life has many hazards,  God makes even these serve her greater, eternal good.

❯ She knows God is not punishing her for Christ was fully punished in her place, and lives again as the Mediator of her favor with God.

❯ And therefore she knows, with soul-deep certainty, she will be okay. Her God and Savior made a promise.

What an anchor this is for her soul!

What a comfort and hope this can be for your soul!

The world is hard and full of trouble, yet you can arm yourself against the day of trouble with the knowledge that if you belong to Christ, God is here. He does care. He’s in it with you. He has a purpose. He’s not mad at you. You will be okay.

If you’ll take the time to find out if this is true—by reading the Bible and the books of great Christians who have suffered before you—then, you can know before you need to know. And you may find that knowing these things is a greater comfort than knowing why or how long.


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Good Girls Aren’t Tempted to Have an Affair, Are They?

In 1995, I was in my thirties, a mother of two, Lon and I were nearing our 10th anniversary…

And I was tempted to have an affair with a man at work.

Woman Caught in Adultery

Me. The good little pastor’s daughter who never did anything wrong.

Me. The college girl who went to Bible School to be a missionary to China.

Me. The young woman who taught her children Bible stories and prayed with them at bed-time.

How did I come to this? I’ll start at the beginning…

Continue reading

Photo Friday: The Face of Fear in Syria

Photo of Syrian boy after attack

[The Face of Fear in Syria, photo from BBC report on apparent chemical attack.]

This Photo Friday I want to turn your attention to the apparent chemical attack in Syria on Wednesday, in which hundreds or more may have been killed. The fear in this boy’s eyes is heartbreaking. We, in the west, cannot imagine living under such conditions and, like the movie Elysium, try to separate such things from our personal reality.

But today, let us not distract ourselves from the horrors in the world with our work or weekend plans without remembering that someone will die today in pain and fear.

Let us pray:

Father of mercy, bring peace between warring factions in Syria. Do not allow hate to destroy that nation and people. Give them, and all who are afraid, the blessing of peace and safety in their land. We pray in the name of our Savior, our Hope, our Peace, Jesus Christ. Amen.