I am not really into puzzles, but one day I saw an especially beautiful one and bought it. I took it home and dumped the contents of the box on the table and instead of a beautiful picture what I saw was a bunch of disconnected and scattered pieces; the longer I looked at it, the more hopeless I felt.
Sometimes life is like that; a disappointing mess of confusing pieces.
As a counselor, I’ve come to understand that pain and suffering is a reality for many. And for the Christian, trying to explain pain and suffering can become a multifaceted balancing act between what we know about God and the overshadowing reality of what we feel when we hurt.
What is clear is that we ARE profoundly fallen and consequently, because of our union through and with Adam, we have all sinned and have fallen into the abyss of death. (Rom 3:23; 6:23) Because of Adam’s choice, we live in these fleshly vessels of sin, experience pain and suffering and eventually die. As it was with Adam, it is with us; God allows us to make choices and we are made by our choices.
Nevertheless, because evil is real in our world and emotional pain inevitable, suffering and evil beg questions about God; ancient questions, but also modern ones like: “How can there be a God if suffering and evil exist?”
My desire for this article is not to speak on God’s behalf about the existence of suffering, but to simply bring assurance and hope by providing some help to those who wrestle with gaps in their knowledge about the future, and restore their belief and trust in a God whose eternal perspective is better and far more superior then our own.
But how is this done? How do we “speak a word in season to him that is weary…”(Is 50:4)?
On many occasions, it becomes evident that what people need most is simply our presence and the humanly expressed empathy of God’s love prior to our leading them into that healing place that only He can transform.
Providing people with some type of “magical” answer that will make sense of their crisis is often ineffectual. Sometimes, “I don’t know” is not only an accurate response from a theological perspective but is about as honest a response as we can possibly offer. These significant three words permeate all of reality. The purpose is not to provide all the answers, but to point people in the direction of one who can–that is Jesus Christ.
In the book of Isaiah we read, “Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am.” (Is 58:9)
Because we don’t have all the answers doesn’t change the fact that God does. He continues to be infinitely wise, just and good, in spite of life’s difficult circumstances and in spite of all our altruistic attempts to provide for all the needs of His people.
For many, crisis generates feelings of vulnerability as they come face-to-face with their own mortality. It also forces individuals to face this grand paradox- I am going to have faith in God, or I am going to become bitter. Since faith is comprised of trusting God, what can be said of spiritual crises and the doubt this often generates?
Our answer is found in Jude 22, “be merciful to those who doubt” (NIV).
There are a host of scriptures that remind us that faith is NOT the absence of doubt, but the OVERCOMING of it.
There is a difference between the doubt that permeates in a crisis of faith, and that of unbelief in a God that is and will be with us on earth and in heaven. Doubting God is having difficulty believing that God knows what’s best for us. It doesn’t mean you don’t believe in God, it means that because of your pain, you struggle sometimes.
Unbelief is REFUSING to believe.
Doubting in and of itself isn’t a sin; it only becomes a sin when our doubting causes us to disobey God.
So in answering our question, how do we “speak a word in season to him that is weary…”(Is 50:4)? Part of our answer is found in our ability to first listen, without condemnation. God can handle doubts, fears, anger, disappointments, and sadness… and so we as ambassadors of Christ must “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2). One way we do this is by allowing people time to work through tough life questions as He works at every turn in their lives, molding and making them more like Him.
Clearly, true restoration begins when doubt is turned over to God and His love and compassion is allowed to cultivate growth and Christian maturity in the lives of others. Yes, His grace is sufficient and His power made perfect in weakness (2 Cor 12:9); but as is so common to our human nature, the process includes days that are more difficult than others. Nevertheless, God will prove faithful and the days less arduous.
It’s then and only then that surrender comes as they finally accept what they are unable to change and seek His comfort, healing and direction.
Caring for people God’s way encompasses fostering healing and wholeness within the souls of hurting people by walking alongside them and creating a safe place where they can accept, adapt, and reorganize life in light of personal crisis…not by their strength…nor by our strength…but by His strength.
-Beth D. Baus