We live in a world of unending calamities that cause intense suffering. Natural disasters and pandemics are relentless in attacking our idyllic lives. This year we have been paralyzed by COVID-19. Before this, we experienced a locust invasion. As a result of the former, many have died and many will die. People are not even allowed the courtesy of burying their loved ones. Workers have been laid off. Farmers are experiencing great losses. A majority of our leaders are silent … We are not prepared for such eventualities. No one was ready. We are suffering, others more significantly. Yet this is the reality of the world we live in. Nothing is certain as expressed in this piece.
God is Shouting in Our Pain
For the Christian, we must remind ourselves that God uses suffering to get our attention. C.S Lewis remarked,
“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
Suffering, of any kind, oftentimes, like Job, causes us to ask the painful question, Why? Job asks God question after question, yet God chooses not to answer even a single one. Instead, God’s response to Job’s questions is a mystery; he answers Job with the mystery of himself: who he is and the essence of his being,
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?
God Meets Us Through Our Suffering
Despite knowing Job cannot answer these questions, God, like Job, goes on and on; question after question. He is revealing to Job, who he is. It often pleases God, through our troubles and sufferings to not give us explanations. But He meets us as a person, as an individual, as a loving Father, through his word, and that is what we need.
As it was with Job, God might choose not to answer our ‘why’ during this season of great suffering, but rather answer us with himself. Our responsibility in light of this is to trust his word that boldly declares that God has plans that we do not and will probably never understand on this side of eternity.
How to Pray In Light of Our Suffering
Recently, a friend asked me how we should pray, bearing in mind the troubled times we find ourselves in, and I remembered a piece by John Piper that I read a while ago,
“We should pray to God to take away our suffering as it is fitting that a child asks for relief in trouble. And it is fitting that a loving Father give his child only what is best. And that he always does: sometimes relief now, sometimes not. But always, always what is best for us. Sometimes all we can do is cry out for help because we do not know in what form the help should come. The Spirit of God takes our stumbling, uncertain expressions of need and brings them before God in a form that accords with God’s intentions (Romans 8:26-27). And God responds graciously and meets our needs. Not always as we at first hoped, but always for our good.”
Suffering is Not a Punishment
Beloved, we know that God has responded to our prayers, the fullness of which we will see either here and now or whenever he allows. That is his great mercy towards us. Our suffering is not a punishment as we may be led to think by our flesh that is ever warring against us. Our suffering is never for nothing! God is using our sufferings in ways we may not understand now, but we will, one day when we put away these bodies of flesh. Do not be discouraged!
Let us then thank God that this world, which often seems absurd or meaningless, exists to make plain the horrors of our sinful hearts and the wonders of our sovereign Christ so that we can yearn and long for what is to come; our forever home.
Allow me to cap today’s piece with this poem by Grant Colfax Tullar:
“My life is but a weaving between my Lord and me; I do not choose the colors, He worketh steadily. Oft times He weaveth sorrow and I, in foolish pride, forget He sees the upper, and I the underside. Not till the loom is silent and the shuttles cease to fly, shall God unroll the canvas and explain the reason why. The dark threads are as needful in the Weaver’s skillful hand, as the threads of gold and silver in the pattern He has planned.”