Suffering Sucks: Only God Can Turn Adversity Into Advantage
Many of you have followed my family in our “recently-made-public” struggle with some major health challenges.
I’d like to tell you that suffering somehow improved my piety, it didn’t, it just pissed me off. I carried a hidden grudge toward God for a long time (past tense). I probably sound selfish, but I feel good about being honest.
I’ve let most of the pain go. I’ve come to understand that blaming, shaming, and scapegoating are a way of discharging pain. It’s basic human psychology.
I’ve let my grudge go. Yes, I’ve asked God for forgiveness. I never really believed that God was somehow incensed by my paltry anger anyway.
Quite the contrary, I’ve come to understand that He understands suffering like no other.
I recently reread how God had repented or relented after Moses prayer recorded in Exodus 32:14 (based on which translation you prefer).
Maybe you weren’t aware of that?
There are many verses of text in scripture that can throw your sense of theological certainty into the murky paradox of living by faith.
Let’s move forward fifteen hundred years from the death of Moses to the life of Jesus. Studying the life of Christ has been one of the few things that has helped me to cope with overwhelming levels of stress, fatigue, and grief I’ve struggled with over the last few years. Seeing your wife on the edge of death over and over again will do that to you.
The suffering of Christ proved to me that God isn’t indifferent.
Seeing the suffering of Christ and reading about His angst ridden plea to the Father in Garden of Gethsemane reminded me that God understood suffering.
Suffering is unavoidable. Everyone will encounter suffering. Jesus struggled with it and taught us how to endure it. The Good News is the resurrection of Christ showing us the path to transcending our suffering.
Like I said earlier, the greatest lesson I’ve learned is that God isn’t indifferent to human suffering.
Even when people accuse you of having unforgiveness in your heart, or hidden sin, the grace of God shows up in some unusual ways.
Suffering can be your teacher, if you’re humble enough to be its student.
•I’ve learned more about compassion and empathy.
•I’ve learned more about the nature and character of God.
•I’ve learned how little I actually know about God.
•I’ve learned how ugly my false piety made me.
•I’ve learned that I am rather judgmental.
Like Jacob, I’ve wrestled with God. Suffering taught me that God was holding me back from walking into the dangerous territory of depression, complicated grief, and post-traumatic stress. Wrestling was actually restraint. God was restraining me and retraining me.
I now understand it to be an unusual manifestation of His grace. Now I can honestly say that I walk so close to my Savior that I am now covered in the dust from my Rabbi’s feet.
God bless you.
A Dusty Disciple,
Pastor Jeremy E.