suffering; part 2

suffering; part 2

I don’t believe we can endure suffering without resting our hope and faith in eternity with God.

At one time or another, all of us have questioned how a good God who is supposed to love us would allow suffering.

Thing is, we won’t get a satisfying answer. That’s because as advanced as we have become in areas such as technology, science, and medicine, we don’t understand everything.

Yet, we still seem to want and even demand to understand this. Even people who don’t believe in God are really recognizing his existence through rejecting him.

That’s because the Creator of the universe has written eternity on our hearts. In other words, whether you accept it or not, you can’t change it. It’s there.

When we accept suffering as a part of life, we learn to co-exist with it. We don’t accept it to the point of self deprivation or thinking embracing pain makes us more holier or acceptable to God.

Through faith, we trust God with it all, and find comfort in all his promises of being near us when we are in pain.

A child runs to a mother or father or any trusted caretaker for help and comfort. A picture of our Heavenly Father being there for us, too.

We’ve had our own personal experiences of suffering which can make us bitter and miserable if we cannot see beyond our life on earth. And often, when we get angry with God, we are only responding humanly to injustice. We don’t like to see people suffering.

God understand this. He created us to respond with compassion. We know how to help in many ways whether helping a neighbor who is suffering (from illness to the inability to shovel snow) or volunteering/contributing monetarily to a charity.

Yet, we are limited. In our own lives and the lives of others.

Consider this scripture found in the Bible:

How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow?

Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.

Thankfully, most of us are not always thinking about this (I respectfully realize some suffer with fear). This is God’s design, too. We live life each day, our routines, and doing the next thing.

Even people who do not live as freely in some countries will tell you they have happiness. It may not look like yours or mine.

Throughout the centuries, people have looked ahead. I think suffering makes us do this. Like the adage says, “things will look better in the morning”, we are designed to hope in tomorrow. This is from God, too: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

I think one of the most inspiring times of suffering in American history is listening to the richness of the spiritual songs sung by plantation slaves of the Old South. Their suffering was immeasurable. Yet, I have read about an immeasurable strength in the midst of their pain.

Then, other times in American history of mothers and babies dying during childbirth, loved ones dying with illnesses and diseases we now have medicine for, young men as young as 16 going off to war and never experiencing a future.

Then, the Holocaust. I recently finished a book based on a true story, The Girl from the Channel Islands, about a Jewish girl trapped on the island of Jersey occupied by the Germans during WWII.

Consider this passage:

No fat reserves, she’d recenlty discovered, meant that sitting for long periods, even with a cushion, was a painful experience. She had spent the afternoon wandering aimlessly from room to empty room, searching for the balance between warming up and burning calories, but last night even climbing the stairs to the attic, had left her panting and dizzy, Her weakness frightened her …

… for seven days, they had between them two ounces of margarine, seven ounces of flour, three ounces of sugar, four ounces of meat … for a few moments they rejoiced as they devoured an acceptable lunch – perhaps a slice of tongue to go with a crust of tasteless Occupation bread.

Lastly, Hebrews 11, found in the Bible, records the heroes of faith. It begins with this:

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.

People of faith who had amazing victories:

who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again.

Yet, at the end of the chapter:

There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

Not so victorious, were they? At least not our definition of victorious.

But God commends all of these people:

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

I have determined, only this satisifes the questions we have about suffering. We might call our perseverance the human spirit, but even that comes from God.

We don’t have all of the story now. We don’t have a complete explanation now.

But through faith, through trust, we believe.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more,

neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

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do not despair.

do not despair.

The earth comes alive with fresh spring colors, celebrating rebirth.

Hidden eggs and colorful candy, butter yellow chicks and soft rabbits.

Cream colored lilies adorning churches.

Daffodils and tulips sway in the breeze.

Best Sunday dresses and ties to match.

Hymns and prayers, messages of hope.

Not everyone joins in the celebration.

A young mother is facing her fourth surgery today.

A family grieves the suicide of their loved one.

A couple have separated.

All around us, people are facing something.

Through faith men have conquered kingdoms

gained what was promised

and shut the mouths of lions.

Quenched flames 

escaped the edge of the sword

and women received their dead back to life again. 

But some did not.

There is suffering in life.

Repulsive, horrific, tragic, tormenting agony.

We question why? How can a “good” God allow such pain?

He did not remove it but God literally left his holiness and stepped into a world of corruption, depravity, and wickedness, in the human form of a man, to save it.

Perhaps it is because without the human form he would have obliterated earth entirely because of his holiness.

God wanted to show his love in a way we could understand. Jesus took on all of the depravity of mankind on the cross.

3 days later he came back to life, showing us He is God.

Who else would have power over death?

This is the hope of those who are happily celebrating today.

This is the hope of those who are not.

How is it that some get answers to prayers?

How is that some do not?

It’s easy to celebrate when there was a good outcome.

It is not easy to celebrate when there wasn’t.

Let’s remember

those who were all commended for their faith

yet none of them received what had been promised

since God had planned something better

so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

Hold onto that hope today.

God didn’t give to one and not to you.

God gives those who are suffering comfort and peace.

God sees.

God knows.

God is with you.

God promises that one day, he will make it right.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.

-The Bible

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where were the angels?

where were the angels?

Many of us believe in angels.

More commonly, angels intervening in a situation and saving someone from danger or death.

Car accidents, a house fire, or a bullet that just missed the heart, to name a few.

In the recent church shooting which murdered 27 people on a Sunday morning, at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, the question may arise, where were the angels?

The truth is, angels are not always protecting or saving people from death, are they? Which in turn, we equate God is not always protecting or saving people from death.

Otherwise, everyone, certainly the devoted Christian, would be protected.

At least that’s how our mind might work.

I have always felt badly for those left behind after a tragedy because the consensus of angels getting the credit for a miracle (sent by God, of course). It could make those who lost their loved one think they weren’t good enough, they didn’t pray enough, they didn’t have enough faith, or that God does not care about them or love them.

Those can be very painful thoughts. Thoughts that some carry throughout their lifetime.

Thoughts that are not true.

When I lost my oldest son at 24 years old, I wondered, where were the angels? 

Even though there will always be a part of my heart that feels like it is not beating, I had to come to terms with my faith or I would have wanted to die, too. A mother wants to know her kids are safe and where they are. When your child dies, no matter how old he or she is, you cannot fix it.  I was suspended in a place unknown and unfamiliar.

I had to figure some things out. If I had stayed focused with the lack of angelic protection for my son, I would have been miserable all these years. Faith is believing what you cannot tangibly see and I had to either believe God’s promises were true or not in order to go on.

Today more than ever, people “believe God” for healing and miracles. Sermons are preached of doing greater works than Jesus and  faith that moves mountains. People even pray for God to dispatch angels.

How did suffering people throughout the centuries view this message? What did they do when this was not so prevalent as it is today? People who did not have all the bells and whistles, entitlements, access to one-click purchases, retirement funds, and more?

I think they embraced what the bible says, they “longed for a better place, that is, a heavenly one”.

On a good day, do we long for that better place?

How about on a bad day?

I believe in prayer. I think we should pray for healing and miracles and everything else that is good. I don’t believe we should sit back and settle.

If we have attributed angelic intervention to our circumstances (ultimately God’s intervention), we have to remember others do not have this same experience.

What they do have is something else I believe is valid and important to understand. It is rarely not shared with the testimonies of answered prayer, especially those with the acknowledgment of angelic activity. I mean, who wants to say what is not so wonderful to hear? Give me the answered prayer. The miracle.

The angels.

Early on after Christopher’s death, I felt God in a way I had never felt before. Yes, I did stop eating on purpose. Yes, I did end up having anxiety attacks and needed medication.

But, God was showing me so much that brought comfort in a way that I think only those who have experienced immense suffering and grief understand.

Angels don’t just rescue us from physical danger.

They are sent by God as ministering spirits, just as God sent one to strengthen Jesus as he was suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane before the crucifixion.

Had I not walked through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I would not have known what it was like to not fear. I would not have experienced the comfort of God’s rod and staff. I would not have gotten stronger without God leading me to green pastures and still waters and eventually, seeing my soul restored.

People who have been to this valley have seen God in a way others have not. In the bible, Job suffered unimaginably in this valley, and at the end he said, I’ve heard of You [God] but now my eyes have seen you. 

It is true, today, even the most devoted Christian can be caught up with here and now. God made us to live with eternity always within our view. When we don’t, we are missing something vital to the Christian life. Something that keeps us steady, anchored, and accepting of things gone wrong.

Living with an eternal view keeps things in perspective.

And perspective is exactly what we need when we ask, where were the angels?

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