If there’s one thing in the world that is as real as heaven and hell, it must be pain. Try hard as you may, search far as you may, but you will never find a single soul this side of eternity that hasn’t experienced pain of any kind. The consequences of sin are far reaching not even the unborn are spared. I wonder sometimes if there’s ever a day we will watch through world headlines and not come across even a single saddening report. It would be a miracle if we did right? But some woman abandoning her baby and leaving it for the dead just won’t let us. Al Shabaab and ISIS just won’t allow us the pleasure. There will be someone painfully battling with cancer and eventually hanging her hat to it. Some very deserving fella will miss school because they just couldn’t afford. Those will hurt us. Sad to say but, more like them will happen.
Nobody frets when I say they will happen. Hurting reports don’t catch our attention as they used to in the past. We’ve seen worse to feel like it’s the end of the world. We’ll feel sorry, then move on because “it’s life” after all, isn’t it? But is it still life when you are the one hurting? When you are the one on the other side of the screen, being watched with pity and not watching? I’ve been around a lot of hurting people. Some who are so dear to me. I have heard one after the other try to find some sort of explanation to why they suffer. Like every good Christian would, I have offered hope to each one. For some things got better, for some worse.
The Christians, they’ve been the hardest to comfort. They already have Jesus, my always answer to any pain, and yet are still evidently suffering. How do you explain to someone wasting away that they have life? How do you convince someone going hungry that they already have provision in Him? I thought life should be better with Christ. More peaceful and joyful. Why would we still suffer, often even worse than the ones who haven’t believed?
If you are a child of God and you’ve never asked that, I doubt you belong here. I have personally been through so much in my short life. I know what it is to be orphaned when a child and live literally from hand to mouth. I know what it feels like to be looked up to by people you should be the one looking up to. All my life I have hoped that things will be better, yet if my hope were to be an illusion there would be none greater than it. Hasn’t it promised me open doors and I saw them open only to walk in to my worst fears and not my freedom as I thought? It has, despite the praying and fasting. There’s nothing a child of God should do that I haven’t done!
I remember praying a few months back and feeling as if my trust in God had hit a dead end. I wondered why He seemed slack to deliver despite possessing the power to change everything. Why it has to take ages. That morning I did something I had never done before; I compared God. “To whom?” you ask. An earthly father. Can you imagine that? I imagined how hard fathers work just so their wives and children may have bread to eat and I thought God wasn’t close. They seemed better. If you’ve ever seen a man work his hardest and not care to be undignified, even to the point of begging then you will know what I mean.
The urgency a father feels in the face of reality that his children will go hungry if he doesn’t do something didn’t seem like something God had. Why wait all these years? Why watch as we suffer when He could do something? He just wasn’t caring, I thought. Just when I had passed my verdict, He rose up. Not with thunder and clouds like Job experienced. He was gentle, rising not to His defense but to my rebuke. My pain had brought me to a place of questioning, and now God would answer with a truth far more beautiful than anything I had never known before. The truth that when we understand, I believe we will go through anything and never doubt Him.
While the good earthly father will do anything to make sure his family is provided for materially, God will do anything to make Himself glorified! You see saint, God doesn’t have to try so hard to provide for us. He can give us anything we ask for if it pleases Him. The earth and all in it is His anyway. Man’s fulfillment goes beyond the things he could have. Our joy far exceeds the plenteous supply we crave. Our completion is ever and only in God being glorified in and through us. That’s why He will do anything and everything to see His glory revealed in and through His children who love Him.
Ourselves with our every limitation couldn’t possibly know how best He pleases to glorify Himself through us. But God can exalt Himself using suffering just as much as He can using abundance. His glory is never in vain. It always has the end goal of drawing men to Himself. As such, any abundance we could have that doesn’t point people to Him is meaningless; and so is any kind of suffering we could go through. Am I implying that each of our stories have to be televised for all to see our God’s great salvation so that they can have meaning? No. Even if your soul alone were to be encouraged through your pain for His glory, it still is very much worth it.
I look back with joy to my past painful experiences. The friend who recently cried on my shoulders telling me about her broken family only to find strength in the story about what God had seen my family through makes them all worth it. Two years ago I struggled with joining full time ministry. My family was at a bad place financially, I had a future to work towards and going corporate seemed the only fitting option to take. Ministry wouldn’t give a paycheck. I would in fact have to raise my own support from friends for my use and to help my family where needed. I however went with God’s leading, convinced that the best gift I could give my family was my faithfulness to Him. He has been faithful; and recently encouraging younger friends at the same crossroad as I was in back then to trust Him, makes my experience worth it.
So many times, as I offer ministry, I have found myself wishing I could promise someone that things will get better. I have wished to pray that situation away and make some prophetic announcement of freedom. But you know, sometimes, that illness just might remain or worse claim someone’s life; you know that job might take even longer to come. So I’ve always held their hands and prayed, “God, we desire that you take this situation away. But let your will be done. For we believe that whatever it is, it shall be to their good.” I know many might see that as a faithless prayer. The kind shying from boldly claiming God’s promises. But I think it is one full of faith.
Faith doesn’t need to be proven. There should never be a fixed outcome that justifies faith. If we prayed for healing and someone died anyway, it doesn’t mean we didn’t have faith. It only means we had the faith that says “even if He doesn’t save him, we still will worship Him and consider Him faithful.” The kind of faith Daniel’s friends had and didn’t mind being thrown into a furnace heated seven more times. I don’t think we have many Christians like that today. Christians who will not pray away suffering but embrace it if it is what God wills for them. Today’s Christians insist on their desires that might not necessarily be God’s and excuse that as faith. I find that to be misleading and only ends at frustration.
Jesus is recorded to have said to a man who wished to follow Him that “foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Luke 9:58). Ever thought what the Lord could have meant with that? I’ll tell you what He meant. He, the Lord of all the earth, was telling the man that He would offer him no earthly security whatsoever. He was saying if he followed Jesus, the birds and the foxes would be better secure than him. If you were that man, would you still follow Him? Guess what, you are that man and He still says those words to you today.
How far are you willing to go for your God? He won’t stop at your offering, at your tithe, at your fortune, at your precious child or parent, not even at your life! He made it all and wants it all.
He alone can keep it all for you because whoever keeps his life shall lose it. But whoever loses his life for my sake shall gain it (Mat 10:39). It’s easy to love Jesus when He gives us the things we ask, but will you still love and follow Him even when He offers you nothing but Himself? I think only a heart that sincerely answers to the affirmative will endure suffering and still come out praising. Only such will say with Job that though He slay me, yet will I trust Him! (Job 15:13)
I wrote this in tribute to the very close friend whose dad and mom are on the brink of separation. I wrote this for the friend whose dad has been away so many years and recently showed up only to abandon them again. I wrote this for the friend who has contemplated giving up her baby for adoption and being painfully separated from it because she wouldn’t know what else to do. All real people personally known to me. I wrote this for you, whatever darkness you may be facing in this life. When we suffer, let us never forget that it is to God’s glory, and that is what gives meaning to our suffering. It’s not that He will overcome on account of our suffering, but rather we suffer on account of Him having already overcome. May men know Him through our suffering. May we know Him better through our suffering. Amen!