In my last post, I talked about finding strength for the task that God gives us. This post will touch on the subject of finding meaning through suffering.
The verses that made such an impression on me regarding these two subjects are found in Matthew 17:
But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.
Matthew 17:7-8 (ESV)
This problem of suffering is like a box that I periodically get down from its dusty shelf to examine from all angles. Eventually I give up and shove it back for a while, maybe even cover it up with a couple old sweaters. There’s so much I don’t understand about pain and evil in the world.
The greatest thinkers of all time have talked at length about this difficulty. I’ve read their books over the years–Cries of the Heart by Ravi Zacharias, The Problem of Pain by CS Lewis, Where is God When it Hurts by Philip Yancy. (I even read When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold S. Kushner, but I do not recommend that you read it. It’s depressing and I don’t agree with his view of God.) Gaining an intellectual perspective can be helpful to form a framework of how the world works.
But intellect can’t answer all the questions of the heart. Oh I know, I like smart solutions that take no emotional energy. I’m uncomfortable with finding a less-than-rational answer. But it simply doesn’t work to reason ourselves out of feeling pain. And I wonder if this is because the answer to our suffering cannot be adequately formulated by the mind.
I believe the answer to our suffering lies in having an encounter with God. When I am brave enough to peel back the layers, I discover that the greatest pain of all lurks underneath–the pain of feeling abandoned by God.
Isn’t that what Job experienced? Yes, he lost his family and all he owned. But worse than that, he felt betrayed by God. The only way for him to make peace with his pain was to fume at God and to hear God respond to him. What redeemed Job’s pain in the end–a new family and set of possessions? No, Job’s most precious reward was being able to talk heart-to-heart with God.
Admittedly, this way of viewing life leaves us in limbo at times, waiting for God to show up in our dark places. Our hearts can feel broken for a while before we experience God’s redemption. This is where faith comes into play; faith that the waiting will not be vain, and that God will show up and meet our need.
Oswald Chambers echoes this in My Utmost for His Highest: “When God gets us alone through suffering, heartbreak, temptation, disappointment, sickness, or by thwarted desires, a broken friendship–when He gets us absolutely alone, and we are totally speechless, unable to ask even one question, then He begins to teach us.”
I remember the night many years ago when I crouched on the floor of a tiny prayer room at Calvary Bible School, crying so hard I thought I would die. I didn’t see God as someone who loved me personally, and I felt a lot of fear about His presence. Being consumed by emotional pain, I prayed, “God, do you love me? Please tell me if you love me.”
The next morning I sat in chapel, my face still puffy from weeping the night before. The speaker got up and said, “I feel there is someone here who needs to be reassured of God’s love. So I want to tell you, God loves you! He loves you! He loves YOU!”
And that was the beginning of a healing road for me. Once I knew God wanted to love me and talk to me, I could come to Jesus with my fear and start dealing with the mess in my heart. As Tim Keller once said, “Jesus took away the kind of suffering that can really destroy you: that is being cast away from God.”
Even though I would like more intellectual answers, I have seen God’s glory through seasons of suffering. I have experienced His presence, and in faith I can say that it is enough to see Jesus only, to feel His touch, and to hear Him say, “Have no fear.”
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.
Have you encountered God during seasons of suffering? How did it change you?
12 thoughts on “Jesus Only (part 2)”
I have goosebumps, Rosina. This resonates with my heart in such deep ways and I can identify with so much of your journey, although the particulars are very different, of course. You have no idea how much I wish I could sit down with you before I go to CBS and talk about this very subject because I’ve been thinking about it so much recently. Gonna actually send you an email right now. 😉 Thank you for sharing once again!
Thanks for the email, and I will email you back as soon as I can! 😉 I would love to sit down for a chat with you again! God bless your days at CBS–I know you will be someone who draws others to the Father’s love.
Interestingly enough, I too remember crying my eyes out in a prayer room at CBS. God meeting us in our pain is a holy moment for sure.
I’m sure many spiritual battles have been fought in that place! God bless you!
Hi Rosina, I’ve been a quiet reader of your blog for a while now. God has given you a gift of writing that touches the deepest part of the heart, that place where we wrestle with questions that we’re not sure are safe to actually bring out into the open. Thank you for being vulnerable and using this gift to the glory of God. In answer to the question at the end of this post, yes, I have experienced God in times of suffering. My story may not be marked with as much suffering as some people’s, but I have tasted it. One particular incidence was when my husband got sick and ended up in the hospital with a chronic illness that we had thought he had been healed from. When I had met him a couple years earlier and heard his story of being healed from this chronic illness, I thought it made my faith grow because never before had I met someone who believed God actually healed sickness (in America, today), and then also had evidence to prove it. I had only heard people say God heals, but their attitudes and experiences didn’t follow their said belief. So when he got sick again, I wrestled deeply with God. I went into sort of a spiritual winter. I begged God for healing for my husband. I questioned whether He was actually as great as the Bible said He was. I thought He had to bring healing to my husband again in order to prove to me that He was actually as powerful as He proclaimed to be. Jesus was so gentle with me in the struggle, and I distinctly remember when one day, He broke through the hurt, doubt and confusion, and spoke to my heart. He told me that I had been seeking healing more than I was seeking Him, and that the healing had become an idol to me. If I would turn my gaze to His face, I would be at rest and experience the peace I was so desperately longing for.. When by the grace of God, my seeking turned towards the heart of my Father instead of what He could give me, confusion started to fade away. I’m still on this journey, but the days of doubt are much fewer than the days of rest and trust in the goodness of God’s heart. Honestly, this experience has given my faith a firmer foundation and caused it to grow even more. God is truly a good Father. -Dorcas Potsander (Wow, this got really long. Sorry.)
Don’t worry, your comment isn’t too long! 😉 Disappointment with God is such tough one. I hear you regarding the struggle with believing that YES, God does heal us today in America, yet not always seeing the evidence of that. I’ve seen both sides of the thing–for instance, once when one of our children was vomiting uncontrollably, Will prayed and the child was instantly healed. Then I also have a child whom we have prayed for daily and have yet to see God’s complete healing. I often think of the story of Thomas, who had to see concrete evidence before he would believe, and I ask God to help me believe what the Bible so clearly says even when I don’t see the results I want. It’s a journey, and as you said, we need to keep our eyes on our Father. His heart is good and kind, and we can rest in that even when life doesn’t make sense. Hugs to you!
I love this so much. My life has been marked with suffering the past few years- infertility, failed adoption, failed foster parenting, and legal woes. BUT- as much as I’ve hated this season of hard and waiting, I wouldn’t change it for the reason you mentioned above- I’ve encountered our Father in a whole new way. And it has been so worth it. Do I still doubt? Yes. Do I still struggle? Absolutely. I have no idea why or how long God will have us where He does, but I trust Him. And I love Him for loving me so much and bringing me closer to His heart. Thank you for sharing this post- what a blessing it is to my weary heart!
My heart goes out to you…suffering is just hard, even though we learn many priceless lessons through it. I’d love to hear more of your story sometime! Thank you for being a testimony of God’s grace.
I loved what you wrote about the only answer is an encounter with God. That is exactly what I wrote in a paper in college on injustice. It was the first time I had written about sexual abuse. And it’s true. The years of pain and darkness and confusion changed so much when I had an encounter with God, and he gave me the picture of the angels being there while I was sexually abused, and lifting me out of it, and God saying that I was safe. You know I still go through the ramifications of that sexual and physical and emotional and spiritual abuse. Sometimes it becomes overwhelming. There are no pat answers that can fix it. But I have someone to go to. Someone who loves me and will walk with me no matter what. And that is the most precious thing in the entire world to me. I cannot wait to marry the Love of my life one day and be forever in his presence. Thanks for the good post!
I love the story about the angels! Hugs!
Beautiful. So meaningful. Thank you.