Why does God allow suffering?
It is an age old question, and I was confronted with it again yesterday, not once, but twice; pleas for answers to unbearable pain.
I cannot look away. I see suffering and I must acknowledge it. There are days where it cuts to my core and I want to weep. I feel it in my bones.
To some extent we all look for ways to avoid it. I believe it is worse in our culture where we worship comfort and live excessive lives. It is our norm. I've certainly bought into this, I love my comfort clothes, my comfortable house, even my comfort food. There is no lack.
When people are confronted by deep loss, personal tragedy, and pain, the story changes. And the questions come.
I'm certainly not going to pretend I have answers. I've read some amazing books and listened to some wonderful speakers which have helped me have some understanding.
I wrestled with suffering when my young husband was diagnosed and told he had a 23% chance to live if he followed the prescribed treatment. We struggled. Some told us he would be healed. He was not, at least not physically. The healing was spiritual, as he prepared for heaven.
In my "school of suffering" I began to learn, often with protest. But even in those intense days, we had to choose trust, and even praise. We experienced God in a way we never had before. I felt the presence of the Holy in profound and intimate ways as we walked the journey of suffering and grief.
I think of this, during Holy week, when Jesus walked toward what he knew would be a gruesome and painful death. Suffering was necessary for redemption.
Jesus is the suffering Christ. And I am called to follow, motivated by love. I wear the cross, a symbol of suffering.
I have come to a place in my wrestling where I believe that God doesn't "cause" suffering, but does allow it. We live in a broken world. Yesterday as I read the 23rd Psalm to a grieving family, I was struck by the last words which say:
"Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
Forever is a gift we all can hold on to.
I have become convinced, and yes have experienced!, the love of God, the presence of God in the most difficult of situations. If everything was peachy, my life perfect, would I need God so?
The miracle of Emmanuel is "God with us"; and the suffering Christ is the ultimate picture of love and sacrifice. It is because of the miracle of Easter, the resurrection, that we can have relationship with our Creator. As I've wrestled with mystery - and there have been some dark times - I've also fallen in love, with a God who loves me, knows me, created me, and gives me the promise of eternity.
We have this hope, even in the midst of suffering.