“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”
This verse has been a constant point of reliance for me over the last few years. It is what I’m leaning on right now as I write this.
I really wish I had the right words to say right now. I’m afraid I really do not feel very eloquent at the moment. Some of these blogs just flow right off my finger tips, this one is not one of those. Not exactly sure why I’m even trying to write something right now, though I feel I need to get it out of me.
Let me start by saying: pain is a difficult thing and I do not like it. I do not like facing it myself. I do not like having to watch others face it. But it’s still there. It seems to cause the most doubt pertaining to God’s character out of anything out there. I truly hate it, but I think God has purposes for it.
I have heard people argue that if you are close enough to God life will be all beautiful and you will have no more problems. I find that ridiculous. It is very true that Christianity has plenty to say about this life, but that is not its central focus. Jesus was never about making things easy for His followers. That’s just not how He works. The life of the apostle Paul itself is a refutation to that line of thinking. He was one of the most Christ-like people to ever live yet he faced beatings, imprisonment, sleepless nights, hunger, shipwrecks, and whatever else.
Sometimes I find myself baffled by the thought that God would allow painful things to happen. Sometimes pain just seems too dark, too horrible for God to have allowed it. That is a common way of thinking. I met with a friend for coffee recently, just after going to a funeral. We had a discussion about whether things happen outside of God’s will. I know he didn’t mean much by it, but I was actually quite hurt that he insinuated that my friends should have had more faith and should have been able to raise their dad from the dead. I was stunned that he could even slightly suggest such a thing. Yet his line of thinking is that unexpected deaths are outside of God’s will and therefore God automatically wills for us to bring them back. He believed that God wouldn’t allow for pain to happen.
I have several issues with that line of reasoning. For one thing, it limits God to being too weak to stop evil from happening, and for another it is a very cruel thing to tell some one who is hurting that they are facing that pain just because they’re not faithful enough. I believe that God is powerful enough to stop evil, but good enough to give man the ability to choose for himself, and wise enough to work through it.
I have found that there are some lessons which God has for us that can only be learned through pain. The most obvious lesson that comes to mind is endurance. As Romans 5:3 says, “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance.” Endurance is a treasure that can only be produced from pain. Some one cannot be proved to be persevering if they are never given the opportunity.
At the funeral, I looked into my friend’s face. I could see the overwhelming pain, the sorrow, the sense of loss, but I could also see strength, hope, courage, peace, and love. The word that came to my mind which encompassed it all: endurance. I saw a clear image of Jesus in him. Facing pain and bearing it magnificently.
Of course I would have given anything to have made that pain avoidable. But, the endurance I saw was something God-given. It reminded me that although there is evil in the world, God is still sovereign. He is powerful, He is loving, and He does what is best for His people. Sometimes it is hard to believe that He would allow such evil, especially when we cannot see the good that He brought through it. But this I trust: it cannot last. God is far too good and far too powerful to allow evil to triumph.