Tuesday, February 2, 2010

suffering.

That was my paper topic for the day. Coincidental? Highly...if I believed in coincidences.

I learned as I wrote this...(it usually goes like that)...and I thought I would share my ramblings - from my heart, to yours.

Suffering, I would laugh at the irony of writing this paper at this time in my life, on this very day…but it’s more painful than funny to think about. I don’t have a definition for “suffering". I cannot place suffering into a tidy little boxed description. I don’t think I even know what God thinks about it. One of the hardest things about suffering is realizing there usually aren’t many answers, it's silence that meets your plaintive, and frequent, “why?” questions. Suffering has no rhyme or reason. Suffering doesn’t abide by any rules; it cannot be controlled by anyone or anything. We cannot prevent suffering from coming into our lives. We can try...if we completely block off our hearts. C.S. Lewis writes, "To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable." That’s the choice we are faced with, when we are confronted with the harsh reality of suffering - we decide what we are going to do with it in our lives, and what we are going to let it do to us.

I haven’t experienced as much suffering as some people I know, in fact, I'm sure I have barely scraped the surface. However, I have experienced it more acutely than ever before within this past year. Sometimes it feels as though I am walking around with a gaping hole in my chest, nobody can see it, but it’s just as paralyzing as any other wound. It leaves me feeling sick, and if I give in to it - I am lost in despair, and find myself tumbling down a dark well which spirals on and on. To avoid the darkness, I try to find another alternative - and there is one. The alternative is tough; it’s the less traveled route, the route that involves straining upwards and enduring the weight of everything pushing you back down. Believing and hoping in the things you cannot see, the things you do not feel. I turn to Jesus…not because that’s my natural instinct, but because I know He’s all I have. I cannot put my hope in anything else. I have, and it doesn’t work. In desperation I cling to Him. When I cry - I read His Word through blurred eyes…when I’d rather not face life at all - I repeat His Word out loud over and over again until I believe truth again. Broken, over and over again, broken…yet somehow I know down in my soul, I know - that it is only in my brokenness that I am complete. Jesus doesn’t ever take it all away. I wish He would. I plead with Him to, and He doesn’t…but somehow His presence makes it easier. He climbs with me out of the deep, claustrophobic well of darkness …He pushes me when I want to stop, He offers a foothold when I cannot move, and He rescues me when I start sliding back down. I could try to do it alone, but I sure wouldn’t want to. I don’t know how some people do.

I don’t know if God orchestrates moments of suffering in our lives, that doesn’t seem to align with His character. Yet, I know He is always in pursuit of our hearts and in that pursuit He has to get our attention to teach us things. He wants what is best for us, that I do know. I have concluded that sometimes His best must just look a lot different from ours. In Job 34: 12 it says, “It is unthinkable that God would do wrong…” We either choose to believe in a God who is always in control, and doesn’t make mistakes, or we don’t believe in the God of the Bible. I have found Job 23 to be the most comforting chapter on suffering. Job says in verse 2, “Even today my complaint is bitter; his hand is heavy in spite of my groaning. If only I knew where to find him; if only I could go to his dwelling!” He’s basically saying, if only I could go talk to God! I want answers! I need to know why! In verses 8-10 he continues on, “But if I go to the east, he is not there; if I go the west, I do not find him. When he is at work in the north, I do not see him; when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him. But he knows the way I take; when He has tested me. I will come forth as gold.” I believe that there isn’t any suffering we endure that cannot be redeemed in some way. I believe that goodness can always come out of evil, because Jesus has the victory and we can claim His redemption as His children. That redemption is more powerful than any earthly force and cannot be defeated by any earthly circumstance. Job writes in verses 13-17, “But He stands alone, and who can oppose him? He does whatever He pleases. He carries out his decree against me; and many such plans he still has in store. That is why I am terrified before him; when I think of all this, I fear him. God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me. Yet I am not silenced by the darkness, by the thick darkness that covers my face.” Ultimately, God is in control, not us. Our lives are not about us. Yet, He loves us, He cares for us…He doesn’t have to - but He does. Instead of being surprised by the suffering and the bad things that happen in our lives, maybe we should be more surprised by goodness and mercy. Again, another favorite C.S. Lewis quote of mine is this- "We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be." Life is hard, really, really hard sometimes. Knowing that good will ultimately come from pain doesn’t make it feel any better. It still hurts, hurts in ways we cannot even describe. We shouldn’t stuff our pain, we need to allow ourselves to feel it…sometimes it really is okay to sit with your head in the corner of a bathroom stall and sob until you’re hoarse and your eyes are swollen. It’s okay, as long as we don’t stay there…as long as we crawl back out of that corner and resolve to cling to hope. We all hurt differently, just as we are created to be unique individuals, so our pain is unique to us. We really can never fully comprehend someone else's pain. We can only be there to feel with them, and to love them with Jesus. We are a bunch of broken people walking around who cannot fix each other. I cannot take away pain from others - though I wish I could…and no one can completely cure my suffering either. Again, I come to the realization that my only hope is God, the only course of action leading to life - obedience. And I know that I would rather live my life with hope in Him - with the chance of finding out it’s all a lie, then to give in to despair and live every day in darkness.

Take my heart and paint your love. Paint your love across the sky. This pain, a canvas for your hope and grace.

2 comments:

richie said...

This is an amazingly insightful post Grace. I agree wholeheartedly about letting ourselves feel those hurt emotions as long as we cling to our hope in Christ. I keep thinking back on that movie shadowlands and C.S. Lewis' speech about how "pain is God's megaphone to rouse a deaf world" and how "the blows of His chisel, which hurt us so much, are what make us perfect." It is so hard to unpack those two lines... I'm still trying to.

Kym Witt said...

Wow.