The Glory of Suffering

Her eyes are deep pools, sad and questioning. She came, walking light and carefree, laughing about nothing and everything with the abandon of a fifteen-year-old girl.

Who knows what triggered her silent withdrawal?

But there she sat, head buried in folded arms resting on the table, forlorn and defeated.

I rub her shoulders, “You ok?”

The shake of her head is slow but there’s no mistaking it. She shrugs. “Not really,” she whispers.

I keep rubbing. “You wanna talk?”

“No,” She rests her chin on her hands and I watch the muscles in her face, working to keep back the water rising to the surface, threatening to spill over.

“C’mon, let’s go in the other room…” I squeeze her shoulder.

“No,” She insists, shaking her head a little more emphatically.

I gently persist, “C’mon, girl.”

We walk to the other room and sit and the tears spill over and drip off her nose and I just hug her tight.

Sometimes we all just need a hug.

“You want to tell me what’s bugging you?”

She’s quiet.

“Are you missing your dad?” I know I hit the nail on the head with that question.

“I know God is real. But where is He, Miss Renee?” She lifts her head and her look is challenging. “I pray and I ask Him to help me and I keep believing, but I feel alone. I don’t even want to keep living sometimes it hurts so bad. I won’t commit suicide, I just won’t, but I think about it.”

Sometimes there are no words. What do you say to a fifteen-year-old girl who lost her father completely unexpectedly?

That unsuspecting spring day, he’d gone to the ER for random, questionable pain.

He never came back.

“I never really said good-bye, Miss Renee,” She is sobbing now, “Do you know how bad that hurts?”

I pull her close and keep rubbing her tight shoulders.

Her dad had died weeks after returning home, after a year away. There had been counseling for him and his wife and a lot of hard, hard work. And then he’d returned. Home to be the father and husband he really wanted to be, with God’s help.

“Will I ever understand why?” Her defenses have crumbled and my heart feels shredded by her grief.

“I wish I had good answers…answers that I knew would make you instantly feel better,” I pause. “But I’m not going to pretend with you. I don’t.”

She wipes her nose and nods her head. She’s old enough – been through enough – to get that.

“You know Job?”

Yeah, she nods her head, she knows about Job.

“Job lost everything. Everything. Do you know how God answered Job’s questioning?”

She shakes her head slow, “Not really.”

“Let me read it to you:

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?”

I read a couple of chapters. “Why do you think God was saying all this to Job?”IMG_0023IMG_9992

The tears have slowed and she’s quiet. She’s thinking.

“Why did God say, “Where were you?” I press and I can see her pressing into the holy Words, thinking.

“Maybe…” She hesitates, “I don’t know…it seems like God is saying how great He is.” Her voice is soft.

“Yeah.” I’m proud of her. This girl with the short, thick hair and the quick laughter and the round eyes. “It was kind of like God was saying, “Job, I made you. Why do you ask me where I am, Job? I never left you. And Job? Job, nothing happens that I don’t see. I am the Creator. I have not forgotten you.”

Sometimes there are no answers. No formulas. And sometimes the best doctrines on suffering fall short. Everyone sits in Sunday School and tries to talk about what it means to suffer and why we suffer and everyone ends up saying almost-the-same-thing in about twenty different ways.

And maybe the question we should be asking is not “Why do I suffer?” Maybe we should be asking, “Why don’t I suffer more?”IMG_9318

This is the entitlement age.

Where people who don’t work have more {government} money to spend on food than the man working hard at the layman’s job. And everyone and their brother, including everyone who really can’t afford it, has a smart phone and cable. This is the age of working the system.

We’ll fight for every right that we determine we should have, except when it hurts.

Then we cringe and balk. We deserve so much more.

But the truth? We don’t really deserve anything.

And everything we have is a gift, on-loan from our Creator. He is gracious. He is grace.

John Piper, he said something once about Christianity being more about resolution than mere consolation.

The entitlement-people see being saved as being “safe”, so when bad stuff happens, we start shaking our fist at God, saying, “How could you let this happen?” The submitted ask questions too, but they ask them to know Him, not demand for more or better.

Elisabeth Elliot said,

“To be a follower of the Crucified means, sooner or later, a personal encounter with the cross. And the cross always entails loss.” 

So this girl I know, has had her personal encounter with the cross and she has suffered a deep loss. She feels alone sometimes, like even God has left her, and she asks God lots of questions, but she presses in deeper to know.

And sometimes, that is all we can do.

“It’s okay to ask God ‘why?’ He doesn’t mind. You won’t always get an answer, but don’t get mad. God hasn’t moved an inch, girl. Sometimes He might feel far away, but don’t be fooled. Push forward in the dark times, girl. Press in.”

I don’t have good doctrine for why fifteen-year-old-girls have to lose their daddy whom they have recently been restored to relationship with. It feels every centimeter as cruel as it sounds. I have firsthand seen this pain.

I don’t know what to tell the barren woman who sees the abortion statistics and the faces of wounded children bound from her with governmental red-tape. I fill these shoes too.

I don’t have words for the new mother who is clawing at freshly turned earth, for the baby that died so young, in the middle of his sleep. A senseless death, a piercing loss, the emptiest of empty.

But if I could say anything to the anguished heart?

God hasn’t moved an inch. 

He is present. With you.

The glory of suffering is that every second of our misery is a moment of restoration.

Redemption is happening now.

God, the Creator, is still the Creator.

And I promise you, He is creating a far more exceeding eternal weight of glory.

 Press in. Press on.

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5 thoughts on “The Glory of Suffering

  1. A strong piece of writing that I feel expresses/voices the opinions of thousands of like minded individuals.
    Your line “This is the entitlement age” struck a deep chord with me. Sometimes life makes no sense and just when you think you have moved on from the last hiccup a bigger one strikes. But you just got to keep going, loving and giving is the way to go.

  2. I’m blessed by the way you enter into the sufferings of others and care for them and turn their eyes toward Jesus! He is using you!!!

  3. the dear girl. Wow. And you trying to find words for moments like that, is overwhelming. I wish you courage and strength for days like those. We are dust and God knows that. These kinds of sufferings are beyond our capacity to endure alone. He expects our pain. There is never a time that HE uses pain to lead us away from himself, only towards Him. Thanks for sharing !

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