God's Goodness in a Hurting World

My breath caught as I drove into the hospital's parking lot. Again through those same doors, and into that ER waiting room. Memories came flooding back. That same drive just a few weeks before. The same receptionist. The same examination room. The same table where I heard my little boy's heartbeat for one of the very last times. This time, though, I was there for my daughter. Watching her sick little body deal with the ravages of a nasty virus that left her feverish and with a mouth full of bleeding ulcers for a week, made my heart ache with the desire to take her suffering from her.

During those hours I sat in that waiting room for her to be seen, the plethoric crowds of people in and out overwhelmed me. It struck me anew that each one of them had a story. They were there because they were suffering, or to see or accompany a loved one that was suffering. So much hurt, so much pain.... Tears lurked beneath the surface as I pondered my own aching heart, magnified by the labour and delivery room doors that were in my line of sight. Those doors that were supposed to be the pathway to joy a few weeks before, but instead left me with empty, aching arms, and memories I sometimes wish I could erase completely.

As I sat there my heart grappled with the whole concept of human suffering and the inevitable question of why? If we serve a loving, omnipotent God, why does life have to hurt so much for so many people? It's the age-old quandary that everybody faces at some time in their life.

One thing that I've realized in pondering this subject, is that if you aren't currently experiencing suffering in your own life right now, you don't have to look very far at all to find it. Whether it's from our North American sheltered perspective of observing starving children in Africa; the horrific religious and cultural oppression in Sudan;  or in that very moment when grief and pain comes knocking on your very doorstep, it's a reality that we all will wrestle with at some point. One well-known Christian speaker said correctly that in this life we are either just recovering from a trial, in the middle of one, or about to head into one. As much as that isn't what we want to hear, it pretty much sums up the experience of most.

I don't claim to have a very clear grasp on all of this, and through the last six weeks, I've had to make a conscious choice to cling to who God is, rather than of the circumstances I don't like and don't understand. Yet, though the times of painful questioning, God has been gently leading and teaching. I am so grateful that He is patient with me as I learn, cry, and try to wrap my mind around what His goodness and love really looks like and means during this time when life hurts so much.

I find it very providential that I had started a book series just a few weeks before Hudson's passing that had been recommended to me. Through it's four thick books, it deals intimately with this very subject. The foundation of God's goodness in the face of human suffering is a central theme, and in looking back, I see the providence of God in the timing of my reading. The week before Hudson's death, I was already being drawn by a sense of the author's grasp on the truths of God's character. Through the last weeks as I have found moments to read, I've been encouraged again and again to look to WHO God is rather than the why's of the circumstances I don't understand. 

So, instead of trying to write about my thus-far very limited experience in this subject matter, I will let Michael Phillips speak. In this particular section, a woman is describing her journey of faith in embracing God's goodness after the double loss of her husband and child on the mission field....


"What if, I thought, God's goodness and God's love don't necessarily remove the cruelty and suffering and injustice and pain from the world?
"What if they were never intended to?
"What if goodness still exists even though life is hard and cruel, and even though people suffer? What if God's goodness was never meant to take away the world's suffering, but was rather to provide a refuge in the midst of it?
"It was such a shocking idea. It made me realize that I had been expecting life to be good and pleasant and happy because I was a Christian. Now I began to wonder if I had been wrong.
"If these realizations were true, then the only thing that God's goodness would eliminate...was hopelessness.  Because if God is good, there can always be hope..though there may continue to be pain and suffering and injustice and cruelty and heartbreak. 
"I believe the Gospels teach nothing else than this truth....that God is good. Only that, and nothing more - God is good.
"It does not mean that things in my life will always be good...but that God is good. It does not mean that my prayers will always be answered in the way I would like...but that God is good. It does not mean that tragedy may not visit me... but that God is good. It does not mean that the human struggle is not difficult...but that God is good. It does not mean that there will not always be suffering in the world...but that God is good. It does not mean that there will not be times when I am so overcome by sadness at memories in my life that I must go outside and find a place to be alone and just cry for an hour...but that God is good. It does not mean that there will not continue to be many who will deny His very existence because of the pain and seeming unfairness of life they see all around them..but that God is good. It does not mean that there will not always be many questions for which we have no answers..but that God is good.
We cannot see to the bottom of such things. So we foolish creatures look at the world's suffering and say God must not exist, or if he does he must not care, or must be a cruel God. Yet I suspect that when we are one day able to see all the way into it, we will see that Goodness and Love lie at the root even of all the suffering that was ever borne by this fallen humanity of which we are part. The devil is presently having his brief illusion of triumph, but God's goodness will reign in the end.
In short, the circumstances of life do not always seem to be good, but God Himself is always good. Thus, though there may not always be happiness, there is always hope. That must be the basis for our faith - not that God gives us a happy life.'
Michael Phillips - Heathersleigh Homecoming pp 141-143

A refuge in the midst of trouble.... We won't be able to escape pain in this life, but we be able to find a deeper place of experiencing God through it. That is the hope I find myself clinging to...

2 comments:

  1. Andrea, I don't know how I got here. No, I do. God lead me. I needed this. Iam at a crossroads in my life where it seems as if nothing is going right. doknow God is with me. The outcome is his.Yet, I guess I still , I can't explain how I feel. Tis, writing and the one before it about garage sales, spoke to me. Helped me see we all feel like this. ot sure I am explaning myself. Just know that you have helped me tremendously. I needed to hear this message. Thank-you.

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    1. This brought tears to my eyes. Thank for writing and sharing a bit of your journey. We're all in it together in a sense. I think God meant that others trials and hardships be an encouragement and strength to others, and I'm glad it was in this case. Keep looking up to the One who has so many beautiful promises for you. I will be praying for you!

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