How can I view pain and suffering rightly?
Does God want me to suffer?
I have struggled with these very questions. For the past month or so I have been in a great deal of pain. The weight of my sorrow has been overwhelming. There have been days where I have not felt like walking closely to God. The only thing I knew I could (and wanted) to do – was hurt.
But I praise God for His ever present (and GRACIOUS) hand. I am also thankful for the insight and encouragement I have received from reading a book by Larry Crabb entitled, "Shattered Dreams: Life's Unexpected Pathway to Joy". A dear sister in the Lord recommended this book. Indeed, what a blessing!
Have you ever experienced a season(s) of trial and suffering? Have you had a dream shatter? Or perhaps a prayer (that was good and right) that went unanswered? (i.e. pleading to God to make your desire for holiness stronger than your lust for pornography, food, or other addictions; praying for a closer relationship with a parent, friend, or church member; desiring a spouse, or even children; begging God to save your marriage; trusting in Him to heal your cancer; needing financial help to get out of debt . . . etc.) If you have ever thrown your fists up in the air at God, wondering why He seems to only punish the righteous, well, this book will be a great encouragement for your soul.
A few truths I am learning from Shattered Dreams . . .
Note: I weave in and out of several quotes I selected from Larry's book.
When dreams shatter we hurt and often the pain won’t go away.
**So what then becomes our goal?
Handle the pain! Relieve the pain if you can. Live through it if you must. Whatever you do, handle the pain!
In our struggle to handle the pain of shattered dreams, however, one question is rarely talked about with honesty: What do we do with how we’re feeling toward God? What we want is good; it’s not selfish. Why won’t God let us have it? Do we even like God, let alone love Him?
In the chaos and heartache of dreams that crumble, God so often seems to pull away. When we cry the loudest, He sometimes turns a deaf ear. Nothing changes. Like a nurse who never responds no matter how hard we push that little button next to our hospital bed, God is not coming to help. He is unresponsive to our pain.
So, what can He be trusted for? Exactly what is He doing with His considerable power? All of this centralizes around HOPE. When dreams shatter, we lose hope.
What does it mean to hope in God as we continue to live in a world where good dreams shatter and God seems to do nothing about it?
The problem sincere Christians have with God often comes down to a wrong understanding of what this life is meant to provide. We naturally and wrongly assume we're here to experience something God has never promised - a good time. When we uncover the deepest motives that drive our actions, we discover a determination to feel now what no one will feel until heaven. We long to experience a compelling pleasure that eliminates all pain.
As long as our purpose is to have a good time, to have soul-pleasure exceed soul-pain, God becomes merely a means to an end, an object to be used, never a subject rightfully demanding a response, never a lover to be enjoyed. Worship becomes utilitarian, part of a cunning strategy to get what we want rather than a passionate abandonment to someone more worthy than me.
It’s harder to discover our desire for God when things go well. We may think we have, but more often all we’ve found is our desire to use God, not to enjoy Him. Shattered dreams are the truest blessings; they help us discover our true hope. But it can take a long, dark time to discover it.
**What usually comes to mind when we think of hope?
We want things to get better.
What God will one day provide in heaven is different from what He provides now.
What He provides now, however, can be difficult to appreciate.
For instance, take a look at Hebrews 11. We are all very familiar with this chapter - a Hall of Faith! But many of these saints,"who gained approval by their faith, did not receive what was promised." They suffered the worst kind of trials and died without ever being saved from them. Their gratification was delayed until heaven.
And yet we can almost hear the Trinity bursting with pride as the Spirit inspires the writer to say of those who endured the worst horrors, “The world was not worthy of them.” (v38) and then this most discontenting chapter ends on an even more troubling note; the writer insists that these people held on to their faith, they never lost hope, even though “none of them received what had been promised. (v39) So, perhaps we should rethink our ideas on hope. Maybe what the Bible wants us to hope for in this life is very different from what most of us think.
Does my hope merely consist of a desire to have a pain-free life? A hope to find happiness NOW?
Also, take a look at Luke 22:39-46. Have you ever paid attention to verse 43 before? And how that verse PRECEDES verse 44?
Whatever the angel said to strengthen Jesus, the effect was surprising. I would have expected Him to dry His eyes, smile bravely, and get on with His mission. But instead Jesus cried harder, so hard that His sweat become like drops of blood. That happened after He was strengthened. Perhaps we’re meant to learn that the richest hope permits the deepest suffering, which releases the strongest power, which then produces the greatest joy. Maybe there is no shortcut to joy. Maybe God sometimes frustrates our desire to experience Him in order to deepen it.
When dreams shatter, we long to experience God’s nearness in a way that dries our tears. Instead, deeper tears are released . . . God does want us happy; He’s gone to great lengths to ensure our eternal joy. But the happiness He provides now is the strange happiness of longing for what we were designed to experience but must wait to fully enjoy. It’s the happiness of serving a God we trust enough to let us cry today, knowing He has promised to wipe our eyes tomorrow.
Indeed, God is good. Isn't He?!