Dietrich Bonhoeffer said “There is meaning in every journey that is unknown to the traveler.” And as believers in Christ, we find our meaning in Him, for “in Him, we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) But sometimes life throws us the unexpected or the unknown and we resist especially if it is some form of suffering.
The past month has been difficult for me as I wrestle with the fact that my parents’ health is declining and there is so much responsibility and caregiving to be involved in. In the midst of the confusion and the exhaustion of balancing their needs and my work responsibilities, I have sought the Lord for strength. These are some lessons I discovered.
Remember God’s Presence and Who He is
God who created me and knows me even when I am in my mother’s womb loves me and knows how I will be refined through this period. 1 Corinthians 3:1-5 says that God is the God of comfort and in our afflictions, He has a purpose, to make us more like Jesus.
In difficult times, choose to exalt the Lord our God and proclaim, “But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.” (Ps 3:3). We need not fear for He is with us, He is our God and He will strengthen, help, uphold us with His righteous right hand. Here are some attributes of God we can meditate on.
God knows everything (Dan 4:35, Job 12:13-25, Eph. 1:4, 2 Thess 2:13, 1 Tim. 1:17; 6:15)
God is love (Rom 8:35,37-39, Ps 37:28, I Jn 4:7-8, 20-21, Jn 3:16)
God is faithful (Ps. 36:5, 119:90, 1 Cor 10:13, Heb. 10:23)
God never changes (Lam 3:22-23, Mal 3:6, Ps. 102:25-27, Heb. 1:10-12, James 1:17)
Rejoice in His promises
The writer of Habbakuk says “…yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to tread on the heights.” (Hab 3:18-19) He will turn our moaning into dancing.
Philip Yancey, in his book Where is God When It Hurts says, “The suffering person faces choices. She can recoil in anger and despair against God. Or she can accept the trial as an opportunity for joy. I do not mean to imply that God loves one type of sufferer and rejects the other, or even that one is more “spiritual” than the other. I believe God understands those people who kick and struggle and scream as well as those who learn that suffering can be a means of grace, of transformation… Indeed, the path of joyful acceptance is self-healing: an attitude of joy and gratitude will reduce stress, calm nerves, allay fears, help mobilize bodily defences.”
Release everything to Him
And because we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose, (Rom 8:28), there is definitely good even in the midst of confusion, loss and pain.
We can release it to Jesus and ask Him to give us the strength to cope and to embrace the unexpected.
Philip Yancey adds: “The fact that Jesus came to earth where He suffered and died does not remove pain from our lives. But it does show that God did not sit idly by and watch us suffer in isolation. He became one of us. Thus, in Jesus, God gives us an up-close and personal look at His response to human suffering. All our questions about God and suffering should, in fact, be filtered through what we know about Jesus.”
As we learn to lay it all at the feet of Jesus, we learn surrender and we learn faith.
Finally, “Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer). Thus wrestling with where God is when life hurts is a significant part of a discipleship journey.
By Pauline Mok, Deaconess (YCKC Bulletin 28 February & 1 March 2015)