“The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.” Psalm 34:19
Pain. Loss. They’re difficult.
In the past 14 months I’ve lost my beloved mother, my amazing father-in-law, four high school and college classmates and two friends from church. Eight losses in such a short span of time. And if my social media feeds are any indication, multiple other friends and acquaintances are suffering from any number of afflictions.
In many ways, this Advent Season feels very much like a Season of Suffering.
It’s in times of suffering and loss that many of us get closer to God. Or, sadly, farther away. Things happen. Sometimes unexpected. Sometimes expected but dreaded. Sometimes pointless and preventable. Sometimes unspeakably tragic.
As Believers, how do we cope with such losses? Our immediate and understandable reaction is “Why, God? Why did you let this happen?” Often, we echo the words of the prophet Habakkuk who wrote 600 years before Jesus’s birth:
“How long, O Lord, will I call for help,
And You will not hear?
I cry out to You, ‘Violence!’
Yet You do not save.” (Habakkuk 1:2)
It’s natural to want explanations, to seek answers. If we can understand God’s Will and His purpose, we can accept His plan. When we don’t have those answers, we often remain trapped in a cycle of “if only” and “I/he/she/they should have.” Without an explanation, our lives can splinter into 10,000 fragmented pieces impossible to put back together.
Answers give us closure, and closure allows us to move on.
It often seems God asks the impossible of us. To simply trust Him when we have no way of understanding how or why. To turn our lives over to Him in complete obedience, submit to His sovereignty when nothing is certain. To accept His purpose even when we can make no sense of what He wants.
Unthinkable trust. Unreasonable faith. Unfathomable belief.
This isn’t what many of us expected when we accepted the baptismal call. God never mentioned trust in Him might require surviving illness, death, shattered marriages, lost jobs, ruined finances. With every tragedy, our faith is tested, raising the familiar questions of those around us who don’t share our beliefs. “How can a loving God let this happen? Why do you believe in fairy tales? Why don’t you realize the truth that we’re alone in this world?”
Freedom Through Trust
Trust us difficult. Trust requires unnatural reactions to what the world throws at us. We want to question, to revisit, to blame. With every passing moment, our efforts to understand make us more anxious, more angry, more hurt. The very thing we try to help us through the pain makes that pain more real.
Yet with every moment God is whispering to us that His will is in motion, His purposes are at work. If we simply trust. Eventually, through acceptance and trust and submission and belief something amazing and transformational happens – we begin to heal.
It’s a mystery, a paradox. The same process we fight against is the very process that frees us. Jesus tells us in John 8:32 “and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” That truth, the only real Truth, is that when we trust in God and His infinite wisdom – as hard as that might be – we find peace and purpose.
God is the Answer to Our “Why?”
As strange as it seems, suffering invites us to see God in ways we’ve never imagined. Just as Job learned to trust in God more deeply and completely after his trials and tests, we learn how possible it is to trust God with our own lives through grief and suffering.
When we place our trust in God, even in the face of things and events we may never understand, a beautiful transformation takes place. Although we may not have a concrete answer, we’ll find peace that God truly does cause “all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
There are always “whys” to our suffering, no matter how difficult that suffering might be. While we may never fully understand the reasons for our grief, during this Advent Season we can take comfort in one ultimate truth. When we surrender our “whys” to God, He will always answer with the perfect answer: Himself.