This world is full of surprises. I do not mean the surprises that put smiles on the faces of those who have received the package. This is not one of those “happy-ever-after tales” the children cartoons love to show.
In life, serious twists occur: twists that result in unexpected, unbelievable and painful experiences. Almost suddenly, the good becomes the bad. The beautiful goes extinct, not because the ugly was the fittest to survive but because a twist re-branded what used to be beautiful leaving dust and ashes as remnants of past delights.
Pain And Other Woes
A man happily drives his family for a long awaited vacation. The specially planned trip becomes one of grief when a drunk driver runs into the family van, killing the wife, all three children and leaving the father unconscious and losing much blood. The bereaved father awakes to a world of misery. He begins to contemplate if there is anything worth living for.
What about the newly wed bride who looses her dear husband as he tries to get her safe from the wrath of a spree killer? Can you quantify the grief?
Multiple killings keep making the news headlines. One suddenly finds out that his next door neighbor has taken his own life only after taking those of several “random” people. The news becomes more devastating when a close friend has lost his loving mother in the shootings.
Bomb blasts are common news. The experience however is not common for those who have to search for dismembered parts of spouses, children, parents or neighbors which lie scattered in the rubble. Tears fall to the ground, hands are thrown in despair and people sit in the rubble, unable to rationalize the unpredictable fatal twists in life.
What if I should write about the horrors of watching oneself or a loved one succumb to the wasting of an incurable disease? What about the brilliant child who has lost focus and stands confused about the verbal wars between her parents? Wars that finally end with both parties agreeing about nothing but that each one has had enough and would call it quit on the marriage. The child is caught in the crossfire and all motivation seems lost in the deep blue sea.
What about the betrayal by a spouse? A spouse elopes with another party after suddenly awakening to a kind of love that cares nothing about marital vows. Betrayal by a close friend is no news and with more gravitation towards moral relativism, one may just be surprised how much justification people will cook up for ungodly acts.
Somehow, everyone seems to get a portion of grief, pain, suffering and disappointments in this world. No one seems to be spared, not even those who have turned their backs on the world and entrusted all to Lord Jesus. Lord Jesus Himself had His fair share. So fair was His share and so grand was what He did with the share that by His stripes we are healed and by His death and resurrection, we too are dead to the world and alive to God.
God Spoke Clearly About Pain.
Our heavenly Father clearly spoke about the many unpleasant experiences in the world. He never promised a suffering or disappointment-proof ride. The scriptures, through the first and second testaments record how God informs His Chosen ones about the suffering they would face in the world. One way God continues to work is to keep the saints informed of what lies ahead. He will not act unless He reveals His counsel through His prophets (Amos 3:7). If anyone knew this well, it was Lord Jesus.
To show how much God wanted us to be aware of the relationship between the saints and suffering in this world, He has allowed for a book that records in detail the suffering of a Godly man.
The Book of Job details the suffering of a man who knew God, loved good and shunned evil. Job is one of the few men in scriptures whose suffering and loss is deeply touching. He lost virtually everything: his wealth, prestige, friends, children and wife. Job began to rationalize that he had a case to take up with God. His hope in God did not fail, however, Job could not understand why God had not showed up after allowing certain unpleasant things to happen to him. He later found out that God’s Faithfulness remained just as steadfast as it was during his more pleasant years.
The main gravitation of hard times is the tendency to make a believer question or doubt God’s Person, whether this means reconsidering His goodness, love, kindness, compassion, omnipotence, etc. This is no small matter because the greatest assurance we have from God about Himself is His immutability which includes the truth that God does not lie. This to me is the main temptation burden for believers when the hurricanes of life hit without mercy and everything begins to fall apart like useless debris.
The idea behind the doubt question is: “how would God allow a believer to grow through deep agonies if He Himself knew how it felt to be in such a position?” Something about suffering evokes questions on how close and personal God is.
The problem is not really the answer to this question because God has revealed Himself to be utterly personal and involved in the affairs of all who believe in Him. This is seen clearly in both the old and new testaments.
In Isaiah 43:2, the Living God not only mentions that difficult times will come, He also gives an assurance that He will go through the difficulties with His people. A clear example of this is the manifestation of the God’s Presence in the fiery Babylonian furnace into which Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego were thrown because of their refusal to bow to the king’s golden idol. Who would have known that God’s presence was so tangible with them if He had not made His Presence physically observable? (Daniel 3:19-25).
These things are shown to us to strengthen our faith in the truth that God stands by His Word and that He is more near than we can ever imagine. God goes through our tribulations with us.
The hope of God’s presence doesn’t end with the old testament. In fact, it becomes more tangible and hope securing. Jesus stepped into earth; the Son of God and Son of Man. He did not distance Himself from the hurting world by claiming special privileges. Jesus took the lowly path. A King born in a manger, one of the least favorite places on the mind to give birth to a child. He wasn’t born into a royal family but took a place in the family of a carpenter with brothers and sisters who did not believe in Him.
More than these,
Jesus was well acquainted with grief and sorrow. He knew what it meant to be despised, oppressed and rejected; many threw His precious gifts in His face. He understood what it meant to be betrayed, brutally beaten, scorned and mocked. Jesus knew how it felt to be undermined and underestimated.
He experienced the hurts of conspiracies, hate, misrepresentation and misunderstanding. Jesus knew the pain of abandonment by close friends as well as the pain of loosing people He loved deeply. He understood the agony of injustice, false accusations and cruel death (Isaiah 53:1-9).
If Jesus knew what it meant to go through all of these, I must say that in Jesus, God has gotten much more personal with man. God’s anointed went through it all and as Paul put it: “Jesus Christ our High Priest has gone through all points of tests that we could go through and He went through all without the flaw of sin (Hebrews 4:15). This qualifies Him to be a reliable help for all in such hard times (Hebrews 2:18).
As God was in the Old Testament, Lord Jesus was clear that the saints will face hard times in this world. The Apostles taught other believers that hard times would come and that they should not be overwhelmed by the difficulties they would face. (James 1:2-4; Romans 5:3-5).
What consolation did Lord Jesus provide the saints going through hardship? He promised His presence with them throughout the age. This is exactly the same promise YAHWEH gave Israel in Isaiah 43:2. Why would God promise His Presence with us in the storm? I believe it is because His Presence is really what we need. God is deeply interested in making us confident in Who He Is and how personally involved He is in our lives. HE goes through the joys, sorrows, strengths and weaknesses with us.
He is truly Emmanuel- God with us.
The real question is whether or not we are capable of accepting the truth of what God has said while we go through brutal suffering and unimaginable pain.
Do we have enough faith in God’s proven personality such that it overrides the present pain and even evokes joy and peace in our hearts?
Lord Jesus has never been far away from us. He is nearer than we can imagine. He knows what we feel and has been through them all. When we can trust Him [His immutability] above the pain and suffering, we are holding onto Eternal Essence which unlike the earthly discomfort will never pass away.
Though the pain seems hard to bear
And our hearts tempt us to sway
Jesus Christ is ever near
Yesterday, today and forever.