Why Does God Allow Us To Suffer?
WARNING: This post has turned out to be a little long, and a little raw…. Should take you about 10 minutes to read it. Just FYI. ————————————————————————
Hi friends…. It’s Sunday evening, August 19th, about 74 degrees and GORGEOUS here in Kansas City, and my awesome husband has sent me away for the evening with the 3 or 4 books I’m currently reading, plus my Bible, journals, and laptop to have coffee and hang out with Jesus. Hallelujah! 🙂 I love these moments with the Lord… and let’s be honest – Moms need breaks sometimes, eh?! 🙂
Since the last 4 posts I wrote were definitely of a lighter nature (re. my journey through decorating Isaac’s room on a budget), I want to share something with you tonight that has really been on my heart lately….So… (Do you have your cup of coffee ready?)…. Here we go….
As believers, how many of us have not asked the question, “WHY, God?!” at some point in our lives? As much as we all would love to believe that following Jesus exempts us from pain, loss, hardship, trials, and suffering, we all know that this is not the case. Not at all…. And despite the title of this post, I don’t claim to have a handle on every aspect of the heart of God regarding His reasons for allowing us to experience suffering and trials in our lives at various points throughout our Christian journey…. BUT…. I do have some insight that I’d love to share with you. And I’d like to say that I don’t speak here as one who has not experienced great loss. I have lost loved ones. I have been through an incredibly painful divorce (about 7 years ago). (Eesh… Is it okay for me to say that here? I’m not happy with that piece of my history… but praise God, He makes all things new. Click here to read my personal story in more detail.) I have lost multiple babies to miscarriage. I have experienced very painful breakdowns in a couple of friendships. My husband Stan and I fostered a baby girl from birth till age (almost) 2 and we wanted so badly to adopt her, but lost her instead (birth mom now has custody). Our hearts have been broken so profoundly…. I lack words to describe the pain.
I say all of that not to “one-up” you, or to try to make a case that my “suffering package” is worse than anyone else’s. I just want you to know that I’ve experienced suffering….and that those experiences, and having walked through them with Jesus, are the background out of which I would like to speak to your heart this evening.
Here are a few things I often hear people (Christians included) say when it comes to conversations about why God allows us to suffer. I’d be willing to bet you’ve heard some of these also:
Most people believe that when we encounter suffering or hardship, it’s for a purpose….. God is allowing it in order to make us better, stronger. But I submit to you that when it all comes down, God’s ultimate goal in allowing suffering in our lives is NOT to make us better people. Being made better is merely a result of His actual goal.
Here’s what God is always, ALWAYS after when we encounter suffering: OUR HEARTS. He is after the openness of our hearts toward Him in the face of any and every circumstance that comes our way. He is after deep, deep intimacy with us in the midst of sorrow. It doesn’t matter who you are, or even whether you have given your life to Him yet or not. In every trial, every loss, every moment of suffering, He is whispering to your heart, “I am here. Look for me in the midst of this. Listen for my voice. I long to speak to your heart, to reveal myself to you. In every circumstance, my heart is to show you myself. I am pursuing your heart. Trust me….Trust me, precious one. Give me your heart, even now…” So… practically, how can we surrender to God’s pursuit of our hearts in the midst of suffering? Here are a few things that I’ve found that the Lord is after:
1. Our worship. In the face of pain. In the face of loss, grief, unanswered questions… He says, “Will you get before me? just set your heart like a flint before me? declare who I am? Will you press into the truth of my sovereignty, my love, my grace, my unchangingness, my Kingship over your circumstances?” (Unchangingness? Like that word? I made it up myself… 😉 ) Another type of worship that He is after is simply this: the HONESTY of our hearts before Him. Simply opening our hearts to Him and telling Him how much it hurts, while maintaining a heart posture of surrender, is such a pleasing fragrance to Him. These forms of worship are both absolutely gut-wrenching… but simultaneously the sweetest experience in the world. When we engage Him in this way in the face of our suffering, He meets us profoundly in the depths of our hearts. He may not instantly change our circumstance… but His encountering of our hearts in the midst of it is so incredibly more than sufficient to sustain us….through anything. Absolutely ANYTHING. See Psalm 34:18. He is so uniquely, intimately NEAR to us when our hearts are breaking. Moment of reality here: I have to say that I have definitely not always succeeded in wrangling my heart into this place of persistent, tenacious, radical worship in the face of my circumstances…and when we fail in this area He is so faithful to continue to pursue our hearts until we come back around into a place of worship….. And the second that I even begin to turn my heart in that direction, His grace is there and He is so faithful to meet me…. And what precious times I’ve had with Him in moments like these. My heart is undone even as I write this… He is so, so sweet, and His nearness is so much more than enough.
2. Our trust. Radical, fierce, ruthless trust. Trust that digs in and says, “God, I choose to believe that your heart toward me is GOOD…. that your plans for my life are GOOD (Jeremiah 29:11, Phil. 1:6). Even when I don’t understand your ways, I choose to trust you. No matter the pain, no matter the struggle, no matter the loss, I trust your heart toward me. I believe that you are who you say that you are. I do…. I do, Father!” Another moment of reality: There have been moments, in my seasons of great loss, where I’ve had to get super honest before the Lord and say, “Father, I don’t know right now if, in the core of who I am, I really trust your heart toward me. Part of me is afraid that your heart toward me isn’t good…. but I WANT to believe, God. I WANT to trust you. Help my unbelief. Protect my heart from the enemy’s lies….” Because in those moments where our suffering or our trial seems to overtake and overwhelm our hearts, the enemy’s desire and plan is to plant lies in our hearts about the character of God, to try to make us doubt His goodness…. And in those moments, after I’m honest before the Lord about the condition of my heart, I have to jump (quick!!) back up to #1 (WORSHIP!) until my heart comes into alignment with truth and I begin to trust His heart toward me again. Does this make sense?
3. Our surrender to His work in the deepest places of our hearts. Our willingness to ask the questions, “God, what are you wanting to accomplish in my heart in the midst of these circumstances? What are you wanting to show me about yourself in this suffering? About my own heart? Father, have your way in me, IN THIS SEASON, in the depths of my heart….”
He is so, so ultra-committed to pursuing intimate friendship with us, and in each painful circumstance, if we will position our hearts before Him in a posture of worship, trust, and surrender, even when we do NOT understand His ways…. He is SO, SO faithful to reveal Himself to us in new ways, to bring surprising, miraculous comfort to our hearts, (i.e. “BLESSED are those who mourn…. for they WILL BE comforted.”) to deepen our ability to trust Him, and to strengthen our resolve to worship and love Him no matter what…. NO. MATTER. WHAT. Because He’s WORTHY of it. THIS (in my opinion) is how He wants to “better” us through suffering. This is how He uses trials to make us stronger. We never have to just “grin and bear it.” We never have to “suck it up and keep going.” And we DEFINITELY never have to “just survive.” We pour out our hearts to Him…. stand in the face of the storm and worship our guts out, trust Him relentlessly, and surrender to His process in our hearts in the midst of the pain. He meets us in this place, sustains our hearts, brings supernatural comfort and peace even in the midst of our suffering, and deepens our intimacy and friendship with Him like we never dreamed possible. Such a beautiful, bittersweet process, His pursuit of our hearts. Again and again…. I’m just undone by the way He loves me…. the way He loves us. Grace to you, my friends, in whatever season you’re in. Whether your home situation is stressful, you’ve lost your job, you feel stuck in a job that you’d rather not be working, your dog has died, or you’ve lost a family member (you fill in the blank)….no matter the pain (NO trial or “suffering package” is too small), God invites you into these places with Him in the midst of it. May you hear His whispers clearly in the depths of your heart, and may you respond to His invitation into intimacy in the midst of your circumstances, whatever they look like. I bless you in Jesus’ name with the courage and faith to jump in with both feet…. He is waiting to meet you in ways you can’t even imagine.
What about you?
How has God encountered Your heart in the midst of suffering? I’d love to hear pieces of your journey with Him….
Bless you, friends!
Know someone who'd appreciate this?