I haven't blogged much this week because something has been brewing in my heart, and there just didn't seem to be words to fit what I was wrestling ("grappling" as Peter Macky would say!) with. I've felt sad, confused, even at times angry and I wanted an answer. A real answer. From God. One that made perfect sense and explained the situations I was seeing around me. And then, I thought, I could blog about all the emotions I was feeling and how in the end, it all made sense.
That still hasn't happened.
In the past few weeks, some tragedies have weighed down my heart. I am not sure why these particular events seemed to trigger a slight faith crisis, because I am not intimately involved in any of the situations. But I am seeing bad things happen to good people. I see people left behind, totally broken in heart and in spirit. Seeing others' faith shaken has caused mine to quiver too. I know it is the great question of humanity, but I found myself asking God why such awful things happen to people - at times even His people.
Now, I know the Sunday School answer. Romans 8:28 - All things work for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purposes. It isn't that I doubt the Word of God, but sometimes I struggle with the day to day application, especially with the circumstances I see around me. I know, and believe, that God can use any situation for good, but that seems to be of little comfort to broken hearts. It wasn't even cutting it for me lately.
You know, you have to hand it to unbelievers in some respects. The ways of God are sometimes...unbelievable. And when we as Christ followers offer up some pat answer to suffering and tie it up with a big red bow of Scripture quoting, I would think it makes God even less credible. I mean, if some human has all the hard answers, who really does need God? I especially cringe at the "prosperity gospel" folks. They walk around, living in a bubble believing they are free from suffering because they really, really believe in Jesus. Don't misunderstand me - I know and praise God for all His benefits - but I think people are crack smoking to think the Bible says those who face terrible struggles just didn't believe enough.
I almost feel embarrassed to admit it, but I simply do not get it. I wish I was wise enough to be able to explain suffering. But I can't. I don't get why Katie Reider died, I don't get why Ryan has had to endure treatments for brain cancer, and I don't understand why dear friends of mine who love God and each other struggle to have children.
Maybe what I really wrestle with is not that God doesn't do anything in these situations, but that sometimes He does. Why do some live and some die? Why do some face unbelievable difficulties and others sail through life unaffected? I think it is human nature to compare the "value" or "worthiness" of people to make this make sense, but even that equation doesn't add up.
I have spent so much time lately literally begging God to make this make sense to me. I want to see the point, the grand eternal point, of such hard things. I gotta tell you - I got nothing. Not that I feel like God didn't hear me, I just think He wasn't going to fully answer me. Maybe that is merciful on His part. Maybe it's a pride lesson on my part. I don't know.
Last night I read something that, while not a thorough answer by any means, at least gave me some peace. I was finishing a book called "A Table in the Presence" and it was written by a naval chaplain as he experienced the first days and weeks of the Iraq War serving alongside a Marine battalion. There isn't much room for b.s. at war, and spiritual b.s. surely doesn't fly while the bullets and RPGs do. This was a very honest and raw account of faith under pressure.
In the end the chaplain addressed the question of why some guys lived through firefights and battles, and other good men didn't. The answer was that he just didn't know. That alone didn't bring me much comfort, but the next point he made did. He pointed out that Daniel from the Old Testament and Stephen from the New Testament both loved God and served Him faithfully under difficult circumstances. Daniel's faithfulness landed him in a den of hungry lions. Stephen's faithfulness landed him in the dirt to be stoned. God sent an angel to close the mouth of the lions and spare Daniel, but Stephen was stoned to death. Just knowing that some good people survive and some don't - and knowing it has been God's way since Bible times - brings me comfort. While I don't understand what made God protect Daniel and take Stephen home, at least I know God has been consistent in His...well, "inconsistency" as my human eyes see it.
The other thing that God has laid on my heart is to allow room for sorrow. I have been uncomfortably sad this week. Almost physically uncomfortable at times. I think part of the reason I kept coming to God for an answer is so I could relieve my heavy heart. It hurts to see others hurt. But as I look back, I have been a lot more faithful to pray for these people because of the grief I can't seem to shake.
Maybe someone further along in their spiritual journey can understand this. But I have yet to meet anyone wise enough to make it all make sense.
In the meantime, can you join me in praying for the Reider family, for sweet Ryan, and for my friends who desire a child?