The question is the most haunting, and loudest when the lights go off and I’m left alone with my own thoughts and fears.
It’s strange. For someone so anxious I have no fear of death, but I am incredibly afraid of pain—physical and emotional. Maybe it’s because I’m no stranger to pain, riddled with a painful disease since I was a child. Maybe it’s because I feel so deeply, that my heart doesn’t simply chip when it’s sad, it completely crumbles. If I cry, I pull the tears from my toes.
Even more than my own pain, I cannot stand when I see others suffer. Perhaps I’m so afraid of pain, simply because I’m human. Whatever the reason is, it haunts me like a ghost in an English moor.
I have at various times in my life held these three arguments—and only one held the test of time. And my guess is your experience is—was, or will be—the same.
Misconception: If God is good and pain exists in your life, it’s because your faith is not strong enough.
This ideology has been believed by many for thousands of years. Even in the ancient book of Job, his wife and friends insinuate that Job must have unrepentant sin in his life.
As a child, there were times when I was convinced if I prayed and really believed it that my body would be healed and I would be like all the other children. If the right person with the right amount of faith prayed for me, I would be healed. I was never healed.
I have been sick and in pain for 14 years, and if this statement were true, my faith must be tiny.
But didn’t Jesus Himself suffer? Did not Lazarus? David? Moses? Elijah? Paul? Isaiah? Hosea? The lives of Jesus, Paul and James—along with tons of other in the Bible—assure us that to live is to suffer. And who has stronger faith than they?
Even more modern men and women with admirable faith suffered much: Charles Spurgeon dealt with great depression and anxiety; C.S. Lewis lost the love of his life much too early; and Elisabeth Elliot‘s husband and friends were brutally murdered.
The “lack of faith” ideology of doen’t hold up.
Misconception: God isn’t good, or real; we just exist and suffer for no purpose.
This creeps in my mind at 4 a.m. “God, are You really there?” “Do You care?” “Are You really good?”
This was not an answer I could accept. Because beauty exists, and I have glimpsed heaven too many times—in the laugh of a child and the rising of the sun—to believe our spirits are limited to this broken world. Our whole selves stir to fight for a life beyond what we can see.
Truth: God is good, but the world is not.
What if God mourns with us and hates the pain and evil more than we do? What if He could stop it all with a whisper, but doesn’t—because He is good? Remember when Noah was commissioned to build a boat and save his family and two of every animal? The world was evil and needed a restart. And God made a promise. He said:
I promise every living creature that the earth and those living on it will never again be destroyed by a flood. The rainbow that I have put in the sky will be my sign to you and to every living creature on earth. It will remind you that I will keep this promise forever.
The problem of evil was not eradicated by the flood.
We are all victims of the fall, cursed by the sins of our forefathers and of ourselves. We have all chosen to lie, steal and love ourselves more than others. We’ve hated and acted selfishly. And sin does not only affect the sinner; it breaks at the fabric of the whole earth.
But God promises to one day restore all things. We mean that much to Him. While He continues to weep, and hate our suffering and the suffering we inflict, His love and desire to know us is much bigger.
Sometimes, this idea is really hard for me, but other days I can say without a doubt it is the only reason I continue on. It’s hope. It’s grace. It’s mercy.
Our suffering and sin is not to be wasted, if we let Him, it can become the building blocks to our rebirth.