We live in a crazy world. A world where, on a daily basis, thousands of people die from hunger and disease. A world where children are born into unloving and abusive homes. A world where many people find it easier to take their life than to live it. A world whose landscape looks dark and the future uncertain.
And this darkness doesn’t stay outside the church walls. Inside, families are still split apart from divorce, people suffer with unexplainable illnesses, tragedies still occur and trials still come.
To tell you the truth, when I look at the state of things, it’s sometimes very easy to get discouraged, especially when I face these trials in my own life. When I stood beside my grandmother’s hospital bed and watched her life slowly slip away, it was so easy to be mad at the God I still wanted so desperately to cling to. Why did this happen? Why can’t she be healed? Is it a lack of faith on my part? Or am I following a God who plays havoc with my life? And I’ll be honest when I say that I couldn’t come up with any good answers to the many questions. So I put a mask on my face, repeated religious phrases that had little value to me and tried to move forward. But life didn’t go back to normal. In fact, things started to further unravel. In the next year I had health problems and subsequent surgery, someone else close to me passed away, a family member got very sick, I had to delay my schooling, I experienced financial problems and … I could go on and on.
During this time, I “dealt” with the pain by refusing to deal with it and allowed it to continue to pile up. Not only did it affect me emotionally and physically, but it also robbed me of a lot in my relationship with God. Finally, almost a year after my grandmother’s passing, things came to a halt and it was then that God broke me completely. It was then that I began to realize that even though pain was not a pleasant experience, in my life it was a necessary one.
Am I saying that without the trials I wouldn’t be a Christian? No. I know that I was, but I also am aware that before the first sign of trouble hit, the majority of my faith was based on what I had read about God in books and not on my own experiences with Him. Facing pain also made me face the reality that maybe God wasn’t who I thought He was after all, and through the trials my faith has been made real and my trust in God has been strengthened. I truly believe that the same message the Lord gave Jeremiah was manifested in my life:
The Lord gave another message to Jeremiah. He said, “Go down to the shop where clay pots and jars are made. I will speak to you while you are there.” So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel. But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so the potter squashed the jar into a lump of clay and started again.
Then the LORD gave me this message: “O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so you are in my hand.”
Sometimes God will take clay and break down the current mold to make something more beautiful. God will mold us and this molding is not from a God who seeks to destroy, but rather from a God who loves to heal. In the past few months I have been on a healing journey. Though it’s not always visible, God has been working on removing the scars and restoring my heart. He is opening my eyes to see the beauty of life and the wonder found in the ordinary. And He has been blessing me. God lined it up for me to be introduced to an amazing college and careers group at the perfect time and my experiences with them have been instrumental in the journey that I have been on. I’ve also been given the perspective to be able to see God’s hand throughout the trials. From the last conversation I had with my grandmother to the way things lined up for my surgery, to the way that God has provided for my needs, I can see the potter’s hand. And although I have not enjoyed the pain, I can honestly say that through it all God is good and He has been faithful.
I’m only 21 and I’m sure that I will face many more trials in my life. I am also sure that I will have many more questions and that I won’t always find answers to. Thankfully, we follow a God who doesn’t run from us when we retreat or when we question. And thankfully we serve a God who knows what is best. Will I ever know in this life why God chose that moment in time to take my grandmother home? Probably not. Will I ever understand on this earth why going through painful surgery was necessary? I highly doubt it. What I do know is that I have grown more, spiritually, during these past two years than I had in the previous 19. I also know that without many of my experiences I would not be in the place that I am today.
1 Peter 1:6-9
Where Is God When It Hurts by Philip Yancey[Kristen McNulty is a 21-year-old university student who lives in Timmins, Ontario, Canada. In her free time she hosts and produces the syndicated Making A Difference (MAD) Christian Radio Show (www.madradioshow.net).]