It all started with the group text to the family from my wife’s parents. They would have to skip church this week because they were sick. That week turned into two weeks. Our big family vacation was planned for the end of the month. It was going to be the first time everyone was at the beach together in 4 years. All the sudden there was talk about possibly canceling the vacation till Dad got better. We ended up canceling the vacation and doing something last minute with just our kids. Dad was admitted to the hospital and was now in week 3 of his sickness. For the first time, I came face to face with a long road to recovery as a real possibility for my father-in-law. It brought out old scars that had been long covered up from my own father’s long and painful road to death 3 years earlier.
Pain. The very word brings experiences and memories to mind. Whether physical or emotional, we all experience pain. While the details of your suffering may be very different from mine, suffering is universal. Loss is often the cause of pain. Loss of a dream, loss of a relationship, loss of a physical ability, loss of a life, when we lose any aspect of our lives and our expectations and hopes come crashing down. We’re confronted with our lack of control on life, we’re reminded of the selfishness of others, and we’re faced with questions and the agony of the pain.
Often we reach for familiar phrases like, “I’m sorry for your loss” or “At least the suffering is over” or “They’re in a better place now.” We want to offer help and comfort, but often fall wildly short of anything close to that. One of the questions I’ve been confronted with is, “If God wants what’s good for my life, why did this happen? How can this possibly work for my good?”
The answer is simple yet not the one I want to hear. First, change “If God is good” to “Because God is good.” We know that to be true and suffering or difficulty doesn’t change that truth even if we might be questioning it. Secondly, recognize that God’s goodness doesn’t prevent suffering or hardship. The curse of sin brings death which God graciously allows to take place at the best time possible for it to do the most good and bring Him the most glory. Then, the question becomes, “Because God is good, where can I see His grace in this pain? Where has He been good and merciful in my suffering?”
The Bible can answer many of our questions. We can usually find other joys in life, we’ll form other friendships, but in the moments of raw heartbreak, nothing takes that pain away. We wish so much to have someone tell us it’s a bad dream or to at least take the hurt away. Time helps numb the pain, but it’s never gone.
It’s a reminder of the consequence of sin. It is a reminder that while many aspects of our lives may go according to our plans, we still live in a broken world. It helps believers to groan with the anticipation of Rom. 8:22-23, “For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.” (NKJV) We can’t wait for the new heaven and new earth where there will be no more pain and no more tears when God will make all things new.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” (Rev. 21:4-5 NKJV)
Everyone experiences suffering and loss in our broken world. It’s not a rare disease or a random happenstance. I’ve stopped saying the familiar phrases I’ve heard at countless funerals. While all these sentiments can be genuine and caring, those truths don’t soften the agony of loss. I know the pain. I have cried till I can’t anymore. I’ve yelled at God and asked questions that I won’t know before heaven.
We long to have perfect relationships with fellow mankind. We desire to see peace in our world. We all suffer death as our dreams crumble, our bodies break down, our friends leave us, and our family members pass away. We hope for a day that is not filled with anxiety and grief and pain and despair. That future day is not when man finally is able to work together and achieve harmony, but when God breaks the curse, banishes death and the grave, and establishes a new perfect world for us to enjoy with Him forever.
I have to make the choice regularly to trust the truth of Psalm 145:17, “The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind is all his works.” (ESV) It doesn’t take away the pain now, but it helps us focus on future perfection.