It’s a question that I’ve pondered, obsessed over, and fixated on more times than I care to admit. I’ve paced the hallways of my house. I’ve taken walks around the neighborhood. I’ve made myself nauseous contemplating the inexplicable complexities of the suffering of this present age, longing and groaning for the day when everything will be set right (Romans 8:18-25). And not just my own personal pains and hardships, but the tumultuous agony of others as well: My friends, my family, even former coworkers and acquaintances that have long since expired. As I write this very sentence, my heart aches for particular people and specific situations that I know are in desperate need of divine intervention. My mind and emotions are reeling about circumstances that, as a weak and mortal man, I simply cannot control. Perhaps you can relate. It’s a recipe for a severe case of anxiety to be sure.
We all ache for peace. We all long for healing. Whether it’s health problems, divorce, job loss, uncertainty about the future, a disastrous miscarriage, family instability, broken relationships, financial chaos, the pressures of school, or any number of other struggles to be found in this earthly life, it so often seems we are all at the mercy of mere happenstance.
For the last few years, I felt this way, particularly as I’ve battled through Epilepsy and all the corresponding side effects and frustrating handicaps. Indeed there are still days when I find myself questioning the goodness and sovereignty of God. Sometimes, in the despondent spirit of Job or Gideon, I want to cry out and ask the Lord of all Creation: “Is this some kind of sick joke?”
After all, as believers, we’ve been given an incredible guarantee in Romans 8:31 — “…If God is for us, who can be against us?” Surely things like Epilepsy, anxiety and stress are no match for our conquering King. This is the same King who healed a leper (Mark 1:40-45), raised a widow’s son from the dead (Luke 7:11-17), cured a paralytic (Matthew 9:1-8), and restored sight to the blind (Mark 8:22-26). He is not intimidated by physical ailments or rendered powerless by earthly misfortune.
So why does He not heal or resolve much or any of the suffering in our lives? We are His beloved children. Are we not worthy of the same attention and compassion? Why do the seizures remain? Why do the spouses leave? Why do the bank accounts collapse?
One thing I’ve learned along my journey is that everyone — no matter who they are or how successful and happy they seem to be — has, or has had, or will have some sort of suffering in their life. Did you read that sentence carefully? Everyone suffers. Even Jesus suffered. (1 Peter 3:18) And yet — speaking of Jesus — suffering is often the best means through which God not only reveals more of Himself to us, but also reveals His glory and power to the world and other people in our lives. He did it through the cross when Christ suffered and died. He did it when Jesus healed the blind man in John 9, saying that, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in Him.” In other words, the physical ailment and handicap of the blind man was for a divine purpose, one through which God would glorify Himself when Jesus restored his sight.
Sometimes this process may require taking something away from us, like our health (or part of our health), even if it feels like we’ve been condemned to certain death or eternal misery. Of course, even death wouldn’t ultimately matter because the rest of the promise in Romans 8 guarantees us that “neither death nor life…will be able to separate us from the love of God…” (Romans 8:35-39)
So, what if you are the blind man from John 9? What if God, in His divine sovereignty (Isaiah 55:8-9), has allowed difficult circumstances to occur in your life so that you can be an instrument for His glory? This might be an intimidating and daunting consideration, but it’s certainly one worth mulling over. Don’t dismiss the possibility out of fear. Remember that the Lord is with you (Psalm 23:4) and that He loves you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3).
Moreover, because of His immeasurable and unfathomable love for you, know that He does not enjoy watching you suffer. He does not take delight or pleasure in your pain. He delights in you. Just you. Plain, ‘ole, ordinary you. He “rejoices over you with gladness.” (Zephaniah 3:17) He “takes pleasure in those who fear Him.” (Psalm 147:11) When he allows those difficult and agonizing situations to flood into your life, He is actually accomplishing His good and perfect will. He is about to do something totally unexpected, something absolutely amazing and incredible, in you and through you. It will undoubtedly be a thrilling, hair-raising, heart-stopping experience.
That’s what it’s like when God is for you. And believe me: He is indeed for you, even in the times when it doesn’t feel that way. Rest in the assurance that every bit of adversity, pain and heartache you endure has been sifted through His nail-pierced hands and lovingly examined before being sprinkled into your life in just the right way, in just the right amount, and for just the right reasons.