Today at lunch, we were talking about worship songs that illustrate sorrow and pain, as opposed to popular Christian radio songs. Page CXVI’s song “Joy” (click for song) came to mind. I listen to it now and I am overcome with sadness over the pain in life.
“But man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.” (Job 5:7) “Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble.” (Job 14:1) “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).
The spreading of suffering seems to know no bounds. It claws its way into every life, every heart. No bright day finishes without the darkness of dusk. Every victory we are given is followed by a loss. Every soul we win to Christ one day dies. Everything we do, turns to dust. “I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind.” (Ecclesiastes 1:14)
Everything we love, is one day lost. Every smile turns. Laughter and crying are close cousins, one always shows up when the other is invited. No friend stays close forever, for the grave consumes all. Youth, strength and wisdom turn old, weak and weary. “What man can live and never see death? Who can deliver his soul from the power of Sheol? Selah.” (Psalm 89:48)
The banner of Christ that waves over His children does not stop cancer, depression and pain. King David: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me?” (Psalm 22:1)
Perfect humanity knows the cold touch of death. Jesus Christ: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46)
When I was learning to surf, I quickly learned that fighting is useless when you are being pummeled by the waves. When you fall at the foot of a wave, the key is to relax. Attempting to swim while you are being spun around in the “washing machine” under the break is useless. It only takes your oxygen. You must relax, conserve your energy, wait for the wave to pass, then swim.
“This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.” (Psalm 119:50)
What words could soften the blow of a dead child? A cancer diagnosis? A war? Like pebbles tossed at a tank. Weak. Not just words, there is no medicine, or counseling, or insurance, or policy, or people, or state, or country or principality, or power could touch the tip of the mountain that is human suffering. They all wallow at the foothills. If one thing seems steady in life, it is the mountain of pain we all collectively suffer.
“’For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” (Isaiah 54:10)
There is only one Word.
Only God can fix this catastrophic existence. In one sense, it seems as if there is no use fighting. The enemy seems too strong. We are overcome. Our bulwark needs repair and the walls are breeched. The temptation to lay down our arms and accept defeat is sweetly whispered by the serpent’s tongue to countless Christians: “Why fight so hard and resist the inevitable? Give in. Let go.”
C.S. Lewis said that the goal of God is to teach His children to look around themselves, surrounded by suffering, without the slightest hint of God anywhere to be seen, and to say, “Still, I will trust in Him.”
“Though he slay me, I will hope in him.” (Job 13:15a)
There is such a fine balance between trusting in the world and trusting in God. Between relaxing in Him, and striving after vain pursuits. But, we must find the balance in prayer, asking the Father to help us to trust in Him. We must ask Him to show us when we must swim and when it is time to wait for the storm to pass. We must ask Him to give us courage for the new day, and the dusk that will follow.
Above we read Jesus’ words, citing David’s “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The Bible, even Jesus Himself, does not offer all the answers for suffering. But, Jesus actually does something better than telling us why we go through what we do. Rather, He tells us that He will go through it with us. Far better than the goal of suffering offered, He gives us Himself. If the goal were set before us, we would grow weary. But, He sent His Spirit so that we would persevere.
For all of its distasteful attributes, this is the way in which God’s will is done – His perfect, beautiful and world-transforming will. He allows the pain to come but never lets it go too far. He lets the temptation come, but always opens a way of escape. He lets Joseph’s brothers sell him as a slave, for dead. He permits the atrocities. But he makes Joseph a king. He turns them into glory. He sends His Son, and allows Him to die. But, He raises Him from the dead so that we might know Him, by and by.
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38–39)
“I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you.” -King Jesus (John 14:18)