The Apostle Paul wrote, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.” I Corinthians 13:11-12
Suffering can cause us to bump up against our childhood understanding of God. We see dimly in a mirror. If we assumed that being faithful to God would give us protection from suffering, hardship and loss, our faith can flounder when they tumble into our world.
We question what God is doing? We get angry with God for not fixing our problems and making everything right. Or, we begin to question ourselves. We wonder what it is that we have done wrong. If God rewards good, then we must have done something terribly bad to be in the mess we are in. We tell ourselves, if we had just been better people, different people then this suffering would have passed us by.
We play the “If Only” game, dredging up each and every situation that could have gone differently, “If Only” we had acted differently. “If Only” a loved one had been wiser. “If Only” we’d intervened in some positive way. “If Only, If Only, If Only.” The trouble is our “If Only” doesn’t cure the hurt, erase the pain or comfort the soul. “If Only” just makes us feel worse about ourselves, about God and about our world.
Some years back, Harold Kushner wrote a book that he titled, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.” He wrote this out of his own suffering and pain. A son had been born with a rare congenital disease which eventually took the boy’s life. As a rabbi, he questioned God. He agonized over his son’s fate. Kushner finally concluded the faithful were not exempt from loss.
Suffering, eventually comes to every one of us. The good news is that God is with us in our pain, our loss and our heartache. No matter how lonely we might feel or how deep the grief on any given day, God hears our cries. God stores all of our tears, comforts us through friends and strangers, then walks with us in our questions and uncertainty. God loves us in our doubts and reminds us in gentle acts of caring that we are not alone in the universe.
“You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn
through the sleepless nights,
Each tear entered in your ledger,
each ache written in your book.”
Psalm 56:8 The Message Bible
Heartache, as painful and gut wrenching as it is, will not last forever. The heart that breaks can also heal. The largest doubt can lead to the deepest faith. When our lives are covered by shadows and darkness, the promise is that God is still here. Still loving us . . . Still working in our world in ways that we cannot imagine. Jesus reminded us of God loving care when he said:
“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Matthew 6:26