In a social media post not too long ago, I asked a question; one that led to a new series called The Hard Questions, because when I posed the question asking for people’s deepest theological struggles, I was overwhelmed by the response. I realized that it’s not simply people who are struggling with faith who are also struggling with these gut wrenching “why’s”.
Today, I will be addressing and talking through one of the hardest questions. I want to start out by clarifying that I do not claim to know everything.
In fact, I claim to not know very much at all.
I am seeking to bring some sort of clarity to those who are in need of answers. I am coming from the position of a girl who is turning toward the Word of God for some answers to some very difficult questions. In turn, I am hoping to be able to bring some sort of peace to a wondering soul.
The first question I have been mulling over for quite some time now is one of pain and loss and of not knowing how God can be present in the midst of both. Questions like,“Does our prayer really change anything?” “Does it affect outcomes?” “What about when it seems like God doesn’t hear our cries?”
Let’s delve deeper into this issue. I am going to start directly with scripture, because surely there is nowhere else we can seek and find the very heart of Christ.
2 Corinthians 1:3-11
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.”
When it comes to, really any subject, I like to look for Paul’s perspective. There is so much wisdom found in his life and example. At the end of the day, if you want advice for the trials you are walking through, look at Paul.
Here are some of the main things I observed while studying this;
- Suffering, pain, and loss point us and the Church toward Christ, together.
Sometimes, it is so that we can share in the suffering and loss and pain of others. It says that one’s comfort is also for another’s just as suffering is. As the body of Christ, we walk through times of suffering and comfort, but all together and all for the edification of the Church and for the glorification of God.
- To suffer is to be like Christ.
Suffering makes us like Christ and is a part of the Christian walk. “the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives” just as much as His comfort does.
Another scripture that shares this truth is Philippians 3:10-11, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” We all want the first half of this verse to be our life. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection! Woo! What a beautiful thing! Oh…AND the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…ouch.
But here’s the thing; we cannot experience the power of his resurrection until we experience the fellowship of his sufferings.
While the power of his resurrection is beautiful, the fellowship of his sufferings is life-altering.
- Let’s put to death the myth that “God will never give us more than we can handle.” This is nowhere to be found in the Bible….nowhere…go look. In fact, right here in verses 8-9 it says “we were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure” so much so that they didn’t want to live. BUT here comes the hope…
- Christ doesn’t leave us to suffer on our own.
My favorite part of this scripture lies within these three statements; “He has delivered us…he will deliver us…he will continue to deliver us.”
Our testimony, our response and our overcoming of loss, pain, suffering, and trials, gives other believers the courage to be bold in their faith, points non-believers or those struggling with their faith toward Christ and makes us more like Christ in His sufferings so that we can truly know the power of His resurrection.
Maybe it’s not that our prayers are unanswered. Maybe it’s that our God, our Deliverer, is making us more like His son. Maybe we can’t fully minister to a broken world unless we have been broken, maybe we can’t heal the wounded until we have needed healing, and maybe we can’t point the lost to a Deliverer if we have not yet needed deliverance.
As sure as I am of those things I am even more sure of this; He has delivered us, He will deliver us, and He will continue to deliver us.