The Mystery of Suffering

When I check my Facebook, I love to see people celebrating and sharing beautiful moments in their lives. But today as I peruse my page, I see heartache.

First I see the mother of a girl I went to high school youth group with sharing that her mother will die of cancer in the next 48 hours. I pause as I remember building gingerbread houses at their home every year at Christmas time, remembering when life was normal.

Then I see a post by a woman who I had talked to at a wedding I attended about a week prior. She has just learned her teenage son has Leukemia and she is pleading for prayers.

I read on to find that another friend who is pregnant has been told that her baby will only survive but a few hours after he/she is born.

My heart aches and I try to hold back tears as I tell to my children in the next room to brush their teeth and get ready for school. Today, our day is normal. Our day will most likely be usual. And, I am grateful for that; but I ache for those whose lives will change today and never be the same.

I ache for those who hurt because I know what it feels like to suffer the intense circumstances that life throws at you when you least expect it. I write each of my Facebook friends a note of encouragement and prayer, but it doesn’t seem enough.

And then I recall how I spent the previous evening. A friend texted me asking for help. A girl he knows was at his house and was determined have an abortion. I tried to support and encourage him through texting while he was trying to convince her to save her child.

She is 24, had a one-night-stand with a guy at a party, and now she is pregnant and in deep distress. She wants the immediate disappearance of her difficult situation. And why wouldn’t she, when we live in a culture that revolts against any type of suffering?

We live in a culture that creates every gizmo and gadget to make life easier and simple. They have duped us all. There is no real escape from suffering, as my friend whose son has cancer, my friend whose mother will die, and my friend who will lose her child after birth know too well. There is no escape.

Pain hits me in the gut as I think of my friend who would give anything for her child to live a long life after birth, while this stranger is ready and willing to end the life of her child before birth. It is a paradox I don’t pretend to understand, but I pray for each. I pray for the woman who will lose her child to natural causes.  I pray for her strength because I know people in our culture will encourage her to abort her unborn child to save her the agony of carrying full term just to witness her child’s untimely death. I also pray for the woman who will choose to end the life of her child. I am physically powerless to stop either situation from happening, but I will pray because God is not powerless.

I don’t know why we suffer. I don’t know why God allows us to suffer, and I don’t pretend to have all the answers. But what I do know is that when we allow God to be in the center of that suffering, there is hope, there is grace, and there is mercy. It may be a mercy far beyond our understanding, but it is there.

And when we are faced with horrific, life changing news that will rip our hearts apart in the suffering we will endure, we have two choices:

We can separate ourselves in our pain, anger, and heartache from the love of God, orwe can cling to the love of God and let nothing—nothing come between us and the God who loves us. The same God who loves the mother who will die a horrible death of cancer, the same God who loves the child just diagnosed with Leukemia, and the same God who loves the two unborn children and their mothers who will make radically different choices.

The same God who will love and grow us in strength and virtue through our suffering if we allow it.

Through God, all things are possible, and so we must cling to hope for all those who suffer today and pray their suffering brings them right into the heart of Christ who sees it all, who can heal it all, and who strengthens all.

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