I wrote last year on when our fears become our reality. That article and last week’s Fruitful in the Land of My Affliction seemed to resonate with readers. I am still meditating on both suffering itself and the fear of suffering. Sometimes, the worst DOES happen. We fear the mountain falling into the ocean, and then, sure enough, it DOES fall into the ocean.
The problem of suffering is the number one issue, in my opinion, that challenges faith. Friends I know who are wrestling with trusting God mention this issue over and over again. The innocent father killed by a stray bullet in front of his kids (which happened near my neighborhood last year). The family mowed down by a drunk driver resulting in the death of two grandparents and serious brain injuries for the mother and newborn infant (which also happened near my neighborhood last month). Even closer to home is the pain of watching someone you love struggle with chronic health issues. Or watching someone you love – a child, a spouse, a parent – struggle with faith. “Where is God?!” we cry out. The silence that greets us is deafening.
Yet in the middle of our darkest wrestling, someone who has gone before us speaks into the silence. It is those moments that remind me of the profound value of the community of Christ. Oh, the Church gets on my nerves at times. There are aspects of the Church, God’s people, that bother me terribly. Yet, I need the community of Christ desperately. And there is no time that pronounces that need as clearly as times of suffering.
I Cor. 12 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” … 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
I need those who have gone before me in suffering to speak of the God who emerges sovereign over the mountain that falls into the ocean. I can try to pretend that my life will be exempt from suffering. I can stick my head in the sand about its reality. Or I can become paralyzed by the fear and dread of that suffering that hang like an anvil over my head ready to crush me. But none of those options work long term. I have to get my head out of the sand (because suffering for all of us is going to be a reality at some point in this life) and face my fears head on by way of the Word. If you too are ready to do that, here are a few resources that have personally blessed me.
1) This short sermon by a former pastor of mine whose wife died of cancer really blessed and encouraged me.
2) After her husband died of cancer, Dee Brestin wrote The God of All Comfort which has been, along with Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow by Nancy Guthrie, one of the most important books I’ve ever read.
1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
8 Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.