That I May

One of the most impossible questions to answer is “Where is God when everything hurts?” It’s not that there’s not an answer. It’s that the question is so full of passion and dissatisfaction that there is a ticking clock following the question mark. It is nearly impossible to answer the question because it is not what I have ever asked when I have asked it. It is never what has been asked of me when I was the one on the receiving end.

I have never wanted to know where God was when I suffered.

I have never wanted Him to justify suffering.

Really, I just wondered, no I wonder what David wondered out loud and honest.

How long?

Pain is the 1.21 gigawatts flowing into Doc Brown’s machine. It fuels a special effect in space-time, bending and slowing. The more the pain, the more time slows. The greater the confusion, the larger space that isn’t right here expands. And with pain and confusion, we find ourselves… I find myself watching seconds last for eternities, and I see the world outside of what I can visually observe moving at a pace double and triple my own with happiness unfettered by pain.

And then pain will dull and I will have relief. And then a new pain or fear. When the next wave of suffering approaches, I wonder how long I will feel lost this time. How long will this next one make me feel suffocated and unreal. A walking two dimensional caricature of life with no direction. No purpose.

Pieces shatter
Questions unanswered
I’m broken and weathered
You hold me together [1]

Why is it so all fired important to recognize that God is good when our circumstances are not? There is a myriad of reasons and they all relate back to the truth that He is good and that truth is vitally important. In our moments of duress, we don’t feel Him holding us together. We don’t sense Him protecting us from the full onslaught of the bad that could be. All we feel is what is wrong.

But when we acknowledge that God is good, it is a first step in acknowledging that anything is. Recognizing that there is good is the first pin to turn in the locks on the cages into which suffering casts us. Seeing that there is good is a way of knowing that our suffering is smaller than us. It is certainly smaller than God, but it is actually finite.

We still ask “how long?” no longer for the purpose of no longer experiencing pain, but slowly our attention turns toward anticipating and knowing joy once more.

God’s goodness assures us that the closer we draw to Him, the less hold our pain has on us. Our circumstances diminish in the sheer size difference between us and God.

Even in the battle, You are good, You are good,
Even in the struggles I have never understood,
Be it joy or pain, Still my life will say,
You are God and You are good. [2]

David, who dishonored his reign, his wife, his God, and his bed sat up all night, sweating and weeping. He had murdered a man and taken his wife as his own. And the baby conceived in that moment would not last the night. In the twilight of the next day, when members of his court came to deliver the heart breaking news that his child, innocent of crime but the price for his own, had passed beyond life, he gathered himself up.

He dressed, bathed, and cleaned desperation from himself and went to praise God.

The man whose heart yearned for God more than for his own selfish gain.

It is important that we recognize the difference, though, between hiding in religious activity and bringing our pain to God in praise, worship, solemnity, and rejoicing. We cannot offer to people to leave their pain at the doors of the sanctuary. We must invite them to bring it into the doors and be revealed in the light of the love of Christ. We must see our circumstances with as perfect a perspective as we may, so that it will never imprison us more than we have already allowed it.

So You say You won’t leave.
You say You love me.
So I’ll trust You with this day.
And I’ll trust You to lead the way. [3]

In worshipping God, we find devotion, trust, and hope.

Hope so strong you can smell and taste it, like you can smell the rain when the earth is thirsty to grow green from the soil once again.

Trust, once lost, is so hard to restore. Trust can be destroyed even when God has not wronged us. It just takes our circumstances to hurt and then we believe that all has gone wrong. God does not feel the need to restore our trust in Him, but He does not hide Himself from us. He stays in full view to let us know that He is always going to be there when we need Him. And suffering reveals to us how forever we need him. We find out how much we need Him for even the good times, as He multiplies the joy of joy.

So I praise You
Not that I have to
Not that I ought to
But that I may. [4]

What more powerful truth in this life exists than that? What perspective is more needed with our heartbeats but that we have been given permission to worship that God. Moses, when he brought the people from Egypt and displayed the glory of the rescuing power of Jehovah to his father in law, in his story telling of that rescue, worshipped his God. He worshipped in truth telling. He worshipped in remembering. He worshipped because he was blessed with the unique perspective to know that God is real and even though there was an entire culture to change from slaves to freed men, that God never left them.

Moses’s father-in-law then worshipped because of how great God was in that moment.

The answer in our suffering is not easy. It is universal but the expression is never the same. I don’t have an answer in the moment the question is asked. But I have a God who is good right now. The sooner I can muster myself to call Him good in the moments that are not, the sooner I can know I will outlast my suffering.

Start small. Be honest. He honors a hundred percent effort of someone who can only do a little. Let it be a fire that warms. Let it be a fire that grows. Don’t be in a hurry. Take your time.

Let hope arise.

1. Tim Timmons and Jason Ingram, “You are Good (That I May),” Awake Our Souls, Reunion. October 2, 2015. CCLI# 7050067.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

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