Friday, April 11, 2008

Proverbia-Suffering Again

When I mentioned in an earlier post that the Hurts are suffering, again, it was not meant to garner pity or leveled as a complaint against God. However, empathy and compassion are healers of deep wounds. I'll have to number that one, too! I mentioned the point, specifically, because I have come to realize that true wisdom really only comes in the difficult paths. This is a most sobering truth because none of us would willingly tread there. We want the easy rode and when we are on the easy rode we are filled with joy and comfort and proclaim the superabundant generosity of our blessed Lord. We feel really blessed and, if we are thinking right, we give God the glory for it. We are on the high places, our Lord is smiling at us, and we are His blessed saints.

That is all true. But if, like Job's friends, we reverse the logic, we can easily get a most incorrect answer. When we are in the low places, in the valley of decision, the shadow of death, of sorrow, suffering, confusion and perhaps even misery and hopelessness, it is easy to think that God's favor has left us. And, in fact, if particular sins are the reason for the intense trouble, it may actually be the case. You may simply have sowed the wind and are reaping the whirlwind. The breaking of God's laws has real and dire earthly consequences.

But there are other reasons, too. We see great suffering in the lives of many Biblical and extra-Biblical saints. This suffering is often related to their faith, persecution, but is sometimes merely related to the fact that they are human, fallen ones at that. And it is to this category of suffering that I am addressing my concerns.

We must not reason like Job's friends. I have done so often, especially towards others, little comprehending the works of God that are far beyond human telling. The great danger, here, is pride. When we insist on knowing the reasons, or asserting that we do, for another person's suffering, we stand in the place of God. Do not misunderstand me, here. We should seek counsel in our suffering. We should examine our own hearts. We should confess our sins, repent of them and turn to Christ. But having done all of that; having had an honest look at our hearts; having sought Christ with a clear conscience, not of our own making but of His cleansing, what do we then do in our suffering? How ought our friends to view us, then, in our troubles?

Remember Joseph. His brothers meant it for evil but God meant it for good. We have to hold onto the promises, which is tantamount to saying that we must hold on to God. Perhaps, in the midst of suffering, that is the ONLY thing we can do. And, in fact, we cannot even DO that. We are too weak. God cannot be grasped. So, we comfort ourselves with the fact that it is not we who hold onto God but He holds onto us. Are we strong enough to stay in His grasp? No, but we are not holding His hands. He has got us by the wrists and He will not let go.

We have suffered. We have realized these truths, that is to say, they have been made real to us. And we have forgotten. God is reminding us again. So, as Saint Paul said, Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe. (Phil 3:13) There is safety in remembering and danger in forgetting. Not danger that we might suffer if we forget but danger that we might forget the Lord if we do not suffer. This is a dark grace and a deep mercy. God is good and kind and His hard providences are a reflection of His goodness and kindness, even if we are unable to see it or even to say so at the time.

Though He slay me, yet will I serve Him.

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