I’m a concrete, tangible-loving sort of black-and-white person. I like to know straight up what I’ve done wrong so I can fix it. I like to know why things are happening. I like rational, logical reasons. Just tell me why I’m facing something so I know what I’m supposed to be working on.
God doesn’t always work that way.
The statement “we walk by faith and not by sight” taunts me because it’s where I’m at right now and it’s not where I want to be (2 Corinthians 5:7). Suffering in the Christian life is no overlooked subject. It’s constantly brought up. I fully get the concept of sin and consequences and recognize that sometimes suffering in my life is a result of my own sin. I can own up to marital problems that hurt because I was the one who was sinful and ugly and unkind. At least I know why the problems are there and how I can fix them.
But when life feels like it is only sorrow upon sorrow for reasons I can’t understand—or worse, because of decisions we made trying to do what is right—therein do I struggle. The unexpected pregnancy problems that leave us questioning when the baby is going to be born, how he’s going to be born (natural or emergency?), how many hospital stays are going to be required before that even happens, if he’s going to be alive when he’s born . . . they leave me suffering. The loss of a home I will forever love hurts my heart. Closed doors on opportunities. Interpersonal conflicts that will never be resolved. Walking through grief that friends face. The pain doesn’t seem to end before another is added to it. And why?
“God, why can’t you just tell me what I’m supposed to learn so I can learn it and be done?”
There have been days upon days when I would have given all “Christianity” up for the sake of just being done with the emotional pain were it not for the fact that “the Spirit bore witness with my spirit that I was the child of God” (Romans 8:16), and I could not turn my back on the Savior Who died for me. I could not walk away when the Father holds me so fast that no one—not even myself—can take me out of His hand (John 10:28).
Alistair Begg once said in a sermon, “Don’t ask me how I feel; ask me what I know.” Years of adding knowledge to my faith (2 Peter 1:5) prepared me for such a time as this. When I felt abandoned, when I felt like I was being punished for doing right, my mind and my heart could always remind me of what I knew: “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:15). God does not sin, there is no shadow of turning with Him (James 1:17).
So, what have I learned?
I have learned that I cannot do this alone, and God didn’t intend me to. I desperately need the Body of Christ. I need to be transparent enough to tell people when I’m questioning; and I need friends godly enough to tell me my attitude is wrong and read Scripture to me rather than just fluffing me up and saying, “You can do this.” I need the 45-minute phone calls and people saying, “Let’s pray about this right now together.” I need the Facebook messages from people I’ve never even met or haven’t talked to for a few years that say, “I’m here and you’re not forgotten.”
I have learned that the intangible reminder to walk by faith and not by sight may still allude me, but it is filled with more hope and comfort than walking these pains without a God Who ultimately holds the purposes for my life. I will always know that this life is not the end. This is not all there is. It won’t always just be faith. I’m promised that the faith will be sight, someday.
Finally, I have learned the importance of faithfulness. It’s a lesson God taught me back during my darkest days of postpartum depression in 2018/19, and a lesson He keeps reminding me of. Though my purpose in life seems marred right now when I can’t control our next steps or the pregnancy, I am assured of one purpose, one goal to push me onward: faithfulness. James calls it “steadfastness,” and I’m promised perfect, complete faith that lacks nothing if I strive toward it through trial (James 1:2-4).
Your suffering may not make sense right now. In fact, it probably doesn’t. But what a reassuring knowledge that God has not left you, nor I, alone during these days.