Photo Credit: mmagallanwww.sxc.hu

I woke up with a smile yesterday. The day is a gift, a day to connect to the most important people in my life. To reflect, to laugh, to work, to pray, to talk, and be what God designed me to be. Then I opened my phone and read the messages that came in while I’m asleep. A sad message leaped out of the screen: my friend’s father passed away.

I’m numb. I stared at the screen and doesn't want to believe what is written on it. I don’t know what to reply. What she and her family feels is pain in its purest form. The man who brought her to the world, the father who loved her, and the coach who guided her is no longer animated. His hands will never be the hands that will lead her in her wedding day. Her children will never meet their grandfather in this life.

I kept my silence for few minutes. Deep inside, I’m grieving for her loss. Though I never knew her father personally, I believe he’s a good man because she grew up as a woman of principle and joy. I've replied that I’m sympathizing with her loss. Text message won’t carry the emotion that I’m feeling but I prayed that somehow my message will help.

I walked on the basketball court and gave my heart a permission to reflect. It’s heartbreaking, but it’s not a fiction, it’s a reality. All of us knew how hard it is to wake up and face the bitter truth that your beloved is gone, nowhere to be found.

You see the couch where the two of you exchanged jokes and quotes. You remember the moments when you shared your life to him. Living without him is a bitter joke. C.S. Lewis said that the death of a beloved is an amputation. He’s a part of you, now that he’s gone, it seems like you’re not complete anymore. A part of you is stolen.


Pain

Pain exists. Pain hurts. Pleasure can be ignored, but pain will demand your attention and you’ll face it with tears on your eyes.

In their book ‘The Gift of Pain’, Philip Yancey and Dr. Paul Brand stated that pains we are experiencing with our body are serving us. Without pain, you’ll not removed your hands on a hot stove. Without pain, you’ll not give your feet a rest from walking. Without pain, we will be in constant danger because we won’t acknowledge that our body is vulnerable.

To realize the paradoxical gift of pain, meet a person with leprosy and look at his damaged body. Leprosy victim lost their sense of pain. When their feet caught nails, they will walk anyway and ignore their wounds and blood that are dripping in the road. Their skin and muscle are always in risk of ripping because they can’t feel that they are applying too much force in their activities. Blindness is the worst effect, when numbness came into their eyes, they won’t blink anymore and their vision will lost its colors until the only remaining color is black.

Pain serves us, but what about pains that torture us? What are the purpose of the ‘unnecessary’ pains we are experiencing in our lives? Life-threatening illness, loss of a job, a husband who’ve chosen the younger lady, the death of a loved one.

Pessimist are not the only victims of suffering. Even you’re an absolute optimist, reality will kick in and you’ll find yourself wanting to shed tears.

The problem of pain disturbed all humans who existed, inflicting humans who are living, and waiting for the next generation that will come in.

Voices

“Where Is God When It Hurts?” This question is a debate that was never resolved.

“If there’s a God who designed our lives, then what folly came into His mind that he included suffering in His recipe? The existence of pain is the absolute proof of His extinction. And those pesky religious people are just downplaying this problem that they can’t answer.”

“Yes, we are living in this pain-wrecked world. But why are you wishing it to be perfect? If we’re just the product of an evolutionary lottery, then why do you have an idea of a paradise-like life? Is it a proof that we are created for that kind of world? That we are fallen and we need a Savior?”

“All my life, I've served God and the church, then I suffered this unfair reward. My child died because of cancer. Looking at the fading eyes of my boy diminished my faith in a loving God. It’s a spiritual betrayal. A God who allows an excruciating pain of an innocent child doesn't deserve a single admiration!”

“I never included myself into this debate. But I've experienced a pure dose of pain and I’m left here confused. Where is the position I need to stand on? I guess, I just want to be in the corner and mourn. It’s an unfair life, and whoever created this life whether he is a God or just evolution is a lunatic.”


“God is sovereign. His mind will never be reached by us mere mortals. You just have to trust Him.”

“Shut up Pastor! I’m sick of this! It’s easy to say that because you’re living in the bubble!”


Advices

When someone suffers, I’m frequently hearing these ‘biblical’ advices:

“Rejoice! Don’t frown. God is strengthening your faith. God won’t give you any suffering that you can’t handle.”

“You’re a good servant, God is preparing you for something big.”

“Maybe you have a hidden sin, God is disciplining you.”

“Don’t lose your faith. You are the leader of this ministry, you have to be strong and show others that God is good all the time.”

“Be thankful! Come on. Come on Church, Praise the Almighty.”


I’m a Christian and I believe that these advices have reality in them. But do these advisers are taking their own advices when they themselves are suffering? Will that sweet smile still be there?

I’ve observed. Almost 90% of them forgot their come-on-be-positive-god-loves-you advices when they are carrying the disappointments of life. They just wanted to cry in the corner and be respected in doing so.

When I’m still a nonbeliever, I’m utterly irritated when Christians advises people in pain. “What? Rejoice? His father just died! Even he will go to heaven, it’s still painful to them! Does people who believe in God lose their rights to cry and shed authentic tears?”

I have my share of sufferings too. Some of the people that I dearly loved passed away unexpectedly. Confusion and pain fused and made me silent and don’t want to receive any comforting answer. Even the counsels I’ve given to others are worthless to me. I just wanted to cry and mourn because of pain that I’m dealing. I don’t want solutions, I want empathy and respect.

Megaphone

In the book ‘The Problem of Pain’, perhaps one of the best book about suffering, C.S. Lewis said:

“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”


I believe in what he said. God didn't create suffering, it is the result of choices of humans that ignores the will of God. But God, in his grace, used the most unlikely tool as His megaphone to rouse our deaf hearts.

Then the megaphone was used to Lewis himself, his wife died. He was so consumed by the pain that he wrote the book ‘A Grief Observed’ under the pseudonym N.W. Clerk. On the pages of the book, he spilled his grieving soul:

“You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn't you then first discover how much you really trusted it?”

“When you are happy, so happy you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be — or so it feels— welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence.”

“Talk to me about the truth of religion and I'll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I'll listen submissively. But don't come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don't understand.”


Face

I believe that we need to be honest on what we feels when we are suffering. If you want to hit the chest of God and blame him because he let your son died, then pray it! Don’t be religious in the front of God. He is listening to the cries of your heart not to the scripted prayers of your mouth. Read the psalms and the prophets and you’ll hear the genuine cries of these holy men and women. God understands.

The question of suffering is a question from the heart. Intellectual and shallow advices are weak in giving comforts. We need other answer, we need Someone. We doesn't need a preachy fella who will sit from a distance and announce tips and recommendations on how to respond to pain. We need an authentic Person that will be willing to experience the thorns we are experiencing and lead the way towards redemption.

God doesn't gave an answer to the question of suffering, he gave us a Face. From the grandeur of heaven, he came down to live with us and experienced the disappointments of our lives. He knew rejection, betrayal and even faced the worst cheater of our existence: death.

And when he is dangling on the cross, he doesn't gave thanks to God, he doesn't mentioned ‘spiritual growth’, he doesn't smile and praise the Almighty, no – he wailed, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

And because of that worst moment of history, the best moments became possible. Jesus conquered death and gave the hope that this world will be restored to its original glory. Redemption is ongoing.

Response

Philip Yancey was once asked what is the summary of his book ‘Where Is God When It Hurts?’. Rather than giving a long writer answer, Yancey replied with a question, “Where is the Church when it hurts?”

We are the body of Christ. God has chosen to be in collaboration with his children in redeeming this world. When someone suffers, more than our answers, they need us. They need the children of God not just talking but also showing, giving, and living the promise and love of God.

Promise

Philip Yancey said, “The world is good. The world has fallen. The world will be redeemed. Creation, the Fall, redemption—that's the Christian story in a nutshell.”

When your heart is breaking, please be honest with yourself, with others, and with God. There is no use in acting all is well when it’s not. Don’t add delusion to your pain. Be honest and shed tears. Let the love of God embrace you and believe in his promise that what you’re experiencing will be redeemed to something beautiful.

And when other hearts are in pain, please be the personal answer to the question, “Where Is God When It Hurts?’. Let the love of God that is flowing through you be the answer they really need.

Maybe there will be no answer that will fully satisfy the magnitude of that question while we are still living this life. But I believe that we have Someone who is more than enough to love us in spite of all the pain. It will still hurts, but our hearts will be still because of His love. Keep holding to that promise.

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