Monday night, I gathered with my SISTERs for a meal, a craft project and conversation. We do this monthly, meeting at our church. Gathering around the table. Talking about life in general and our lives in particular.
As usual, our gathering was punctuated with a lot of laughter and a few tears as we discussed how God works through hard times. (SISTERs meets at our church (so I don’t have to clean my house and everyone fits!) but it’s not a church thing. You can go to our church, another church or no church. It is just about women sharing life. And we’d love to have you join us! Comment on this post for more information or friend me on FB or private message me for details!)
And I think we all also went home with food for thought. I know that is why I am awake in the middle of the night.
You see marble is made with heat and pressure. (I could get all scientific, but if you want to read about it, you could go here: http://geology.com/rocks/marble.shtml) And out of that heat and pressure, limestone and other sediments are transformed into something both beautiful and useful.
Just like us.
Our discussion centered around how God uses hard things and circumstances to transform us. Around our table were women who’ve survived illness of themselves or a loved one. Cancer. Accidents that have been life changing. Some have survived the death of a loved one. Or the death of a marriage. The loss of a job. A child who has gone astray. Broken hearts. Broken dreams.
We’ve all been touched by hard things.
And yet, we all admitted, it the midst of it, God was there.
The Bible says, “in this world we will have trouble.”
Sometimes, the sorrow and suffering is overwhelming. Our world is so small with media. We see suffering around the world almost as it happens.
Something that in the aftermath brought hope and said to us, “God is still at work among people.”
But it makes you wonder and question “why?”
Good people whose lives were changed in an instant.
Today, I had a texting session with a friend who wasn’t there last night and she wanted to know about the discussion. She’s known hard times and she mentioned the belief that some Christians have that if they are truly living for God, nothing bad will befall them. My friend has suffered the loss of a child. And in the pain of loss and in knowing so many others suffering, she asked, “Have I missed the (Christian) ‘formula?’ Am I doing it wrong?”
It’s a question that people have been asking as long as there have been people.
“If God is good, why is there suffering?”
I wish I had the perfect theological answer but I don’t.
But I do know this.
The Bible is God’s love letter to humanity and it is filled with imperfect people. Human beings who chose their own way leading to the fall and sin coming into the world. Men and women who lied and killed and were ill and lost children and spouses and tasted death. Liars. Cheats. Adulterers. Murderers. And those who suffered through no fault of their own, perhaps.
The Apostle Paul had a “thorn in his side” that he prayed to be removed and instead God said His grace was sufficient. Job suffered immensely and was encouraged by his friends who believed he’d obviously committed some egregious sin to “curse God and die” and yet in the end, Job said, “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.”
And Jesus, the one sinless, perfect man, fully God and fully man who suffered and died, said, “In this world you will have trouble but take heart. I have overcome the world.”
He didn’t say we might….
He said we will.
Difficult to understand.
One of the promises of heaven is that there are no tears and no sorrows there. Why would that be promised to us there if life here were without trouble?
It is a hard thing to wrap our minds around in this me-first, I-just-want-to-be-happy world, but God isn’t really about us being sappy happy!
This life is a vapor, but it is also preparation for the next. For us to be transformed into the image of Christ. For us to be the hands and feet of Christ on the Earth. For us to love God and love people as unlovable as they can be. For us to bring God the glory He deserves.
And sometimes, that involves hard stuff.
Because in this world, there is sin.
If I want free will–and I do.
That means, we all get free will.
Even those who are idiots. And do stupid stuff. And hurt the innocent.
All of us.
Because of the fall, there is sin.
And the taint of it, taints us all.
There is disease. And brokenness. And death.
But because of Christ, there is also hope and healing and restoration.
I hate it, but I have to admit, I am transformed by the hard times.
And I’m not alone.
Last night, a friend said that after she got cancer, she learned to trust God and not worry about the stuff that doesn’t matter.
A hard way to learn to let go. But it was echoed over and over again.
I wish I could say that when things are going great I’m just as diligent in my reading of His word, I’m on my knees just as often, but the truth is, I am not.
I wish I could say that I work just as hard in the easy times as I do in the hard times, but there is something about the heat of adversity and the pain of pressure that makes me lean in to Him. Just like the limestone that is metamorphosed into marble, the heat and pressure gets rid of the stuff that doesn’t matter, leaving behind a “me” that is more beautiful because I am more Christ-like and more useful to Him in my transformation.
I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I have grown the most when life is the hardest. And for that–because my desire as a Christ follower is to be like Him–I give thanks. Today, though I see, as Paul said, “through the glass darkly,” someday, I will see Him face to face and know all the times He saw my suffering.
Psalms 56:8 says “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”
Our suffering is not wasted.
So tonight, I’m thinking about the problem of suffering. Not why He allows it, but how He uses it.
My life verse is Romans 8:28 “For ALL things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” (emphasis added)
I love the way The Message reads. “That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.”
Because despite the heat and the pressure of the suffering in this life, God is good.
One of the greatest ways that I know God is good is that He did not leave us to suffer sin and death without hope. Without a way out. This is Holy Week. God sent His only Son as payment for our sin. No matter how “good” we are, we can never be “good enough” to be sinless. He was. And He suffered and died on a cross so that we do not have to suffer the punishment for our sins. But better than that–Death could not hold Him. The grave could not keep Him! He rose again to life on the third day just as He had promised and that Victory is OUR Victory. His life is OUR Life if we accept Him as Savior and Lord.
This Easter, celebrate a new life with me! If you do not know Jesus, let me introduce you!
In this world we will have trouble, but Praise the Lord, He has overcome the world and in that, there is HOPE!
God bless you!