Life Renewed

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How God uses suffering

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Or, the blog you’ll never read

The last time I had a blog post ready to publish was a month and a half ago. I’d written about suffering and how God’s view of our struggles is so much more complete than our own. I talked about how we see only a portion of what is really a grand landscape in which God is weaving a masterful story. The post used some great imagery and was rather poetic. But you will never get to read it.

I finished the writing late on a Wednesday night. I was tired, and the perfectionist in me wasn’t confident that the blog was quite ready to publish. Carefully saving the changes in a Word doc, as I do with all my blogs, I decided that I would wait until the following evening and give it one more read-through before sending it live.

On Thursday, I got off of work early. I went to the gym, ran a few errands, and then headed home to pay some bills and post my blog before a meeting that evening. But when I got home, I found my parents surveying the damage caused by burglars, who had broken in through the bedroom window, ransacked the place, and taken anything of value they could get their hands on—including my laptop. The blog that was all but ready to post was gone, along with a handful of other documents that I had yet to create backups for.

It seems ironic when you think about it, that the day after I write a blog on suffering, my house would be broken into. But I think it’s more than irony. I think that there is something bigger going on. Earlier in the year, I memorized James 1, which begins with a theme that is common throughout the epistles:

When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy, for you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow. For when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

The morning after the break-in I was reminded of this verse while blow drying my hair. Later, I asked my dad if he was rejoicing. “Rejoicing?” he asked, as if he wasn’t sure he’d heard me right. None of us had slept well and after five hours of restless tossing and turning, finding joy isn’t usually the first thing on the agenda. “Yes,” I replied. “God is growing us.”

In his sovereignty, God determined that rather than posting a blog about suffering, it was more important that I learn something about it. I’m not trying to suggest that God caused this to happen—that would go against his character—but I do believe that he is using it to make me more like himself. And if that’s the case, it’s ultimately an answer to prayer.

The blog on suffering was prompted by several weeks of watching close friends battle giants. Relationship issues, loneliness, family dysfunctions, and a host of other problems were threatening to steal the joy and even the faith of those I care for. I stated in that blog what I’ve told many of these friends: that though the enemy intends these things for evil, God will use them for good; that even though it may be hard to imagine things changing, countless examples in the Bible testify that we can have faith in a God who is ultimately creating a beautiful picture with our lives.

I also talked about one of my favorite places to walk—a trail around a golf course just a few miles from my home. The path loops down by the water, providing a close-up view of the ever-changing waterfront. Here, the winds seem to overtake the ocean, and the shadow of the Olympic Mountains makes everything seem small and insignificant. Occasionally, a train lumbers past, blurring the scenery with faded yellow boxcars. I talked about how—from this vantage point—it’s easy to focus on just one thing—the vastness of the mountain, the threat of the wind, or the whir of the train cars that block the view of the horizon. But when you loop back up to the top of the hill, you see the entire scene from a completely different perspective. From here, it becomes clear that in overall picture, the mountains aren’t really so large and overwhelming, the storm that pounds the shore will soon be followed by softer waves, and the distraction of the train will only last for a short while. I like to think of this as the view that God has of our lives. He knows that the suffering we are overwhelmed by and the struggles that block our view are only temporary. And what’s more, they are necessary to make the pictures of our lives beautiful and complete.

And this is why he tells us to rejoice. The struggles I’ve been facing in regards to the break-in pale in comparison to those many of my friends are up against. Nevertheless, God has used them to teach me some things about trusting him and about what it means to affirm his goodness.

The worst thing about the break-in was the feeling of violation. Shortly after it happened, I remember thinking that of all the things the burglars took, I missed my sense of security the most. I’d been living with this false idea that doors and windows and locks could keep me safe from outside evils. I’d believed that nothing like this would ever happen to me. When it did, my sense of security was revealed to be false. That in which I placed my trust had failed. As I thought of ways to make my home more secure and realized that nothing I could do would ever give me a 100-percent safety guarantee, I realized there was only one way to find peace. I could live in fear or I could choose to trust God—to find my security in him. The security that he offers is something that no one can take away.

Because I’d just been blogging about God using suffering in our lives for good, one of the questions I was faced with when this happened was whether or not I could trust that God had a plan. And so, almost immediately, I stopped and prayed. I prayed for the robbers, that God would do a work in their hearts, and I prayed that ultimately, God would take something birthed out of ill intent and use it for his purposes. And he has. The most visible evidence of this comes with the relationships we are beginning to build with our neighbors. For the most part, people in our neighborhood have kept to themselves. But this event forced us to reach out, if only to let them know what happened. And that served as a bridge that I hope to cross many more times, a bridge that I believe God can use to allow me to carry his love to those he has placed me in a neighborhood with.

Affirming God’s goodness means recognizing his hand in the midst of things that don’t make sense. Evil never makes sense. Pain never makes sense. And while God does not cause these things, for those who trust him, his hand is always present in the midst of them. Because God is good we can trust that our struggles are just one part of the overall picture he is creating with our lives. And these struggles will allow for a vibrant, more complete landscape. So, I rejoice. I rejoice because God is changing my heart. He’s drawing me into a closer relationship with him and ultimately, preparing me to better respond when even bigger challenges arise in the future.


Written by liferenewed

May 4, 2010 at 8:26 pm

One Response

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  1. […] past year, I also watched many of my friends go through unprecedented trials and learned first-hand how God uses suffering. Through it all, I’ve realized that God has a way of giving us exactly what we need for the […]

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