“O Lord, you have deceived me and I was deceived;
You were stronger than I, and you have prevailed.
I have become a laughingstock all the day;
Everyone mocks me.” (Jer.20:7)
“My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is;
So I say,’My endurance has perished; so has my hope in the Lord.” (Lam.3:17-18)
There are many kinds of suffering in Christian life. And i suppose there are many that qualify for ‘worst’. Let me tell you about the one I would nominate:
We all have dreams for our life. And it is not so very long before we realize that a whole lot of them are not going to be realized. So, with pain and regret, we let them go.
THEN along comes God and, against all expectation, he says, “Guess what? I am, indeed, giving you that dream. Here it is.” Kind of like with Elizabeth and Zechariah. The angel came to tell them they would have a son long after they had ceased to pray for one.
And you are thrilled, and so very grateful to God – this One who had heard your prayer and was just awaiting the very best time for its fulfillment. Isn’t He wonderful, you brag? Look what He has done in my life! And you revel in both the gift and the giver.
And then God Himself places a bomb in the middle of your situation and destroys the new, delightful happiness He has given you. He takes away the very thing you had given up, and even ceased to ask for.
And does God ever seem mean! Why has he set me up like this? Why is he intent on playing with me? Doesn’t he have better things to do with his time and energy? And I have bragged about his provision to so many people! Doesn’t he care even about his own reputation, never mind mine?
There are many scriptural parallels I can think of, but probably the closest involves Elijah. I am sure he had been longing for a showdown with the prophets of Baal for his whole lifetime. Finally, God gives him the opportunity and vindicates his holiness wonderfully. “Aha!” thinks Elijah, “Better times are on the horizon….At last, toward the end of my life, my poor benighted country will see the truth.” But, no, after this supreme testimony of God’s power and truth he is forced to flee into the wilderness.
And that is when he prays to die. “It is enough; now,O Lord, take away my life.”
There are no quick fixes to this type of suffering. It goes too deep. There are no real answers…Your little life has been hit by the tractor-trailer of God’s secret will, his providence. Your notions of yourself and of God both go down together. It will probably take years to recover.
But eventually, you will begin to see little green shoots of life, again. Day by day, week by week, month by month, you will learn how to live without the dream that once was and is no more. And, to your great surprise, you will see that life ‘without’ still contains much joy.
What kind of joy? Joy in that same Lord who broke your heart. Having your heart broken by losing what can be taken away, eventually makes the certainty of the One who can’t be taken away so much more meaningful.
One of my favorite portions of Scripture is Psalm 131. We have been through alot together:
“O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time forth and forever.”
So after the devastation of the literal give and take of God’s ways, there comes new life. And ‘stronger’ life. The strength of the tiny child for whom all is well if his mother is with him.
Isn’t that beautiful?
But from ashes. As always, beauty from ashes.