Where is God in this Season of Suffering?

“If he dies I’m going to be mad at God”….these words return repeatedly as I watch my close friend wrestle with the relentless cancer that ravages his body.

Awhile back I shared about my friend’s battle with cancer and the conviction that permeated his life in the face of it. Now, he is in a phase that can be described with a single word…..suffering. Still, the outcome of this suffering is uncertain. It may be part of the “healing reactions” the body undergoes as part of Gerson therapy. Sadly, it could also mean much worse than that. But despite the uncertain result, our friend’s moment-to-moment experience is pain and discomfort.

Seeing him in this position has stirred my thoughts. Questions about God and purpose and meaning have surfaced. How could God allow these circumstances? It feels irreverent to ask “where is the Great Physician now….on vacation?” But that’s honest. Many continue to pray and fast and hope for a miracle, yet the miracle has eluded us. There is still time, yet the miracle hasn’t materialized…..at least not the miracle we asked for.

It’s easy to resent God for not doing what I think he should do. In the face of this apparent injustice – this healthy father, friend, and husband facing a hell nobody deserves – it’s simple to point to God as the perpetrator of this suffering.

When I sit with these conclusions, comparing them with the God of the Bible whom I know and love, something is askew. I remember that when Jesus walked the dusty paths of his day, he did not heal everybody. Yet, that did not make him any less compassionate.

If I’m brutally honest about my predicted anger toward God, the truth is that it is really a well of sadness bubbling up in me. It also scares me that the world is a place with so much pain and uncertainty and that God’s protection doesn’t shield us from crisis and tragedy like I wish it would.

Where is God in this season of suffering? In this dark night, as my friend coughs and aches, I believe God is not watching from afar. Jesus is with him in that room, weeping tears of compassion over him. Jesus holds his sickened frame, as a father holds his dear child. I see Jesus kissing his cold forehead, dabbing his tears with pierced hands, and singing songs of soothing over him. Jesus washes his feet that have run many miles. Jesus is proud of the noble race my friend has run. He is present in the pain, never to leave my friend’s side.

The Great Physician is not on vacation. No, he is suffering alongside my friend and his family. God reminds them through the voices of hundreds of friends, “I have not left you, I am here with you”.

We will continue to pray for the physical healing….THAT is the miracle we all wish for. And if God chooses to allow the miracles of love, grace, monetary provision, strength for another hour, and comfort in moments of emotional and physical pain, yet for some unknown reason withholds the miracle or physical healing, will we still live in gratitude? Or will our sadness erupt into anger?

Personally, I’m still undecided. If God ushers my friend home shortly, will I focus on what was lost more than what I gained in the process? By God’s grace, I pray that my tears will never be lacking in gratitude. I’m thankful today that God is not one who kills, but The One who comforts. He carries us in our pain, suffering faithfully by our side. From here to heaven, His love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8).

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16 thoughts on “Where is God in this Season of Suffering?

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  4. Before I say anything, I sympathize with you in the loss of your good friend.

    I’d like to address the need for greater faith without suspending God’s sovereignty and without abusing those praying in hope.

    FBENEDICT wrote, “…yet for some unknown reason [God] withholds the miracle or physical healing.”

    Jesus said, “Be it unto you according to your faith.” Of course sometimes God heals fantastically before we express even a smidgeon of faith. But the rule is, we must tend our garden of faith. Jesus said, “You of little faith, why do you doubt?” No disciple said, “You withheld the answer!”

    Jesus said, “If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, get up and get thee hence and it will go… and nothing shall be impossible for you.” Thus, we often think that all we need is a little faith… and if we fail, we assume God opposed our request. But we miss the other characteristic of the mustard seed… it grows into a large tree. So also, our faith must be a growing faith, or we aren’t doing all we can. Don’t wait for a crisis to strike close to home, be praying every day for the “simpler, not-life-threatening requests” so your faith muscles are stronger when you really need them.

    A father whose daughter was very sick came to Jesus and asked for healing. Jesus started on the way to his home, but his servant came to say, “Don’t bother the Master. Your daughter is dead.” Then Jesus said, “Only believe.” For what that man decided in his mind would determine whether he went home to a live daughter or a dead daughter, regardless what the people at his home were then seeing. It’s what we do the rest of the day after the prayer that sometimes ‘prays’ harder than our official prayer.

    When the woman with the flow of blood touched the hem of Christ’s garment, He exclaimed, “Who touched Me?” The clueless disciples responded, “Everyone is touching You!” But the power flowed out from Christ without His knowledge or permission… based solely upon the faith of the widow.

    Having such faith is not easy. It’s akin to learning to ride a bicycle. Think back to the time before the moving bike would stand up on its own. You thought, “This is impossible!” But suddenly, you could do it! You’d mastered it and it seemed so easy. Most of us do not ride the faith bicycle and it seems impossible to repeat the faith we read about all the time in the Bible. Be patient. Strive for the best gift. And certainly don’t look down upon those struggling to ride faith.

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    1. James, thank you for these great reminders. I can honestly say that God has boosted my faith through this and certainly changed my thinking. After I wrote this piece, I organized a community fasting and prayer day for my friend, which was powerfully healing and brought me to a new place. I wrote this article (https://forestbenedict.wordpress.com/2014/09/07/fasting-in-faith-hoping-for-healing/). I hope to do a followup on everything soon. Sadly, my friend died yesterday but I can say that through this I have grown and am trusting God more, not angry with him.

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  5. Your thoughts on suffering and dieing touched my heart. So much so that I feel that I need to respond back. You see I have experienced death already when I was 19 years old. I died and experienced Jesus and Heaven in a way that no one else has ever written about. Even my suffering and struggles of coming back are not something that everyone experiences. But I can assure you that your loved one if unconscious may appear to be suffering in his physical body but in his mental state he is not. He is already traveling with Jesus. He is there with him where there is no fear, only Joy! I know for I have witnessed this and so much more. If he is a Christian even though he may be suffering physically as he is conscious of pain, your loved one knows that the love and support that he is receiving from not only above but from friends loved ones and family is supporting him in knowing that if he passes he will not be forgotten.That if your loved one feels within his spirit that he is not ready to be in Heaven with Christ at the time of seeing HIM, Your friend will be given a choice to stay or go. God doesn’t promise that it will be easy to stay. But he does promise to never leave you to be there for you. Your friend knows the love of Jesus and the love of the ones that will be left behind is eternal. Do not be afraid for him and for you do not feel powerless. Your power comes from and through Jesus. Realize that it will be HIS will only that HE knows what is best for HIS children as His ways are not our ways. But instead, all should embrace the beautiful experience of Death with Jesus beside you! May this experience with your loved one empower you to grow stronger in your faith and not diminish it. Death is a beautiful experience do not be sad but be Joyful
    !

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  6. Michele

    God is alive with his arms outstretched at any time that we need him. We often forget that God is the giver of life and the receiver of life. We come here knowing that every man is appointed once to die; however, we do not get to choose our time, the method by which we meet that destination or how long we might suffer on the journey. What we have is a loving God who will never leave us or forsake us no matter where we are on that path. God’s grace is sufficient for you and for your friend if you will allow yourself to accept that truth. God is a healer. You and I just do not get to determine when and where he heals. We are granted the awesome privilege of trusting Him and trusting that all of this will work together for good – even if we cannot see it. Just last weekend I witnessed a home-going service for a 19 year old male. No one understood the reasoning or could rationalize his death. At the Call to Christ over 200 young people responded. It was then that we realized that his death was not in vain but a conduit to draw other to Christ. Our thoughts are not God’s thoughts. Our ways are not His ways. The blessing is that God allows us to know, to love and to be loved by the people we establish relationships with. He trusted you with a friendship so be grateful for whatever time you have or have had. The task for you is to look beyond your emotions and affirm that your friend has a relationship with God and has received his Son Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Don’t wait for the visible manifestation of healing – insure that he will have the ultimate healing when the time comes. God’s best to you and your friend.

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  8. Nina

    In November it will be 3 years that we lost a very close close brother in Christ to cancer. As we cared for him and sat with him and gave him water thru a sponge stick, and cleaned him up and carried him to the couch and fed him liquids it was the hardest thing to go through and see. When the Lord decided to take him home our broken hearts had many questions also. But this man our friend Henry Gong made it clear to us a few weeks before he went to be with the Lord that we better not cry because he was so excited to know he was going to finally be with the Lord. He loved Christian music so he said sing songs that I like to God and rejoice. He told his wife don’t be sad just get close to God. We had k love on for him while he was In hospice. It was so hard letting him go. The person the Man of God that always encouraged others was leaving us. We felt selfish because be didn’t want God to take him but it was time. So we kissed his forehead and said well brother we will see you on the other side and he gave a big deep breathe. His wife was there and his only daughter so we left them to be alone with him. Like 1hr later he left this world. So I know your pain. And your right God is right there wiping his forehead and helping him moment by moment. It’s hard to see the pain they go through and God reminded me its all part of the process don’t be scared he is with me. I pray that as this is your season that God carry all of those who have been part of Ericlee and Dorina life. It is painful for friends to watch friends hurt but our father has everyone in the palm of his great big mighty hands. You are Brave and courageous it’s not easy walking through this with your close friend. You keep up your gift of compassion and may God be glorified through Ericlee, Dorina, the three baby girls and the many friends who are in this journey with you guys. God be with you all.

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  9. Evelyn

    Phenomenal. You wrote what my emotions couldn’t explain in words. I keep hearing the words of Job “Though He slay me, yet I will serve Him.”
    I know the Lord is in that room. I felt His presence, almost overwhelming. What an amazing thing.

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    1. Evelyn, thank you for sharing this. It is amazing that our friend has just that attitude, following his Father to the end. I’m so grateful to hear how this article connected you with your emotions regarding these difficult circumstances. It seems we all have very similar experiences…..we are all in this together.

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