Someone left a comment on a post I wrote a few weeks ago, Letters to God. Here it is:
Why is life so full of disappointment, pain and suffering?
Why must I bear this cross?
What possible good can come from this?
You feel so far away.
Are you there, God?
I’ve been waiting a long time to say this. So, bear with me. Here goes.
Once upon a time, the future I thought I was going to have was lost forever. It was a very long time ago, but of course, if I try hard and think back, it was just like yesterday.
Some days, harder than others
If I am honest, the difficult days stretched into months and the months into years. But, some days were harder than others, and during the first of many difficult hours, I asked a friend to call our pastor and see if he would come and pray with me. I don’t know why I thought I needed his prayers more than the prayers of others, but I did. It didn’t matter. He never came and he never called. This was not good, but this is how it went. He didn’t really know me, and I didn’t really know him. It changed how I viewed the church and it changed the church in me as I became more responsive to the unlikely suspects standing in front of me at any given time.
My crisis quickly went from bad to worse. One night, I found myself in a bad situation, carried there by trickery and left there by betrayal. Once again, I reached out to a pastor – a different one – but it was near close of business and he told me he was going home for the day. I didn’t know him either. He was just one of several pastors at that church and I was just a face in a sea of a thousand faces.
I went through some awful things while I was in this bad spot, but not as bad as what would have happened to me had I not found my way out when I did. I would have called my mother, but she is nearly deaf, and given the situation I was in, I couldn’t scream into the phone and I couldn’t repeat myself 15 times. So, I did the only thing I knew to do. I asked God to talk to my mother for me. Miraculously, He did.
My mother showed up in an uncharacteristic way and interrupted things. Although I was a young woman at the time with no memory of being an infant, I suddenly remembered what it was like to be her baby. I was not the kind of daughter who ever needed rescuing. I never got into trouble. I had neither a colorful past nor the kind of present that keeps a mother on edge. So, the fact she showed up at all is a testimony to the supernatural working of God that is available to us all. I really hope you’ll read that part again, because it was, in fact, my miracle.
The months that followed were very hard. Bad stuff led up to those hard times, and some brokenness followed. But, it’s really good to be broken sometimes. I wouldn’t change it. The person I was before all this happened is different than the person I am now. I like the person I am now. I would not trade her for that young girl. At the same time, I still miss that girl sometimes.
The Hardest Part: Remembering the Wonderful
When I was little, I remembered hearing people talk about falling prostrate on the floor before God. I figured it couldn’t hurt, so this is how I prayed every night for several years – with my nose buried in the carpet. (Very uncomfortable, I might add.) I also went through long confessions of everything I’d ever done wrong from the time my memory began. And, the hardest thing of all, every night as I lay in my bed, I forced myself to remember everything wonderful about what I had lost and I thanked God for it all. The movement, the laughter, the time. It darn near killed me, people, but it worked. I healed.
During these years, two, for sure, I had some amazing conversations with God. These conversations took three forms: 1) Listening 2) Reading the Bible 3) Praying.
Betrayed by a Kiss
It was during one of these conversations that I fully grasped for the first time how devastating it was for Jesus to have Judas identify him to the mob, not with a pointed finger, but with a gentle kiss. I instantly felt like I was in a club with this Jesus – the same Jesus I’d heard about my whole life – the Jesus in the flannel board stories; the Jesus in the hymnal; the Jesus on the cross. This Jesus I believed. This Jesus I would follow. I was certain He loved me.
Prior to Judas kissing Jesus, Jesus was praying, and in the modern vernacular, he was freaking out. He could hear the crowd coming and he was sweating blood. He was running back and forth to his disciples and they were so thoughtless, instead of praying with him like he begged them to do, they just kept falling asleep. Pardon the example, but it was like they’d eaten too much turkey on Thanksgiving and had the tryptophan-induced stupor to prove it.
Where is God When It Hurts?
The thing is we live in a fallen world. I’ve read all those books like Yancey’s Where Is God When It Hurts and Kushner’s When Bad Things Happen To Good People. They’re great — while I’m reading them. I’m like, yes, yes, yes, when they answer those difficult questions. But, soon I forget the answers, and not even the poetry of God being in the elevator or the stairwell on 9-11 can make me feel better.
But, this is what I do know for sure. Disappointment, pain and suffering are gifts that can make us better people — whether those awful things are visited upon us by our own hand or someone else’s. They make us show up without hesitation when people call and ask us to pray for them. We believe God has not only ordered our steps, but their steps as well, and so we go and never count the cost.
What You Would Never Do
To this person who left the comment, I know that you would never, ever not show up if someone called and asked you to pray with him. Never. So, maybe herein are the answers to your questions; the greater the trials, the greater the faith.
Why must you bear this cross? Like the cross of Christ, it can bridge the gap between you and God. He has placed limits on himself. This is simply the world in which we live, and, yet, our creative God figures out a way to use them for our good. This gives our sufferings and disappointments great purpose.
The crosses we bear are good for many things. In them, we find our miracles. What possible good can come from pain or disappointment? People see us in the pit also see us rise up, and when they do, they will be so amazed. They, too, will put their trust in God (Psalm 40). They will find great purpose, too, as they rocket along on the beautiful blue planet.
Why Bother Praying?
Are you there, God? It is a question we must ask ourselves every day, for “He has cast His eyes to and fro about the whole earth looking for those whose hearts are turned toward Him so He can support them.” (2 Chronicles 16:9) Are you there, God? It is not a question we ask because we doubt that He is there. It is a question we ask as an invitation. What we are saying is, “I am turned toward you God. Please notice me, and cast your eyes upon me because I need you so.”
And, He will, every single time.