Lately I feel like the Lord has been trying to get my attention and correct a view I’ve held of suffering for a long time. A few weeks ago I attended a conference that struck a cord deep down in me, and since I’ve pursued podcasts and sermons on the topic of suffering. What I’ve discovered is that the belief I’ve always held that God causes our suffering by “allowing” it has left me with a warped view of who God is and His true heart for me as His daughter.
You see I’ve known that God doesn’t cause suffering. That God is a good good father and all good gifts come from above. I’ve known that Jesus came to free the captives and love on the least of these, going out of His way to minister to the widow and the orphan. And for the most part since beginning my Christian walk 10 years ago now (wow!) not much had really happened to rock the boat or test me to see if that head knowledge had made it all the way to my heart. Until this time last year when Harvey brought unprecedented flooding and a blanket of despair fell on our city and devastated the homes of many that I love. A few months later we lost our own baby, and a few months after that two other friends lost babies too. Another close friend faced sickness after sickness. All the sudden it seemed suffering was more abundant than blessing and my belief system was put to the test in a very real way.
I struggled and wrestled with God. I fought to continually re-stake the claim in my mind that God is good. But the truth was He didn’t feel good in the midst of all that suffering. Questions like, “How could a loving God let this happen?” Surfaced to my mind again and again. I found myself losing faith in my Savoir because I started viewing Him as the inflictor of my pain.
Much like Job I cried out to Heaven, “Please make it stop God!”
At the conference I attended over Labor Day weekend, Ken Fish pointed out that throughout Jesus’ ministry never once did He assume that it wasn’t God’s will to heal someone. When Jesus learned that His disciples had been unable to cast out the demon from the mute boy, He didn’t shrug His shoulders and say “oh well, I guess it wasn’t the Father’s will to set that young boy free.” No, He assumed instead that the disciples did something wrong, or that the boy and His father lacked faith themselves. Perhaps, the disciples themselves they lacked faith or confidence in the authority Jesus had given them. Maybe their heart was in the wrong place and they were seeking to cast out the demon for their own glory instead of God’s. Jesus’ assumption was that the Father’s will was to HEAL, to SET FREE. (Mark 9: 17-29)
The same weekend as the conference we stayed home from church and live cast another local church’s sermon. It was part 2 of a series on Job. It wasn’t long before I realized that the point of his message was vastly different than what I expected. He didn’t talk about how much glory God received from Job’s suffering, or how God allows our suffering.
Instead He focused on the big picture. He pointed out that Job lived in old testament times, when Jesus had yet to come and conquer death. Job’s world was one completely and legally ruled by Satan. Man did not have the authority of God, not the way we do today. Maybe for a period God would grant it but as soon as God’s purpose was accomplished the authority would return to God alone.
My favorite point from the part 2 sermon that day was this: We’ll never have the faith to believe God will bring healing or set us free from our suffering, if deep down in our heart of hearts we believe He is the cause of our pain in the first place. Those two beliefs can’t coincide together.
His words instantly reminded me of Ken Fish’s point that Jesus always assumed it was the Father’s will to heal. I’ve asked God again and again why didn’t you show up when we prayed life over that precious baby?? I assumed it just wasn’t His will, and it made me question my access to God and the authority that is supposed to be mine in Jesus. I was plagued by the question, “Do I really have any authority?”
The enemy won in my mind again and again because He had me convinced that God was the one who allowed the baby’s heart to stop in the first place, that it was His will for it to stop. No wonder then that my prayer in “faith” for that baby to be brought back to life fell flat. My view of God was off. Deep down there was a part of me blaming God for the circumstance to begin with, and if He caused it why on earth would I believe He’d want to set it right.
Earlier this week I went back and listened to part 1 of the Job sermon series. It was even better than part 2 in my opinion. The teacher talked about the Fall and how Adam and Eve gave their authority away to Satan that day in the Garden. Then He talked about what Jesus did on the cross by dying and then rising again on the 3rd day. He conquered death and served up for us on a silver platter that same authority that Adam and Eve put in the hands of Satan. All we have to do is accept Him and its ours. Upon accepting Jesus as our Lord AND Savoir we receive the Holy Sprit and are sealed in Him. We’re given a direct line to the authority of God himself.
We don’t live in the same world as Job today, not as believers in Christ. We live in a world where we have authority over the enemy, the true cause of much of the suffering on the earth (our own sin is the other cause, but Satan tempted Eve into committing the first sin,
I’ve always thought about the Fall as an inevitable possibility. If God had never put the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden, never even given Adam and Eve the opportunity to sin, would they truly have free will? Would their love for God ever really have been true? I don’t know about you but when I think about true love it is always a choice. Forced love isn’t love at all. I believe God put the tree there because He wanted to be chosen. It’s a part of His character I identify with strongly as a woman. Deep down there is a desire in me to be wanted, a part of my heart that cries out “Choose me!”.
My husband knows that one of my “perfect day” scenarios is a day when we have tons of obligations (or maybe he is just supposed to be going to work) but he looks at me and says, “Let’s stay home instead. I just want to spend time with you today.” My mama heart reflects this too when it leaps for joy every time I hear my two-year-old say, “Nooo, mama put you to bed.” On a soul level I desire to be chosen and prioritized by those I love and who love me and feel immense joy in the moments when it happens.
God wanted to be chosen by us, by Adam and Eve. What is even more amazing is that when they didn’t choose Him, instead of abandoning them flat, He responded with love and care. He made clothes for them and began putting into motion the plan for the redemption of man kind that would require the sacrifice of His beloved son. That is who our God is. That is the kind of love He has for His children. We can trust Him.
So when Satan came to God after wandering to and fro around the earth, God knew that Job’s righteousness and love for God had caught Satan’s attention. He knew that Satan would want to try and disprove Job’s loyalty. Based on the system God had designed and the consequences of Adam and Eve’s actions in the Garden of Eden, Satan had the jurisdiction, the authority, on Earth to do as he pleased to Job. God limited Satan only by asking at first that he not reach out his hand against Job himself, and later that He spare Job’s life. Finally, when Job came before the Lord in prayer and petition for his friends, God restored everything Job had and more. Satan’s attempts had failed, God did receive glory, but ultimately He was not the source of the pain and hardship, Satan was.
The same is true for us. But even better, we have the authority of Jesus on our side now. God not only doesn’t cause our pain
Will we still experience suffering? Yes. The world we live in is still fallen so sickness and disease are still part of our reality. There are still consequences for our sins. Our loving Father will discipline us as needed to continue the work He began in us. But I’ve found so much freedom in the reminder of God’s heart for His creation (life and life abundant as opposed to death), His perfect love for us and His desire for all things to be made new. I’ve found hope amidst the struggles knowing that while God is sovereign over our suffering He is equally if not more so grieved by it than we are because this is not how things were meant to be. And I rest in God’s promise to work all things for our good.
Below are the links to the two podcasts I listened two and referenced in the post. I hope you’ll take time to listen to them if this view strikes you (the way it did me) as completely different than one you’ve heard before. I hope you’ll open up God’s word on your own as you listen and ask God to give you discernment and understanding of His heart for us as His beloved children in the midst of suffering and the role He does or doesn’t play in that suffering.