Two nights ago, my friend was attacked in her apartment at 5am in the morning. Some guy climbed over the balcony, jammed a window open, stole all her electronics and then raped her. He stabbed her pet first to show her that he was deathly serious.
I am speechless and no matter how much I tell myself that this is a freak accident (Dakar is pretty safe)…I still cannot sleep for more than 20 min without getting up in a panic. Thankfully, my friend is ok…as ok as one can be. She has gotten prophylaxis treatment and done the police thing. And she is strong, stronger that we all imagined. We are all loving on her and wishing that our efforts would provide an eternal cushion from further pain. Sadly, we know they are not nearly enough.
Another dear friend has also had a traumatizing incident. Her house-mate wasn’t really sick, just coughing which meant she needed to lie down on her side every couple of hours in order to breath easier. One morning she called for help when she had trouble breathing, they did CPR and rushed her to the hospital. It was too late. Her brain had stayed without oxygen for too long. She was declared brain dead. Her burial is this coming weekend and my heart bleeds for my dear friend who has had more than her share of trials this year. I would love to undo this incident and take away the pain of these next couple of weeks.
My mind just cannot resolve this. How does a loving God let bad things happen to good people?
I am like Job’s frenemies…I don’t get it. I am really struggling with a God who was there when this happened. I find it easier to accept a God who punishes sin. Thus suffering, tragedy, evil and violence can be attributed to bad choices.
But this, this I don’t understand. Nobody deserves this, especially not my two gentle, kind-hearted, peace-loving friends. So there is my quandary, a God who is… sovereign mighty all-sufficient…though seemingly sometimes unloving? Surely, could this be a loving God?
I don’t have answers so I am going to share part of a devotional a friend emailed me earlier today. It’s a funny story because i just found out that, its my mother’s weekly devotional. Lol. How life goes round and people start sending back to me useful resources from my own family. You can find the link to my mami’s weekly devotional on the home-page (on the blog-roll to the right)
Balancing Between Hope and Pain – The ‘Schizophrenic’ Worshipper
God sometimes permits what he hates, to accomplish what he loves (Joni Erickson Tada)
The problem of pain and suffering is not a theological one or a theology game of lining up all appropriate logical arguments and syllogisms. As Philip Yancey says, it is a problem of relationships. Unless we understand our situation from God’s perspective, we will suffer more than we need to. In addition, we also need to remind ourselves that as the day of Christ’s second coming is drawing near, we are going to witness more calamities and devastations. ‘When you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.”10 Then he said to them: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven’ (Luke 21:9-11).
1. Hope and pain are intertwined – In a way pain is a proof of life, of connection and of hope. It is not wise to numb the pain. The feeling of being hurt and betrayed can ‘paralyse a person inside’ if it is handled badly. It is important to acknowledge the pain one feels as an honour to have longings, to love and to be disappointed. There are times in life when one desperately grasps for hope while crying to God and at times shouting at God. Think of Job, Jeremiah or David who were kind of schizophrenic worshippers, asking hard questions such as ‘is God doing anything about the issue that is so pressing’. And at the same time you see acknowledgement of God the very present help in times of trouble, the rock, the fortress. David would do ‘self talk’ ‘why are you cast down within me, hope in God’. Through the tears, and disappointments, acknowledge the fatherhood of God, his love and might, and make your request know to Him (Philippians 4:6).
2. God is in control but there are things that we may not understand – Some things we will not know partly because we live within limitations of our humanness. – ‘The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law’ (Deuteronomy 29:29). However, God does have a plan and has promised to bring to completion what he had started (Philippians 1:6).
3. God in his love does permit what he hates to refine us and bring out the best in us – Pain makes us depend on God and brings out the hidden treasure in us. We need grace for the moment fully aware that God’s discipline is for those he loves (Hebrews 12:5-11). In times of pain and despair, when simplistic formulas or theology cliché’s fail, we tend to become honest with ourselves and it is then that one realizes that, The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms’(Deuteronomy 33:27). Pain can purify if we remain open to God’s loving presence in our lives. That is where the life of faith begins.
4. Appreciate the seasons of life – God allows varying season of life to make his people grow (Ecclesiastes 3:4), there is a time to weep and a time to mourn. Weeping may last for the night but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5). Joy is coming.
5. God has given us free will and the choices people make can affect us and others- The world we live in is imperfect where ignorance, carelessness or purposeful intent causes a lot of suffering. If God took away the freedom to make choices we would be robots. God wants us to choose to have a relationship with Him. Some of the struggles we go through come from our wanting to be in control.
Are you going through rough times? Are you wondering how to explain God’s part or role as the earth quakes drowning people and hopes of poor people in an Island that has more unmet needs than luxuries? Are you struggling to hold on to your faith in the midst of secret fears and tears? Do you wonder where God is? He is where you are. God’s word is explicit that times of going through the fire or waters (Isaiah 43:2), or valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23) will come. The promise of God is that he will be with his people. That is the answer to the question of where God is when people are going through tough times. He is where his people are. He was with Daniel in the lion’s den and also with Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego when they were thrown into the fire (Daniel 3). It is you to confirm to the people who do not know God that he is a very present help in times of trouble. God is counting on you who know that even though you may not see him, you can count on his word that he will be with you always (Matthew 28:20), and know for certain that he has not forsaken you. Looking for help in people can be confusing as they may be struggling with the theology. Look up to God who has the Big Picture and knows what you can stand. Whether it is national disaster or individual challenge, God remains Almighty and loving. He knows what you are going through and he is with you. Is the Lord your shield when challenging times set in?
‘Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand’ (Isaiah 64:8)
SONG OF THE WEEK – Praise you in the storm – Casting Crowns