“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Luke 22:42
One of the things that wrankles me and that I desperately do not want to be guilty of is offering a trite Christian platitude when someone is suffering or when someone has received bad news. I don’t want to be like Job’s friends, although I am sure I have been guilty of that.
Today I learned of another friend who lost his job. His wife is one of my best friends. I tried to offer a word of hope through e-mail, but I know the rug has been pulled out from under them and they are flying through the air uncertain of when and how they will land and scared that they might be injured in the process. Is offering a word of hope trite and inconsiderate? Not necessarily. It depends what is said, how it is said, and when it is said.
I’ve been poor by American standards most of my life. I know what it is like not to have food, not to have heat, and receive nothing for Christmas. Believe me, I know even then I was rich compared to most of the world. But it seemed like the continual crises my family endured were crises of not having money.
And so most of my life, I’ve been on my knees crying out to God for financial provision. And boy has he pulled some doozies of provision. I mean whoppers. Does that mean that I always had Christmas gifts and was never cold in the dead of winter? No. But God financially provided through others and once even through my own mistake with the IRS, a mistake that was to me and Shawn’s advantage, a mistake that the IRS caught on our taxes. I guess we overpaid (I had filled out the form). The fact that someone at the IRS did their job and refunded us the money a few days before we had to move, when we were sweating bullets and trying to trust God and figure out how we were going to pay for gas to drive up to New York, wondering how we were going to have groceries for the first few weeks since I didn’t have a job and Shawn’s university stipend wouldn’t kick in for a month, was amazing. It was God. He provided the money we needed to move to New York after we had put down all our money for a deposit and our first month’s rent. And I could go on. Really, I could recount his wonderous provisions, the list continues to grow.
I’d like to say to my friend, God is going to show you he is trustworthy through this. I am not sure that now is the time though. Because is that really what she wants to hear? It’s only in looking back that I recount God’s faithfulness. It was hard for me to trust in the midst of difficulties. Sometimes I did better than others. But God was definitely faithful.
Honestly, how often do we want to learn such lessons of trust? We’d rather that God left our spouses with us, that our children didn’t die, that we didn’t lose the job, that our child did not rebel, that our family member was not mentally ill. Of course! Jesus sweat tears of blood and asked the Father to remove the cup of the cross from him. But in the end, he bowed to the Father’s will. And I don’t think God allows these things merely to teach us lessons. We have a supernatural enemy. And suffeirng and difficulty are part of the fall, the problem of evil, painful and seemingly illogical.
No God doesn’t allow evil and suffering just to teach us a lesson. I am not sure why he does. His ways are inexplicable. But somehow, he can use our tragedy and pain to form us. He forms us in the wilderness.