Suffering, Step One
by Dr. Ed Welch
These questions, along with scores of variations, tend to be our first response to hardships. Sometimes they reflect fear, “Did I do something wrong? Am I being punished?” Sometimes they reflect anger, “Why are you treating me this way!? This hurts!” Either way, we often complicate our suffering with all kinds of analysis.
These questions are not right or wrong, but most questions we ask during suffering do not take us down a wise and fruitful path. At best, they leave us looking like a cartoon character whose legs are racing but don’t yet have any traction, and all that does is leave us in a hole that continually gets deeper.
The first wise step, when suffering comes knocking on your door, is “to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). Be careful here. Don’t think that you are suffering because you are arrogant and that is why your first step is humility. Instead, this is Jesus’ first step, and you are following him.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)
Under God’s mighty hand—he is Lord
He cares for you—he is your father
Consider Job as a model. His sufferings were intense. His body was covered with sores, his children were dead and he lost all his possessions. No amount of analysis was going to explain it; it was an indecipherable mess. He was completely in the dark, just raw pain and isolation.
His treatment? Through gentle yet relentless fatherly questions, he was taught that God is God and our aim in suffering is not to get answers but to submit to his lordship. God is our creator; we are his creatures. God is our father; we are his children who live under him.
Humility is the way to wisdom.
Humility is the way to contentment in the midst of confusing suffering.
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)
Go ahead and ask questions. When you examine the psalms you will see they offer significant latitude in the way we talk to the Lord in our sufferings. But ask those questions after “not my will, but yours be done.” Timing is everything with this step.
“Father, you are Lord. You give, you take away, and I trust you. You have determined that your children will sometimes taste the pain of your Son. This is very hard. Please give me grace and show mercy and compassion. And I trust you.”
Edward T. Welch (M.Div., Ph.D.) counsels and teaches at CCEF. He is the author of When People Are Big and God is Small.
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