Don’t you just “love” when you ask what appears to you to be a focused question and the person to whom you are speaking starts his or her answer with, “It depends on . . .” Yeah, I have heard that a lot lately as I discuss product specs for my new company, Two Step Solutions. My husband is a brilliant mechanical engineer and a bit more focused than me, I guess. There is so much to consider so it depends on this or that parameter, application, material, use, and so on. Yet this reply can be a bit maddening too, ya know? :}]
Enter here a somewhat unusual perspective on the somber topic of suffering. I would have never wanted to hear a blanket answer as to how to handle my own private hell. I understand that Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale gently take an “it depends on” approach in their new book, Why Suffering. They recognize that for Christians, suffering poses both intellectual and emotional challenges: God loves and cares about all of our needs yet desires to meet us amidst the unique circumstances in which we find ourselves in as well. Here are some further insights from Vince Vitale in the Fall 2014 Issue of RZIM: Quarterly News, Views, and Insights.
But while pain can be a great obstacle (to belief in Christ), it is also one of the greatest reasons to turn to God. The more seriously we take the problem of suffering — indeed, the more seriously we take the people who suffer — the more we will be led to trust the God who can do something about it.
The challenge, I find, is that what each person needs when suffering is very personal. There is no one-size-fits-all . . . Ultimately, what we need is the presence of a loved one. And when we have the chance to be that loved one for another, our temporary presence can act as an invitation to a life with the One who is always present. One of the greatest gifts of the Christian life is that you never need to wonder if a loved one is near; you never need to wonder if a loved one understands. That Person is always with you even within you.
While suffering can be traced back to humanity’s fall into sin, Jesus is clear that we cannot assume from the fact that a person is suffering that it is their fault or that they are being punished. A second distinctive of the Christian response to suffering is this: God promises that one day He will wipe away every tear. What an amazing claim, that God himself will wipe away our tears.
And perhaps most unique is that the Christian God chose to suffer with us. Suffering’s greatest cruelty is its isolation. The Christian never suffers alone. (We point) emphatically to the Cross of Jesus Christ, to the Cross of the only God loving enough to suffer with us and for us. (p. 7)
May these words encourage you or your loved ones who are suffering. While the experience of suffering is unique to each of us, we are not alone in our time of need. God takes our angst seriously, suffers with us, and will deliver us one day. My prayer is that you will seek comfort in the person of Jesus Christ who loves you more than anyone, more than you can ever imagine. His Scripture reassures us this fact in Psalm 139:17-18:
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.
And that’s way more than my words can say. Take care Gentle Reader and do let me know how I may pray for you, k? JJ