Trusting God and Suffering

{Note to readers: please excuse my use of an image of the white Jesus. I know full well Jesus wasn’t of European descent, and I find it depressing that Western Art depicts Jesus this way… However, I’m very limited in what’s available in the public domain. My sincerest apologies to anyone finding my image offensive. My intent is not to offend!}

This. Right here: Trust.

This is fly in the ointment of my contentment.  

While I can intellectually assent to trust in God, I can will myself to trust God in the moment, and my heart desires to trust Him fully… There is something in the way. I still haven’t made my way to perfect trust. 

It was much easier to trust God when I saw myself as an hopelessly egregious sinner (courtesy of the Calvinist doctrine of Total Depravity). But if trust is driven by a sense of desperation, can it be perfect? 

I think not. If “perfect love casts out all fear”(1 Jn 4:18), then a trust driven by fear, cannot be perfect. 

When peeling back the layers of what drives my thoughts, feelings and actions… I have to wonder, how much of my past “sin” was reactionary? I am strong-willed, but I am not willful. How much of the shame I’ve carried is the result of being abused, of having been cut off from my true self for so long, and how much is actually tied to my own transgressions?

No doubt about it, I’m flawed. However, instead of seeing my flaws as being something inherently wrong with me, I now understand them to be the result of having something very wrong done to me. And while this change in perspective gives me the power to heal, it also puts me back at odds with God.

When my life has brought so much psychic pain… much of which  I have not brought upon myself… And God claims (in Scripture) to desire to be my God, that He Loves me… 

Well, I’m brought back to the foot of the Cross. 

When, in Matthew 27:46, Jesus cries out “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” ( My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?), I find myself empathizing with Jesus’ experience of feeling utterly alone, forsaken by God. 

Now, Jesus did not sin in making this statement. Even amdist His suffering, and experience of separateness from the One He loved, God was still His God. However, Jesus told it like it was– why leave me in my suffering?

I do not know if I will ever find perfect trust in my God. The kind of trust that unites heart, mind, and soul with God’s will. But I so badly want that kind of trust. 

It’s hard to trust in God as loving Father when He allowed my earthly father to molest me. Why didn’t He intervene? I have seen Him set limits on the effects of human transgression. I saw this happen as we left Seminary. Although folks there, and in my Synod, and in my church,  bought into the lies that were willfully spread to every corner of my public life–Not one person outside of my denomination believed any of it. The slander put an end to my studies and hopes of being ordained, but God drew the line at allowing it to adversely effect our family beyond that particular religious sphere. 

I should be grateful for that, and I am… But why allow it to occur at all? If Jesus died for my sins, why was I (metaphorically) crucified too?

I guess, if crucifixion was ok for Jesus, it’s ok for me. I was not asked to forfeit my earthly life, just my religious one.

I do not believe that I am sinning in asking God why. I believe He wants me to acknowledge my inner struggles with my understanding His Sovereignity and how it has played out in my earthly life.  

Although, maybe instead of asking why? the question I should be asking myself is, why not?

Did I survive? Yes, of course. 

Have I suffered beyond what the beloved Son of God suffered for my sake? Not even close! Don’t be silly!

Then, why do I equate God’s Love and provision with an absence of hardship and suffering?

I do not know. 

However,  if I keep on with this line of questioning, maybe, I will find out.

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19 thoughts on “Trusting God and Suffering

  1. Wow. I do hate that you suffered at the hand of someone who should have been your protector, and it is not unreasonable to wonder why God allowed it to happen. I have had moments when I thought God should have immediately rescued me, but I ended up having to go through it.

    I have since grown to recognize the pain we endure and at times cause is because we live in a sin cursed world. God still rules and is still Sovereign. Only he can work all things, that includes the most horrific, for good and his glory.

    Yes we can trust him. We can trust him with our lives even through suffering. I like that you came to the same conclusion as Job, shall we receive good only and not evil?

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    1. Amen. If God had instead promised to keep me from all HURT instead of from HARM, I may have a case against Him. But, He never promised in Scripture to keep us from hurt and suffering. It’s a sobering reality, and one I cannot deny. God did not fail me, God failed my own ideas of how I’d have God act. Love doesn’t require the object of love to conform to human standards… If I love God, I need to let Him be God in the way God sees fit. Even if it hurts.

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      1. Amen, Amen Kristen!!!! So many think of God as a Santa Claus or for him to be like a genie in a bottle. We are his creation! I started a post on this very thing but I have to finish it still. It’s such a blessing that you have come through to this knowledge, rather, he has brought you here to this. May God continue to bless you my sister.

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  2. I would never pretend to understand the suffering of others. Everyone suffers, but to different degrees. And no matter how much one suffers, there is always someone else that suffers more. And then, as you point out, no man suffers more than what Jesus suffered. The way I look at suffering and hardship is that we live in a broken and fallen world. Things are not as God intended them to be and will not be so until Christ returns and makes all things new. Until then, we suffer the pains of sin and transgressions and sickness and death. These are not caused by God but are a consequence of the sin of man (collectively). Scripture says that all of Creation groans as if in childbirth yearning for Christ’s return and the promised renewal. Until then, we must bear hardships, which we are told unites us with Christ, who bore the weight of the world. Yes, God restrains evil at times and other times He does not. We will never know why He does so, but we are promised that He remains in control. It doesn’t seem fair at times, to be frank. But I believe that’s because we do not have the whole picture as God does. But I don’t think the disparity demonstrates any disparity in God’s love. In fact, those who suffer most often have the greatest faith because of it–reflecting scripture that says hardships are a blessing. Those who suffer little are in danger of self-sufficiency and arrogance–the eye of the needle.

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    1. It is funny that you would use imagery pulled from the Gospel story of the Rich Man wanting to follow Jesus. After publishing this post, I opened up my Bible to this same passage. I do not see myself as being rich. Neither does God, for that matter… But I realized that, for me, self-protection is a possession I gave up in order to follow Him, but I gave it up because I believed HE would keep me safe (safety and self-protection are very important to abuse survivors). When He didn’t keep me safe from hurt, I resumed my previous self-protective stance. A stance that cannot align itself with God’s will. I am not promised safety. I will never be safe in this world…. However, I am promised that I will never endure the sin of others alone. That has to be to good enough, if I want to follow Him.

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  3. The whole thing about “white Jesus” earned my follow right there.

    I agree with your point about the suffering God brings; it has certain graces and sanded corners, unlike what the world throws at us. Great thoughts.

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  4. This is so insightful. It is hard for me too, to be able to trust God fully even after all the pain. Intellectually, I want to, but it is so hard to actually do it! Something else (along those lines) that I struggle with is accepting that God’s grace is just as valid for our abusers as it is for us. I mean, I want God to hate the people who hurt me, but that is not how God works. I know my human mind and emotions are so limiting in this respect!! Hugs to you! Lily

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    1. Lily,
      You need to read Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship. Even if you only get through his chapter on “cheap grace”. Bonhoeffer calls the German Lutheran church’s doctrine of Grace into account, and he pulls no punches. There is a huge difference between the justification of sinner and the justification of sin. Cheap grace justifies sin, and short cuts the purpose of God’s Grace which is to recognize how far we are from Him, and turn towards Him in repentance. There is no absolution of sin without confession, and no confession without true repentance. For those that refuse to repent, God’s Grace is perceived as His Wrath– His Grace and His Wrath are one, it is the state of the heart of the sinner that perceives it differently… Grace for the contrite in heart, Wrath for the arrogant and self-righteous in heart.
      Therefore, I hope my abuser comes to true repentance. But Id be lying if it didn’t give me a sense of Justice in knowing that without coming to full knowledge of how he wronged me, there is no grace for him. Maybe you can find comfort in that as well.

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  5. Your strength and faith continue to inspire me, to show me that through all of my trials I, too, can survive. I’m sorry that you have suffered, and pray that you can find the peace and trust and you are searching for.

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    1. Thank you, Jes!
      I think I’ve finally realized that my own strength is found only in Him. Apart from Him, I am weak and mistrustful. Every time I try to take what I have in Him, outside of Him (usually, as a result of feeling rather angry at Him…) , I am nothing.
      The most beautiful part of my relationship with God, is finding I can be angry at Him without having to runaway from Him. He is big and strong enough to take on my rage, and my questioning and my sadness. Those things are too much for any mere human being to stand! But not for Him.

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  6. I used to think I was somehow exempt from suffering. Now I see suffering, viz., suffering circumstances I’m not responsible for, necessary, if I’m claiming to share in Christ’s resurrection.
    Thank you for your openness.

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    1. Thank you for your comment, RoyZed.
      I wonder, what went wrong in my faith formation to lead me to believe that there wasn’t a cross for me too? When Jesus Himself tells we need to pick up our cross daily in following Him (Luke 9:23)– where does this expectation of exemption come from?

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      1. Kristen,
        I will dare to say nothing went wrong with your spiritual formation different from mine. Our experiences are different, but the bottom line is we were all broken.

        We all wind up on the heap before we know we’re there.

        Until we’re born again, we can’t see the kingdom of God. I went to church all my life since I was a kid. Was the last of ten kids and contracted polio when I was four years old.

        For that and other reasons, I received a lot of special attention and considerations. I developed an “exemption mentality” as a result. I was taught how to yield to conditions in the wrong way.

        As a result, the fruit of that conditioning produced an attitude that left me feeling exempt from difficulties; the kind of stuff that happened to other I people.

        Six years ago I lost my wife of 40 years to terminal cancer. It was wake up call that has had me seeing things like never before.

        No circumstance can destroy you. How you respond to them, can.

        I would enjoy talking more,
        Roy

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      2. I’d love to hear more of your own story, Roy. My husband lost both of his parents to cancer, two years apart, when he was in college. A sudden and unexpected loss of that kind, early on in his adult life, brought the changes in his heart that are just starting to happen in mine. It took the sudden loss of our son Ezra, in the second trimester of pregnancy, to open my eyes to all of the pain that comes along with being human. Blessings:)

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