The last couple of weeks have been excruciating.
By now you have all heard (probably ad nauseum) about the UCC Shooting in Roseburg, Oregon.
That is my old hometown, and even now, I only live 100 miles away. As the news unfolded, it felt like a thick cloud settled over my life.
It was stifling.
Just as life was beginning to get back to normal, I heard of a friend’s death. This friend, only one year older than I, leaves behind a daughter who is the same age as my son.
Do you ever have days where you feel you can’t breathe? Those days when life is just so overwhelming, you’re ready for Jesus to come back? Now?
I get it. And if you can relate, I’ve learned a few things over the last couple of weeks.
Friend, if you are in a dark place, feeling like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, I hope the following encourages you.
Suffering Can Strengthen Our Relationship with God
When I look back over my life, taking note of the times I’ve felt closest to God, one thing is clear. My relationship with God thrives in the hard times.
Is that because he’s not there during the good times?
Not at all. God is always there, but during good times I can convince myself I’m somehow self-reliant.
When crisis strikes, however, I’m quickly reminded that I’m not in control of my own life. I’m dependent on God. I’m incapable of solving all the world’s problems on my own.
When I’m suffering, my prayer life improves. My time in the Word increases. My focus is on the eternal, rather than on the day to day distractions of life here on earth.
When the crisis is over, frequently the habits I’ve developed during my suffering carry forward into the good times, because I’m acutely aware of how God helped me through.
Christian Community is Important
They say no man is an island, and it’s true. God created Eve for Adam, saying, “It is not good that man should be alone…” Genesis 2:18 ESV
Right now I’m studying 2 Corinthians in a woman’s Bible study. One thing that has stood out to me is how God created us to comfort each other. Yes, God comforts us, too, but he also gave us fellow believers to walk alongside each other in the hard times.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 ESV
We’ve seen this play out beautifully on national television as the city of Roseburg came together after the shootings. Churches immediately opened for prayer, fundraisers were started, and coffee stands provided free coffee for the residents.
When you are suffering, don’t try to go it alone. Allow others to comfort you.
The Weight isn’t Ours to Bear
I don’t know about you, but I’m an action person. When trouble strikes, I want to fix the problem.
Some problems…most problems…I just can’t fix.
When my friend passed away, I have no doubt she immediately entered the gates of heaven. But she left behind a daughter who is the same age as my son. And that breaks my heart.
But how am I to fix that? I can’t.
And I wasn’t meant to.
When I was a young child in Christian school, I had to memorize Psalm 121. It begins,
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2 ESV
Some problems we can’t fix. But God, the Creator of the universe, is able to handle any problem. He is able to help, to comfort, and to work all things for his glory (Romans 8:28).
1 Peter 5:7 (NIV) says, “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.”
God wants your worries, your pain, your suffering. He’s big enough to handle it. Let him.
God is Still on the Throne
Sometimes it’s hard to understand why God allows evil to happen. I struggle with that concept as much as the next person. Why did a shooter have to enter a college classroom and kill nine students who had no idea the morning would bring such tragedy?
I don’t know any reason other than sin is evil. And we humans are sinners.
What I do know is that many times God has used what was meant for evil and turned it into something good.
A community coming together to worship.
A lost soul coming to know Jesus as Savior.
Christians realizing that our time on earth could be short and determining to redeem their time well.
We don’t see the big picture. But God does.We don't see the big picture, but God does.Click To Tweet
I don’t know how tragedy works into His plan. But I trust that God is in control. That God still cares. And that God still loves us immensely.
Isaiah 55:8-11 says,
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Rest in that.
The Best is Yet to Come
Above all, when I’m suffering I remind myself that the best is yet to come.
This sinful, painful world?
It’s just temporary.
I’m 44 years old, and sometimes that seems like a really long time. But it’s just a drop in the bucket compared to eternity.
Revelation 21:4 (ESV) promises that in heaven,
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.
Friends, this isn’t it. As the Building 429 song says,
All I know is I’m not home yet.
This is not where I belong.
Take this world and give me Jesus.
This is not where I belong.
Suffering here on earth, no matter how bad that suffering is, is only temporary. Let others comfort you. Let God comfort you. And then allow God to use your experience to comfort others. Your suffering is not in vain.
And realize that one day you will meet your Savior face to face, and suffering will be no more. And your Savior will look into your eyes and say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 21:25 ESV)
I have a feeling those words will make all we endure on earth worth it.