“For if He causes grief, Then He will have compassion, According to His abundant lovingkindness. For He does not afflict willingly, or grieve the sons of men.” Lam 3:32-33 (NASB)
Elisabeth Elliot defined suffering as wanting what you don’t have or having what you don’t want. I never wanted to lose my beloved husband, my closest friend, the father for my two boys, and my intimate pastor. I have been given the gift of widowhood and honestly… I don’t want it! What do you have that you wish you could return or re-gift… What do you want that God seems to withhold?
No matter what suffering we may be experiencing, we can find solace in knowing God’s heart of compassion, and finding contentment, by trusting His perfect love, time and provision for his children. He is not purposefully making our lives miserable. God desires us to surrender our cares and cling to Him as we are knit to him in the womb of dependence and trust. Its in this dark gulf where we find peace and joy from Him alone despite the looming circumstance all around us. He does not want us to rely on the temporary things of this world, but on our unshakeable source of life—Jesus Christ.
Although it is God’s will for us to suffer that we’d to grow closer to Christ—he is not a cosmic kill joy. As a loving father, He wants to give us good gifts. “Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Of if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Mt 7:9-11) Nathan loves to eat cholate chip cookies but since he has an intolerance to dairy, often he can’t have them while the rest of the kids chomp away. As his parent, my heart breaks for him, so I give him ones without dairy. He has come to the point where he trusts me when we are out and other kids eat cookies but he simply watches. I withhold those from him because they hurt his tummy. However, I am eager to give him the ones that he can not only savor, but ones his body can digest.
In Job’s life, God allowed Satan to inflict much pain and suffering for no apparent reason. This poor man lost all his children and possessions. Then, to top it off his body was brutally afflicted from head to toe, and people around him misjudged the situation. His friends accused him of sin! The one person he didn’t lose, His wife was not the loving helpmate and grace of life meant to encourage him—she urged him to curse God and die! Yet in Job’s pain, his faith grew astronomically. At the end God showed such lovingkinness to not only restore all Job had, but to bless him even more than ever before.
What does this mean in my life and yours? I don’t know about you, but for me it means relief. I must confess that I starting crying when I came across this verse… it touched my soul to be reassured that God is not willingly afflicting me and that he does not desire for me to camp in my grief. When my heart is heavy and my faith strains to see beyond the miry fog, I can move forward and trust he will be with me and for me always.
Our new life has had it’s challenges and joys. The grief class I’m taking has continued to encourage me. I see that healing comes by continually turning to God as my Refuge. I’m assured that moving forward does not mean moving on. I no longer wonder if there’s something wrong with me for having genuine peace and even joy. My love for Josh is not measured on the way I grieve. I can rejoice and thank God for who he is continuing to make me and the boys to be, and how much he is having us grow from the trials he’s ordained. When I sense other’s don’t understand my unique pain or misjudge my joy, I can give it to my heavenly Father and rest in His strong yet gentle arms.