I process the thoughts in my head through writing, it is how I work out where I am at and when I write it is sort of like unblocking a drain and watching the water wash away. Usually I write very quickly, in a rush of thought as I empty my brain, but on the subject of Gods location in the midst of struggle that doesn’t seem to work, I find myself struggling to verbalise the swirl of thoughts in my head.
I mention this because in my last blog I asked the question – where is God in the continual battle and never changing story? And I want to respond to this question – not in a ‘TA DA! I know it ALL!’ sort of way, more in a ‘here is my thinking’ sort of way. So here goes, this is where I think God is in the midst of the struggle of getting by day by day.
It is very easy when talking to someone who is struggling to get by to offer a trite and simple answer, but this more often than not – unless coming out of sincere relationship and understanding of the situation of the one you are talking to – makes the recipient angry! The bible however, is where I find an answer that is neither simple nor irritating, but real. Throughout the bible we meet character after character who lived lives that were hard. Some were hard because of poverty, some due to illness, some due to persecution, some due to God’s call on their lives. The reality is though, that finding someone in the bible who lived free of suffering is not possible.
This continues in the new testament – which is full of references to caring for the widow, the orphan and the slave. The happy news the gospel brings does not mean that accepting it into our lives means we will live happy, easy lives. The ‘happy gospel’ myth does a disservice to the apostles, the early church and to Jesus as it fails to acknowledge the words written that point to suffering as part of the world we live in.
The gospel I read is one about sacrifice and hope – the God who came down to earth in a sacrifice the likes of which I will never comprehend. He spent his life facing struggle after struggle, and came to a point where he asked God to take away the pain of it. He then handed it over to God and surrendered himself to His will. This story is the greatest comfort for me. It tells me that when I sit in tears, begging God to end the pain and he seemingly doesn’t answer, Jesus gets how I feel. It also tells me that Jesus, in his lifetime, surrendered to God, accepting that sometimes our most desperate pleas don’t get answered in the way we would like. There is no answer to the mystery of why some people get healed and others don’t, or why some people get children and others don’t, or some get married and others don’t or any of the other questions in life – but there is an understanding that Jesus knows what it is like to feel like God has forgotten us, and this assures us that even when it feels like it we know he has not.
The bible is my comfort, because throughout it offers hope in the middle of darkness. Psalm 139:12 says ‘even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you’ – this is a promise to me that says when God seems distant, when I cannot seem him, I am assured he sees me.
The thing is, when I read the bible I know that God heals, I know he could heal me, I know that if he doesn’t I have not failed him, I know that if life is a battle every day until the day I die God will be fighting the battle with me – for me even. The bible gives me hope in who I am, in who I could be, in who God is and how precious I am to him.
However, I find that that confidence fails when I hear testimony after testimony which is concluded with a happy, pretty bow. When I am asked, for the gazilionth time, whether I have asked God for healing, or am told a story of a healing that happened to someone just like me.
What I want to hear is how people live IN the fight. How do people keep up their hope, when things are not changing? I want to hear the testimonies of what God does when all hope is lost. My experience tells me that it is in the darkest moments that God does the biggest things, and whilst I might not have been physically healed, He has drawn me deeper into his love and grace. Showing me the lengths of his love for me and offering me comfort when all is black.
These are testimonies that both deserve to be heard and are equally valuable to the church. We need to learn how to walk alongside each other in the midst of heartbreak and suffering. To do this, we need to learn from the extraordinary depths of faith and hope that those whose situations are unchanging can find. We need to learn from the bible that God does extraordinary things in desperate situations – but this doesn’t mean that we will no longer suffer. We need to stop guilt tripping and answering complex questions with an absurd simplicity.
Where is God? He is here. With me. Enjoying my moments of hope and holding me in the moments of brokenness. He is the promise of a future, he is light in the dark, he is everything.