Monday, May 6, 2013

what I'm reading: the answer to suffering is not a some thing, but a Someone

I like answers. I like to know the "why". This is no less true in suffering than in anything else.

But when there are no answers - when the answers have said all they can and I am still hurting - when I've given up on the answers, and I'm just crying out to God - what I need is not a some thing, but a Someone.

In her book When God weeps, Joni tells the story of a friend who is suffering deeply. She's with a group of friends. One of them offers a list of reasons why this might have happened. But that's not what she needs - she already knows all this - and silence falls on the group. Then someone starts singing, and the whole group starts singing to God, their Father. In him alone is comfort.

Because, ultimately, this is our answer to suffering:
When your heart is being wrung out like a sponge, an orderly list of “sixteen good biblical reasons as to why this is happening” can sting like salt in a wound. You don’t stop bleeding that way. A checklist may be okay when you’re looking at your suffering in a rearview mirror, but when you’re hurting in present tense, “Let me explain why this is happening” isn’t always liveable ...
We must never distance the Bible's answers from God. The problem of suffering is not about some thing, but Someone. It follows that the answer must not be some thing, but Someone....

Besides, answers are for the head. They don’t always reach the problem where it hurts — in the gut and in the heart. When a person is sorely suffering … people are like hurting children looking into the faces of their parents, crying and asking, “Daddy, why?” Those children don’t want explanations, answers, or “reasons why”; they want their daddy to pick them up, pat them on the backs, and reassure them everything is going to be okay.
Our heartfelt plea is for assurance — Fatherly assurance — that there is an order to reality that far transcends our problems, that somehow everything will be okay. We amble on along our philosophical path, then — Bam! — get hit with suffering. No longer is our fundamental view of life providing a sense of meaning or a sense of security in our world. Suffering has not only rocked the boat, it’s capsized it.
We need assurance that the world is not splitting apart at the seams. We need to know we aren’t going to fizzle into a zillion atomic particles and go spinning off in space. We need to be reassured that the world, the universe, is not in nightmarish chaos, but orderly and stable.
God must be at the centre of things. He must be in the centre of our suffering. What’s more, he must be Daddy. Personal and compassionate. This is our cry.
God, like a father, doesn’t just give advice. He gives himself. He becomes the husband to the grieving widow (Isaiah 54:5). He becomes the comforter to the barren woman (Isaiah 54:1). He becomes the bridegroom to the single person (Psalm 10:14). He is the healer to the sick (Exodus 15:26). He is the wonderful counsellor to the confused and depressed (Isaiah 9:6).

This is what you do when someone you love is in anguish; you respond to the plea of their heart by giving them your heart. If you are the One at the centre of the universe, holding it together, if everything moves, breathes, and has its being in you, you can do no more than give yourself (Acts 17:28).

It’s the only answer that ultimately matters.

Joni Eareckson Tada When God weeps 124-125.

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