Look closely, a battered orange starfish clings to the rock – Just lately we have been bombarded with personal prayer requests from family, friends and acquaintances who have fallen sick, been recently diagnosed with a disease, or become victims of a serious accident. It lays heavy on our hearts to see all those people we care about suffering pain and heartache. It hits close to home when it’s people we know. We have been through some medical tests of our own that thankfully proved negative after an anxious waiting period.
It brings up that age-old question of why there is so much suffering in the world. For a believer who trusts in the goodness of God, it is critical that we don’t confuse the issue with our emotions and lose faith.
I admit I was angry with God as a young person when a close friend died of a brain tumor after a lingering and debilitating illness. I remember walking along the road from the hospital talking out loud to God, choking back the tears, questioning Him with an ache in my heart and a million unanswered questions. It was the beginning of my walk away from God at an emotional level, keeping Him at arm’s length, slipping into isolation as a Christian as I eventually stopped going to church for years. The key component I had lost was trust, trust in God’s character. Had I misunderstood who God was? Filled with doubts, I was disillusioned, deeply saddened, but I threw the baby out with the bath water, not realizing the baby was me. I didn’t ever stop believing in God or Jesus, as I continued to debate spiritual questions with colleagues throughout my career, defending the faith, but with such a watered down testimony, I was no doubt totally ineffective.
Ironically, it was a series of sad things that happened in my own life that brought me to my knees, to full surrender and complete trust in God, beyond mere intellectual assent. Suffering is the refining fire that either breaks or makes us. It cannot leave us untouched or uninvolved with the deeper questions of our existence. It can cause us to look up for our salvation, or to hang our heads in despair. I hope that you will always choose to turn to the one true God in your life’s pilgrimage through the valleys of hardship. Like the starfish, keep clinging to the Rock when the waves come crashing down.
For some answers on the topic of suffering, I can recommend Dr. Ray Pritchard’s sermon: “Why is there so much suffering in the world?”