Last post, I shared some thoughts from Joni Eareckson-Tada about suffering. Coming from just about any other individual, the words might sound distant, heady, even cold, but from a long-time quadriplegic and pain sufferer, my heart nods in agreement. God puts up with suffering as a by-product of our fallen human nature, while He waits for more people to accept His free gift of salvation.
C.S. Lewis wrote a lot about suffering; his book, “The Problem of Pain,” is a Christian classic. While Joni keeps suffering (pain, loss, sickness, destruction) outside of God’s direct manipulation, Lewis, in his book, puts it smack dab into God’s hands, like a pruning hook intended for human use:
God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in
our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.
Did you get that? Pain (various types of suffering) is the tool God uses to get our attention. This means God not only passively allows suffering, He gets personal with it. This tweaks my white-washed idea of what a God of kindness, love and compassion looks like. I don’t like the picture…but I know it is bone-hard truth. God is interested in more than our earthly comfort and pleasure.
Job is a man who, seemingly, suffered tremendous personal loss and pain over a bet between Satan and God. Already the story smacks of two cosmic powers wrangling at poor Job’s expense. But with an accurate acumen of Job and God, the picture radically changes. First, Job is described as a righteous man. I have never met a righteous person, but if I did I am willing to bet there would be a large shadow of pride pinned to his heals. Job recognized God’s blessing in his life, but it made him smug. He needed a lesson in humility.
Second, God and Satan don’t wrangle. There is never a debate, never a contest, never a “dare” to be satisfied between the two. God always has His way. Satan always loses. God knew from the get-go that Satan would lose this bet (Satan, apparently, was not so smart). God also knew His plan in allowing Job’s suffering ultimately included blessing the man with more at the end of the trial than he had already experienced. Most importantly, He knew Job needed to learn that personal righteousness is no match for God’s supremacy, wisdom and glory. As smug people go, Job wasn’t paying attention. So God picked up His megaphone.
Author and humorist Lee Ezell learned about God’s ultimate authority over earthly events when she was raped in the prime of her life, just after accepting Christ at a Billy Graham crusade. The already tragic event turned into a crisis when she discovered she was pregnant. Armed with what many would consider an acceptable reason to abort the child, she turned down a ride to Mexico for that purpose, and chose instead to give the child – a baby girl – up for adoption. This difficult experience eventually cemented in her heart and mind God’s sovereignty, that “nothing comes to us except it passes through the hands of God.”
“‘Everything is beautiful (singing)…No, it’s not,'” Lee says. “‘But we serve a God
who can make all things beautiful for those of us who have totally committed
our ways to Him. I can’t imagine God saying, ‘Oops!! Whoa…I wasn’t expecting
that one! Boy, that really messes her up for the rest of her life.’ No, I rather see
God as the Executor of heaven, sitting up there at his great big executive desk
with two big rubber stamps. And I believe the Bible clearly teaches that if even
the enemy of our souls wants to do something to us, it’s as if he has to fill out a
requisition and it has to pass across God’s desk, and He has to say Yes or No.
“‘Can he change jobs?’ ‘Yea, I’ll help him with that‘ (stamp). ‘Can she move?’ ‘No,
she can’t handle another move, We’re not going to let her move again‘ (stamp).
‘Can he loose his best friend?’ ‘Yes, because he’s been counting so much on his best
friend and not enough on Me‘ (stamp).
“Then one day a requisition came across God’s desk for me, and it said, ‘Can I find
Lee, my birth mother?’ And God said, ‘Yes‘ (stamp). … So I picked up the phone one day,
and the young woman on the other end of the line said, ‘Hello, you’ve never met me,
my name is Julie, and you’re my birth mother.’ That child went on to say she had two
reasons for calling: One was to explain I was a grandmother (even though I’m much
too young), and then she tried to do what she’d always dreamed of doing one day, she
tried to lead me to Jesus. I let her go for a while (to see if she was any good at
it), then I stopped her and said, ‘Julie, you’re trying to lead me to Christ, but you
already did that more than 20 years ago.’ For truly it was that experience that
solidified it for me.” —Lee Ezell, from her recording, “Lee Live!”
To read more about C.S. Lewis and “The Problem of Pain,” see: http://www.cslewistoday.com/blog/the-problem-of-pain.
For more about Lee Ezell, see: www.leeezell.com.