God’s purpose in suffering is a theme that I’ll come back to repeatedly. It’s a “faith-inhibitors” that cycles in and out of my mind.
For suffering to be good, which the Bible says it is — we are to rejoice in our suffering, after all! — it must be purposeful. That means there’s a reason for our suffering, a good reason. We must get something out of it that makes it worthwhile.
So, what am I getting out of this trial? I don’t have a definitive answer to that question.
I know that suffering has revealed weaknesses in my character and faith which must be confronted and dealt with. Many of these weaknesses are beyond my capacity to fix. God has to deal with them for me because I cannot deal with them for myself.
Here are six weaknesses that this trial has revealed to me.
First, I am weak when my prayers are insipid or fearful. I know I’m praying to the living God and yet it doesn’t often feel like God is listening or caring. Prayer should be a conversation, not a monologue. But when I get quiet so He can respond, I don’t often hear His voice. Instead, I hear my own mind jostling and scurrying about, as it always does, not the Divine mind of God. So, one of my weaknesses is effective and efficacious praying. I need to pray better. More effectively. More often.
A second weakness is this — I rarely know God’s will in a suffering sort of situation. Since prayers aligned with His will are answered, the remainder must be “iffy.” So, it’s important to know what God thinks about things because what He wants is what I should be praying for.
A third weakness is glaringly obvious — I still do not have a spiritual gift. It feels like every Christian I know has identified their gift except me. Perhaps I do not pray effectively or know God’s will because I have not been able to transcend earth-bound thinking. I don’t seem to have that extra dollop of spirituality. Those of you outside the faith won’t understand this or why it’s so important.
I also need to know God more intimately, to be more aware of Him, not me. There’s no place for self-awareness in the Christian life. None. It’s all about Jesus. Intimacy is predicated on two behaviours — first, truly believing what He says about Himself in His word, the Bible, and second, having extra-biblical experiences such as feeling God’s love.
A fifth weakness is primarily intellectual: I doubt His word, at times, because I have been over-educated and am somewhat of an expert in hermeneutical theory. This has made reading the Bible devotionally very difficult.
Knowing and believing God’s promises seems more crucial, now, than it had before this crisis. Clinging to the promise that God would vindicate and deliver me means I must actually believe this will happen, that God will answer my prayer. Believing that God will protect me, for example, is predicated on God’s general character as revealed in scripture as well as His specific promises. So, that’s my sixth weakness, a biggie — I waffle on His promises.
God just used suffering, pain and injustices to get me to cling to Him more tenaciously. When in pain, the normal thing to do is to try to figure out how to stop that pain, right? Well, this suffering has done this. I still beg God for this trial to end, but I’m also digging into the Bible and trying to pray better. I’m trying to seek God qua God, that is God for Himself, not for what He will do for me. Selfless worship in a time of suffering is very, very difficult, yet this is what God is asking me to do.
I must seek His face, not His hand.