This is an old column from Faith & Family LIVE, but it just feels so appropriate right now, and I’m still not finding adequate time to write new stuff.
I just read a magazine article about how the people of Haiti are still struggling to rebuild their lives. We were shocked and devastated when the earthquake first hit, but it’s easy to forget, to return to our pampered living and to overlook the bleeding in the world and that there are so many people who need the healing touch and prayers of the Body of Christ.
Then there’s been more sad news. I have a friend who discovered during a routine, twenty-week ultrasound that her fifth child had no heartbeat and had passed. Everything had been going well during the pregnancy, so this came as quite a shock.
And then there’s this friend. She and her husband had to say good-bye to one of their babies (their twins were born very prematurely earlier this week) and release her into God’s care. Their precious baby girl’s life on this earth was short but sweet. (Please keep them in their prayers as they grieve over one baby and fight for the life of the second child.) This family has been a powerful witness to so many people. Their trust in God’s providence is beyond inspiring. It’s life-changing. It’s the kind of witness that makes you believe that despite your human tendency to question and to always want to intellectualize faith there’s most definitely something more to this earthly life. Theirs is the kind of faith that pulls me out of my spiritual desert and shows me that the hope I keep stumbling toward is more than a mirage and that believing in this God of ours is a choice worth making.
The essay now…
There’s been a lot of heartache in my life lately: Friends facing repeated miscarriages. A 20-something relative needing brain surgery. News reports showing bloody limbs reaching out from the cracked earth in Haiti. Children, mothers, fathers, grandparents all weeping.
Sometimes it’s just too much.
Sometimes I want to hide away in my cocoon of comfort and pretend the world isn’t such a sad place.
Sometimes I wonder if God is so good and so loving and so powerful, why doesn’t He make the suffering stop? Why does He allow so much suffering to begin with?
Natural disasters can do that to people. Even believers can start asking tough questions when the world seems to be crumbling apart.
I have a very close friend who is an atheist. All of the reasons she does not believe in God are out of goodness. This might strike Christians as odd. How can goodness lead to a disbelief in a good God? She might ask, in turn, “How can you believe in a good God who cares deeply about His people and yet can stand by, indifferent to their bleeding, and not intervene?”
She is kind, my friend. She’s one of the most unselfish people I know. She asks her questions gently, not in an inflammatory way. She once told me she would like to believe because it would make life in the face of heartbreak easier. It would be a nice cushion for the fall of humanity. Knowing a loved one she had lost was in heaven would be so much more comforting than believing he had just failed to exist. You live. You hurt. You die. And then – poof! You’re gone. That’s it.
“Very, very depressing,” she admits, “but I’m not going to believe in something just to make myself feel better.”
The two of us can look at the same sorrow and see something very different. She sees only the bleeding. I see it, too, even when I’d prefer to look away. But I see something else. I see the blood-stained, steady hands putting pressure on the bleeding. They may not stop the flow of the blood, but they are there, nonetheless.
Sometimes we must bleed in order to be healed.
My five-year-old gets it. She sees the hands, too. “Mommy, God will make it better,” she said after we’d discussed (without too many details) what had happened and what an earthquake is.
God does make it better. Maybe now. Maybe later. Maybe far, far from the pit of despair we find ourselves trying to dig our way out of.
Sometimes He makes it better through the Body of Christ. On big scale disasters, we rally our troops. When a neighbor is hurting, we do smaller things. Maybe we bring a meal to a friend who is hollowed out and empty after a miscarriage. When there is pain and joy, too, we come together to lift our voices in prayer. The pleas for help may be fading to silence beneath the rubble, but our voices carry on for those in Haiti. We bite our tongues before we start to complain over some small annoyance because we know there is real suffering out there.
People who don’t believe in God or in Christ often do the same things: They empty their pockets and give. They may not pray (or call it prayer), but they think about those who are hurting. They love when it would be much easier to distance themselves from the raw physical and emotional pain disaster—whether global or natural or human-caused or in the battlefield of one person’s confused heart—inevitably brings.
Where do we get these deep wells of love?
Believing in this God of mine is not wishful thinking. My faith is not meant to make me forget the pain or sadness, to sanitize or to sentimentalize the hurt in the world. I’m not supposed to turn my eyes away from the suffering. Instead, I’m suppose to consider the Passion, the unabated agony. When I imagine seeing Christ being scourged, the nails driven into his flesh, I want to shout, “We’re not worth it!”
But we were. That’s the miracle of it. God saw that we were worth it.
Now when I see friends grieving or I hear news stories about violence and looting and inadequate medical care, I am, I admit, sometimes tempted to admit my defeat, to sadly nod with my atheist friend and say, “It’s not worth it.”
Yet, love is always worth it, and that’s what it’s really about. Taking a risk to love God and others despite the unavoidable hurt.
And, ironically, it’s when I’m faced with life’s darkest moments and find myself standing in the shadow of the cross when I begin to truly see God – not as indifferent or blind to the plight of His beloved children – but as humble beyond measure. Why doesn’t God coerce His love on us? Why doesn’t He heal us out in the open instead of applying a slow-acting balm to our wounds? Why doesn’t He give us proof, instead of glimpses, of His goodness? For most of us, it’s easier to doubt God’s presence than to say, “I believe!” especially in the wake of disaster. Yet, He doesn’t do anything about that. He allows us to doubt. But He also gives us the eyes of faith to see Him in the ruin and to believe that He will make things better – if not here than in heaven. An all-powerful God, in His humility, gives us the choice to believe.
It’s often not an easy choice, but for me, it’s a choice worth making.