The question of suffering. And an aha.
The morning sun hadn’t risen when I felt the gentle nudge of my young granddaughter against my bed. I opened my eyes to see her smiling face and arms full of books. How could I resist?
She climbed in, and I started reading. Then something amazing happened!
Ava is the daughter of two avid-reading parents. Their shelves are full of books, as are boxes in their garage. Bookstores are a favorite date for this loving couple.
Their very curious and bright firstborn loved books but hadn’t started her own reading journey yet. For some reason it happened with this visiting Grandma under warm covers one crisp morning.
Ava suddenly realized that the sounds of the letters c-a-t when blended together created a word. Blending began and so did her sudden success and passion for reading. We clapped and shrieked together.
“I can read!” she shouted as she ran down the hall to her parents’ room.
As a college student studying elementary education, I first encountered the meaning of “aha” when it lit up the eyes of a student as a concept suddenly made sense. For me, it is the greatest joy in teaching.
This week I had my own aha moment related to a couple of deeply confusing, even potentially conflicting, life and Bible realities: sovereignty and suffering.
Great biblical scholars through the ages have thoroughly studied these topics, much more than I have, and come down on different sides. The questions are many:
Why does God allow suffering?
Is God powerful enough to prevent it?
Does God author tornadoes, tsunamis, lightning fires… and disease?
Does God not love enough or is He not powerful enough to save us from undeserved pain and suffering?
If He has the power to heal some, why doesn’t He heal all?
Is a lack of healing due solely to a lack of faith?
The questions go on and on, as do the Bible verses seeming to fall on all sides of the question.
God Is Sovereign:
I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can thwarted.
God Loves Us
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge…
Ephesians 3:17-19 NIV
God Is Compassionate
Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.
I’ve been considering sovereignty and suffering again recently because the deepest kinds of pains are striking some of the people I most love. When this happens en masse, I tend to revisit my understanding of this seeming conflict in God’s character.
So I turned again to Joni Eareckson Tada who has been a paraplegic for 52 years and also encourages millions of people with hope and faith.
Just as blending did for little Ava, Joni’s words did for me.
“God permits what He hates
to accomplish what He loves.”
Perhaps her words do not have the same effect on you today -- for a variety of reasons. But my aha moment came as quickly as little Ava’s did.
And I remembered:
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
I pray that when the hard questions of God’s character and humanity’s suffering grip your heart, the Lord will grant you a fresh insight that brightens your eyes, sparks your faith and gives you peace.
Is the WHY of suffering troubling your heart today? Or perhaps you have another question that is stealing your confidence in God’s power and His love for you.
I encourage you to give yourself permission to come before the Lord and dig deep with the hope to find an aha moment in this daily walk we call faith.
Thank you for joining me in my new discovery today and for reading on as I walked through this current question that was troubling my heart in the midst of loving people in pain.
My aha might not be yours today, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to think it through and share it with you.