Christmas and the holiday season are not always times that are cheery and bright. Loneliness and loss have a sharper edge in contrast with our longings for warmth and love and joy shared with others.
Suffering inflicts a terrible sense of alienation on our hearts. We can feel as if we don’t matter. But what we are going through is taken seriously by God. We are taken seriously by God. We matter to Him.
When I think of suffering in the Bible, I think of Job as most people do. David, Jeremiah, and Joseph also come to mind. We see glimpses of the anguish of Joseph, but Job, David and Jeremiah left us torrents of words. In their words you feel their affliction, and some of their words are as raw as they come.1 Their words give us a voice and lessen our isolation as we read them and realize someone else has known what I experience and felt exactly as I do. That God includes such words of lament in His Word is a mark of His caring: what we are going through is taken seriously by God.
God never trivializes us or treats our pain lightly. In Job we see a man, a good man, who struggles with his doubts and his longing to trust God. Job’s horrific circumstances drive him to grapple with life at its depths as he asks why. God answers Job in the closing chapters of the book, not by explaining why he has suffered so greatly, but by giving Job an understanding of who He is. As He questions Job and calls him to observe Creation, Job realizes that God’s wisdom and power and justice are matters far beyond Job’s ken. There are no glib answers here; there is a call to trust. No glib answers means the horror of Job’s circumstances is not trivialized, and neither is Job. That means neither is ours, and neither are we. We are taken seriously by God.
God calls us to trust. But how can one learn to trust God? And leave vindication and justice in His hands? Os Guinness’ words in his book, Doubt, have been of immense help to me.
“When a Christian comes to faith his understanding and his trust go hand in hand, but as he continues in faith his trust may sometimes be called to go on by itself without his understanding….
“…A Christian does not say, ‘I do not understand you at all, but I trust you anyway.’ Rather he says, ‘I do not understand you in this situation, but I understand why I trust you anyway.’2
“A Christian doesn’t know why…, but (and here alone is the difference) he knows why he trusts God who knows why.
“And how is this? …a Jew not in his youth, but in his prime…suffering in our place he might restore us to his Father, that then we might be sure that God is there, and God is good.
“…Not surprisingly it is those whose faith in God is anchored in the incarnation—God become flesh, crucified, risen—whose faith can pass through the fires of suffering. For there is no question however deep or painful which cannot be trusted with the God who is the Father of Jesus Christ.”3
This is why I as a Christian trust God. He sent His Son to suffer in my place. Such great love for me, brings me to continue to trust when I don’t know why.
For all of you who have Christmas tears this year, may you know the depths of God’s love through the gift of His Son.
And remember, Christ was born that day so that one day there will come a day when we will see and know:
“Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”Revelation 21:3b–4
Depression-loss of loved one: I can no longer find the source, but I believe this photograph is in the Public Domain.
Miedo ajeno, RayNata: Public Domain.
1Psalm 13 and Jeremiah 20 are heart-rending cries. Psalm 88, although not one of David’s, is a raw lament.
2,3Os Guinness, Doubt (Lion Publishing plc, England: 1976; Third Edition,1987) 199–200, 211–212.
Copyright ©2012–2018 Iwana Carpenter