Two and a half years ago my wife and I found out our daughter had ALL Leukemia. I vividly remember the moment of this knowledge administration with it’s ultimately terrifying sensation that vibrated throughout our bodies and minds. More terror and anxiety were to come as they began to explain what the next two years were going to be like for us with steroids, chemo, spinal taps and much more. To add on to it all, my wife had just found out two weeks prior that she was pregnant with our son, Enoch, who was to be born right about the time of Isabella’s intense treatment.
The next two years were by far the toughest years of our lives, and yet, thank God we made it through as Isabella has just finished her treatments and everything is looking up. With this success and the joy it brings, unfortunately there are some who never get to experience this joy. Since the time of Bell’s admission, my wife and I’s eyes have been opened to the reality that many never encounter or even realize. Seeing kids with cancer, suffering away and then come to find out that some of whom you have met did not make it really opens your eyes to the suffering and malevolence that is intertwined within the fabric of reality itself.
As you look at all the suffering and the ultimate death of unfortunate individuals, it makes one ask the ever present question of, “Where is God?” Where is God during all this suffering and malevolence? Where is He during the treatment processes and why does He allow some to survive and others not to? One conclusion some typically come up with is the same that Sam Harris has stated, “Either God can do nothing to stop catastrophes like this, or He doesn’t care to, or He doesn’t exist. God is either impotent, evil, or imaginary.” Although there seems to be some logic ingrained within this statement, there is also something vitally missing here.
“To the woman He said: ‘I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.’ Then to Adam He said, ‘Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: ‘Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; For dust you are, and to dust you shall return.”Genesis 3:16-19 nkjv
To understand suffering and death, one must go back to its origin. The introduction of suffering and death began at the beginning in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. Here we find that the first two concise human beings were given a choice to enable them to have freewill, but just like any choice we make today, both had consequences that came with them. Unfortunately, Adam and Eve chose the way that led to death by the enticement of the serpent, and from this point we see their exile from the Garden and the initiation of the curse of suffering, malevolence and death.
Over the years I have had several debates with people on this topic with many opponents bringing up the notion that it was ridiculous that God would punish the entire human race from two people’s mistakes. Many have went on to state that God should give each person the same choice and that they would have never eaten of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. My argument to that is that they would have more than likely eaten of the same tree and that we all still have the same choice as Adam and Eve which is the choice between accepting Christ, the Tree of Life, or rejecting Him, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Each and everyone of us has the choice between life and death with both bringing with them consequences of both good and bad. With freewill comes the necessity of choices as well as that of responsibility. We are all responsible for our ultimate fate of either ascending into eternity with God or being cast out of His presence all together just like Adam and Eve in the Garden. We see where suffering and death have spawned from, but where is God in amongst all the suffering?
The Eternal Perspective
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”Isaiah 55:8-9 NKJV
One thing that many people tend to forget about God is the sheer fact that He is eternal and we are finite. We only get a small glimpse of the whole picture, a little glimmer of the purpose that is laid out. In order to understand the suffering that happens in the world, we must first come to view things from an eternal perspective. By broadening our view of life from the finite to the infinite, we can gain a better perspective as to how God works compared to how we work.
Not only does broadening our view from the finite to the infinite help us see the bigger picture, but by having a better view of what heaven itself will be like helps gain and even greater insight to the goodness of God. As much emphasis we put on this life, heaven is so much better that we could not even begin to fully grasp the joy and goodness that is found within. If we were to even get a brief moment, a small glimmer of what it is like, we would instantly want permanent residency there.
Heaven is briefly described in the Bible with the notions of tears being wiped away, providing the idea that all suffering will seize. The wolves will lie down with the lambs, children will play with rattlesnakes and the eternal joy of God will abound. The joy and peace that will reside in each of our hearts and minds will be so overwhelming that memories of this life will seize to exist as it states that the “dead remember nothing” and that “all things will be made new”. We will all dwell within the warm light and presence of God Himself with anxieties completely expelled from existence for eternity.
Now, with the description above we have still not even began to fully tap into the reality of heaven itself, but with a small glimpse into what is awaiting us all, it should encourage as well as instills hope within our hearts and minds. With all that being said,just as Paul has stated, it begins to make more sense to be with the Lord more than be here. When one does suffer and ultimately departs from this life, although it does grieve us tremendously, at the same time it should also comfort us to know that they are in the place that we all so desperately seek to be, they just made it there first.
I am not stating that we should never grieve or that this life is somehow purposeless as even Jesus wept when Lazarus died, and there is plenty of work to be done here for the Lord and good choices to be made. We all have a purpose inputted to us by the Lord Himself and it is our duty to go out and accomplish it filled with the Holy Spirit.
Not only does this give us hope in to what is to come but should also reassure us that God is with us wherever we go. God dwells in eternity which has no bounds. He is everywhere all the time no matter the distance or depth, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.” Psalms 139:7-8.
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”james 1:2-4 nkjv
As tough as suffering is to deal with, it has its benefits. Just like in the gym, in order to grow bigger muscles and get stronger the more resistance we must add. The same applies to growing and maturing in Christ, the more we seek Him and pursue His will, the greater obstacles He will provide to help us grow stronger and tougher. The more resistance we encounter the stronger we will become and the more effective we become within our calling.
Another example I like to use is that of babies, they are very cute and cuddly, but they don’t produce much of anything except pee and poop. In our walk with God it is the same thing as when we are babies in Christ we are slow to start and accomplish little compared to when we grow and mature. But, in order to grow it takes time, patience and hardships. “For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Hebrews 5:13-14.
God uses suffering as a part of our growing and transformation process, the Word itself transforms us, but so does the help of experience with suffering as well. Without suffering and trials, we would all become lackadaisical and ultimately become victims to malevolence. Another way of looking at it is that of a diamond in the rough. In order to bring out the beauty of a diamond one must chisel all the excess away to expose its full beauty. Just like a potter with his clay, he must apply pressure to the clay in order to mold it to the form he desires and then put it in the furnace to bring it to its finished state. “But now, O Lord, You are our Father; We are the clay, and You our potter; And all we are the work of Your hand.” Isaiah 64:8.
So, where is God? He is with us wherever we go at all times. He is guiding us and providing for us continuously. Although we may not understand all the ways of God, we can be rest assured that He is for us and that when something tragic comes our way that He is mourning with us, but at the same time He is comforting those we have lost with His eternal love and presence.
We have chose the life we live from the beginning, but that is not the end of the story as we are still faced with the same choices today, that is between the Tree of Life or the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. To accept Christ or to reject Him. He is awaiting our arrival with open arms.