When it comes to listening to God, I’m a decidedly slow learner. It usually seems that He has to “prompt” me a number of times before I get the message. I’m trying to learn that when I encounter the same thought multiple times, perhaps I ought to pay attention.
Recently I’ve seen numerous references to suffering and pain in which the writer claims that we ought to be thankful for distress and affliction. In this theology of torture, we’re apparently to be grateful that God inflicts misery as His way of shaping our character.
I heard this sort of logic as well-meaning folks attempted to comfort me with the assurance that my injury was “part of God’s plan.” I’m supposed to believe God intentionally tossed me from a roof to somehow further His grand design.
Perhaps He planned to bring me closer to Him. Maybe He needed to get my attention and force me to make some different choices. Or possibly my injury was designed to teach someone else an important lesson. Whatever its mysterious purpose, my paralysis comprises a required lesson in God’s cosmic curriculum.
I simply do not believe that, and I hope you don’t, either.
God doesn’t do tragedy. He didn’t create me in His image and then break the body He designed simply to teach me a lesson. He doesn’t orchestrate horrific accidents, terrible diseases, or unspeakable crimes. God doesn’t need our pain to further His plan.
In the weeks after my accident, a friend said possibly the most comforting thing I’ve ever heard. If you’re hurting, I’d like to share it with you.
Standing beside my bed she said simply, “When you fell, Jesus wept.” That image of Jesus standing next to me, weeping in sorrow, sustained me through unimaginable misery and fear. I don’t need to wonder why God would do such a horrible thing; I can simply be thankful that He’ll never leave me.
Evil exists in this world. Sorrow, disease, grief, crime, and suffering are the enemy’s work in our lives. He wins many temporary skirmishes in the spiritual battle of which we’re all civilian casualties, but he’s already lost the war. Jesus defeated our enemy for us on the cross and at the empty tomb.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8: 28
While God doesn’t cause our struggle and loss and grief, there’s also great comfort in knowing that He doesn’t waste it, either. We can always be thankful because He is working for good even within the most horrible situations. But please don’t imagine that Jesus expects you to be grateful for tragedy.
When a child dies, Jesus weeps. In the presence of debilitating disease or disabling injury, Jesus weeps. Wherever pain and sorrow and grief threaten to bury us in despair, Jesus is there. He stretches His arms wide enough to hold our sin and brokenness. No matter the pain, He’s always there to share our burden and journey with us.
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4: 12-13)
I don’t thank God for my injury, but I’m thankful every moment for His faithfulness and for the miracles He’s accomplished within horrible circumstances. I express no gratitude for life in a wheelchair, but I am grateful for abundance and meaning He’s given even to a difficult situation. Of course I wish that the struggle of my injury would disappear, but I’m content whenever I remember that He’s always present.
I hope you’ll NEVER imagine that God caused your suffering or needed it to advance His work. I hope you’ll ALWAYS sense His presence and know that He’ll work for good within every situation.
Question: Have you ever wondered why God “did this” to you?