To suffer humanizes us. It teaches compassion for one another and dependence on God. It is suffering that at once afflicts us and binds us together.
Earlier this year a lone gunman opened fire on moviegoers in Aurora, Colo. More recently, a man opened fire in a shopping mall in Oregon. Every time these things happen people ask things like, “Was God in the movie theater, the shopping mall, or in my suffering?” Recently, a terrible car accident occurred only several hundred feet from my house. It left a 28-year-old bride a widow and a 14-month-old without her daddy.
When the tragedy lives in Oregon, I can keep it at bay. When it moves onto my street, it moves into my heart. I find myself once again asking the question that has plagued me for years. Where is God in our pain? At the funeral of the man who died in the car accident, I listened to another pastor trying to shine the light of Christ in the darkness of life. On the news, I listened to agnostic sentiments from news people and a few encouraging accounts of survivors of God’s presence in the movie theater.
I have sought answers to this question for years. In the process, I have opened doors to more questions than answers. Here is what I know. The beauty of Christ radiates more brightly against the backdrop of suffering. The wounds of our savior are more beautiful, His worth more obvious, when observed through tears. God’s chief aim in creation is to highlight the worth and beauty of Christ. Suffering and pain does that by giving us the sublimely painful joy of cutting the legs off our pride. It pulls us to the core of our need for God. The garden of suffering produces the delight of reliance on God.
That’s very hard for us to do. It is exceedingly difficult because we want everything to make sense. Here we learn from a little girl whose suffering fills those around her with pain and faith. She has pain in her body that wars against her health, but her spirit is strong. Her love is undaunted. Her body is broken, her mind distressed, but her heart prospers. God’s love seeps unpretentiously into the cracks that are created by the quaking of her body. It runs like healing ointment, a soothing salve, in simplicity. In her pain, I see the suffering of Christ. In her smile, I see the hope that we are not without a Savior.
We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, so we should do more than simply live each day as if it were our last. Live each day like a child, as if it is your first. Live it with wonder and awe, swallow up all of the beauty that you can drink in because you don’t know what tomorrow will bring.
God is in all things. In our pain, He screams to us as through a megaphone. He bids us come to Him to find lasting salvation, eternal healing and hope. Bring your pain to Him who suffered on Golgotha’s cruel tree and knows our pain. God was in the movie theater, He was on my street, and He is in our pain calling us in the same direction as those who have traveled onward before us. He is calling us home.