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Eden's Mirror

Looking into the mirror of God's story

The Injustice of Our Suffering

The other day, I saw my toddler throw an epic fit: on the floor, legs kicking, crocodile tears streaming, and a surprising utterance came out of her mouth as she cried: “why?” Her cries literally sounded like she was saying “why” over and over and over again. It stunned me, because it so clearly exemplified the expression of our hearts in suffering: “why, God?”

It’s such an important question to wrestle with. In the quintessential Biblical message on suffering in the book of Job, he asks the question in multiple ways. “Why, God?” And as we know, God never answered it. And Job came away satisfied in the end. And that reality sits with us in a pit-in-your-stomach uncomfortable way.

We all ask it in times of trials. Few of us ever actually get an answer to it, try though we may.

We ask it because it feels like somehow if we could get the answer to it, if we could see the meaning and purpose of the trial, it would make it more tolerable, somehow easier to endure. But God so rarely gives us an answer.

It is a reality I am reckoning with in new ways.

You see, there is a true injustice to suffering. Sometimes people, like Nightbirdie, get cancer three times over. Sometimes people can’t have children. Sometimes your child dies. The worst case scenario really does happen sometimes, to people who have already endured so much. It isn’t fair! It isn’t right! Some people seem to get such a small share of suffering while others seem to be dogged by it their whole lives. Some children are born into good healthy families. Some children suffer tremendous abuse at the hands of those meant to tenderly care for them. It isn’t fair, it isn’t right, it isn’t okay.

I think sometimes we Christians (myself included) are so quick to rush to the “trust God” in our suffering, that we glance over the injustice in it. This isn’t the way things are supposed to be. This world ISN’T Gods best for us. We live in a fallen broken cursed world. We should expect it to be unfair.

I think if we had this expectation more, we wouldn’t become so surprised when we encounter various trials in our life. We would find ourselves rather ready to face them because we are expecting them to come, in all its ugly unfairness. And we wouldn’t get so angry at God when bad things happen, because we would know that bad things happen because the world we live in is broken. Could He fix those bad things? Yes. But He has to fix the entire world to really do it. Because He might heal Sally but leave Joe in his state if suffering, and only He has His reasons for that. That leaves a bitter taste in our mouths because it reminds us that He hasn’t resolved all the brokenness and suffering of our world yet.

But guess what? The plan for the redemption of the whole works is already in motion! It’s redemption is guaranteed by Jesus Christ coming into the world, enduring the truest form of injustice as He bore the sin and evil of our world on Himself even though He is the only human being who didn’t sin, didn’t deserve it at all, shouldn’t have had to bear the consequences of our generational sin. God is working to fix the brokenness of our world, He’s told us as much, and we can trust Him to finish what He started.

This bigger reality, this redemption plan in motion, this is our hope for the injustice in our suffering. It’s all going to be fixed some day soon. All of it. Completely. No one who trusts Jesus will be left out from that redemption. That is a hope that only has meaning when we have taken the time to really reckon with the fact that suffering only makes sense in the kind of broken, fallen, cursed world we live in.

So whatever your sorrows, however God responds to your cries for deliverance, know that the truest deliverance is still coming. You can bank on that.

Obituary

3 miscarriages, 3 babies born alive. Maybe someone will write that in my obituary some day.

Obituaries are funny things. How does one sum up a persons life in just a few short words? It doesn’t seem fair. So much life happens in even just a few short years!

But how does one write an obituary for one whose life started and ended in just a few short weeks in the darkness of the womb? One whose life we only knew existed just three days earlier. One whose life doesn’t even come with a name.

Some parents name their babies lost in the womb. We never could. I don’t even know the gender of this child, how could I name them? How can I name someone I’ve never met? Someone whose life is but a breathe?

It doesn’t seem fair. In the one sense, it isn’t fair. This child and I both had no say in this matter.

On the other hand, I am a wretched sinner, born into a cursed world. Nothing is fair here, but not in the sense you’re thinking. It’s not fair to God that we shun His loving kindness every day. It’s not fair to God that like spoiled children at a birthday party, we take His gifts without gratitude and run off to play, insisting on our own ways. It’s not fair to God that we scoff at Him, laugh at Him, shake our fists at Him even though He alone gives us the very air we breathe and the very life sustaining our heartbeats. It’s not fair to God that we ignore His beauty and call our dung-pits our greatest joy and happiness.

No. It’s not fair to this innocent child or to me that I should have to be the vessel of death for yet another child. But it’s not fair that God should tolerate the ingratitude we all cherish in our hearts toward Him.

But God is merciful. I at least got to know this child existed. This was no “chemical pregnancy”. A life was conceived and his or her human genes were detectable by our modern day technology. They existed. I have the positive pregnancy test still sitting on my bathroom sink to prove it.

And God is merciful. I asked Him to take this baby quickly if that was the plan, and He did. Just one day shy of 5 weeks gestation.

And God is merciful. If I had known my obituary would have read that only half of my pregnancies would go to term when we first started to build our family, I’m not sure I would have been able to come this far. But He gave me my beautiful Arie and beloved Heidi, before the cycle of loss began. And in between miscarriages two and three He gave me Nadia. Our child whose name means Hope. Maybe we will conceive again. Maybe we won’t. But God is merciful. And I can count on His mercy to follow me again. All the days of my life. Just like the Psalmist said:

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. – Psalm 23:6

And so to my baby, I write this:

Beloved child, you are God’s. You were never mine. God gave me the honor of being the vessel of your life and death. In this way, I am honored to mirror to the world what Jesus did for us all: He who knew no sin became sin for us — He carried death in His body. Just as I now carry you. I do not know your name but I will meet you in Heaven some day. And there I will learn God’s purpose for you. For He created you and He took you home to be with Him. And that is so much the better for you anyway. I love you my cherished child. I ache for the day when I can hug you and we all can be known as we are truly known by our King. Until then, wait for me. All my love, your Mama

Comfort

My ten month old is teething something crazy right now and she literally can’t bear the moments when I leave the room without her on my hip. There is a part of me (probably bigger than I’d care to admit) that finds it incredibly annoying. I am coming back to her, most likely within moments. The logical side of me says “why can’t she just be patient and trust me?” The experienced side of me says “she is just a baby, and she’s is in pain, and she doesn’t want to be alone in that pain.”

These verses in my recent journey through Psalm 119 have stood out to me:

“My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!” – Psalm 119:25

“This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.” – Psalm 119:50

It struck me today how odd my baby’s behavior feels to me: she’s in pain. I could give her some Tylenol and she would be fine. But when she is in pain, she doesn’t question her pain. She simply calls out to me instead. My presence is her comfort. When I hold her, she ceases crying. She’s not expecting me to take away her pain, she’s simply finding comfort in my presence and being with her in her pain.

I find the same to be true with people. There is a popular video that surfaces every now and then on my social media feed that demonstrates this concept: what people in pain need most is just someone to come and sit with them in their pain.

I find a different expectation with God. I think because He is divinely powerful and knows all things, I limit my expectations of His comfort to be a relief of my pain. And when He doesn’t give me the Tylenol effect, I so often wonder what comfort He has for me at all.

When do we lose what my sweet baby understands so well? At what point have we simply lost the ability to receive comfort purely by Gods presence? I think I have much to learn from my baby in this.

God doesn’t wrap His arms around me physically. But He gives me what He calls His body —- the current physical manifestation of His presence, His church, the people of God. There have been very few seasons in my life where God has not provided at least one person that I can send my “9-1-1” text to in request for prayer, no less find an able, willing and very present physical person to let me cry on their shoulder in my pain.

But on those days where friends are distant, and I feel all alone, Psalm 119 reminds me I have the comfort of Gods Word. It doesn’t seem at first glance like an easy source of comfort. But He has told us (in the Psalm references above) that His words give life — that our comfort in our affliction is His presence mediated through His words. His words are, after all, living and active words – words that literally created our world into existence. If He can create a sun and moon with His words, I ought to be quite confident He can communicate His presence through His words too.

But I struggle with this. Why? Why is there a part of my heart that shudders every time someone reminds me to find my comfort in Gods Word when all I want is relief from my pain?

I have learned there are many reasons for this problem in my heart but one of the main reasons is that I just haven’t listened well enough to it. Because if I was listening, I would be reminded of how the Psalmist felt as he prayed to God, and I would realize I am not alone. “My soul clings to the dust, give me life!” If I was listening, I would hear how Jesus says that “in this life you will have trouble but take heart, I have overcome the world,” (John 16:33). I would hear God promise me that His love is steadfast, and His mercies are new every morning. Listen for one moment to this great sufferer of pain in Scripture:

“…my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the LORD.” Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” – Lamentations 3:17-23

This man feels that his soul remembers his pain more than God does. If you’ve never felt that way, I’m sorry to say but I am sure you will at some point. Our world is so full of grief and pain, it’s kind of hard to miss it.

But. God has given us hope. The hope of His coming, and the hope of a world coming without pain, and the hope of knowing His steadfast love in a way where we will never be left unsatisfied again. “This I call to mind, and therefore I have hope.” If we want to find comfort in Gods word, we must first call His words to mind. We must listen to them.

It’s the equivalent to me holding my baby girl and reminding her as she cries that I am right there with her, that she is not alone, and that I know better than she ever could that her pain won’t last. How much more true is that the message of Gods word to us in our pain? “I’m here. I will never leave you or forsake you. You don’t have to be afraid. Your pain won’t last, and I will be with you through to the end.”

Our pastor said a couple weeks ago to expect comfort in Gods words. (It was a great sermon, listen to it on the August 30th link here:)

Sunday Worship Resources

I found his words so helpful. If I don’t expect Gods word to comfort me, it won’t. But if I hold out in belief that what He says about His word is true, that He offers us His comfort in His words, then I hold Him to that — much like our Psalmist did in Psalm 119. “My soul clings to the dust – give me life, according to your promise.”

Are you holding God to His word – to His promise to give you life through His word? Or are you limiting the comfort He has for you by expecting some Tylenol for your pain instead? I beg you, ask Him. Demand it – don’t be afraid. The Psalmist said “gimme, gimme life, God.” So ask Him for life! Such a request is grounded in His promise to give it.

My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word! – Psalm 119:25

Comfort

My ten month old is teething something crazy right now and she literally can’t bear the moments when I leave the room without her at my hip. There is a part of me (probably bigger than I’d care to admit) that finds it incredibly annoying. I am coming back to her, most likely within moments. The logical side of me says “why can’t she just be patient and trust me?” The experienced side of me says “she is just a baby, and she’s is in pain, and she doesn’t want to be alone in that pain.”

These verses in my recent journey through Psalm 119 have stood out to me:

My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word! – Psalm 119:25

This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life. – Psalm 119:50

It struck me today how odd my baby’s behavior feels to me: she’s in pain. I could give her some Tylenol and she would be fine. But when she is in pain, she doesn’t question her pain. She simply calls out to me instead. My presence is her comfort. When I hold her, she ceases crying. She’s not expecting me to take away her pain, she’s simply finding comfort in my presence and being with her in her pain.

I find the same to be true with people. There is a popular video that surfaces every now and then on my social media feed that demonstrates this concept: what people in pain need most is just someone to come and sit with them in their pain.

I find a different expectation with God. I think because He is divinely powerful and knows all things, I limit my expectations of His comfort to be a relief of my pain. And when He doesn’t give me the Tylenol effect, I so often wonder what comfort He has for me at all.

When do we lose what my sweet baby understands so well? At what point have we simply lost the ability to receive comfort purely by Gods presence? I think I have much to learn from my baby in this.

God doesn’t wrap His arms around me physically. But He gives me what He calls His body —- the church, the people of God. There have been very few seasons in my life where God has not provided at least one person that I can send my “9-1-1” text to in request for prayer, no less an able, willing and very present physical person to let me cry on their shoulder in my pain.

But on those days where friends are distant, and I feel all alone, Psalm 119 reminds me I have the comfort of Gods Word. It doesn’t seem at first glance like an easy source of comfort. But He has told us (in the Psalm references above) that His words give life — that our comfort in our affliction is His presence mediated through His words. His words are, after all, living and active words – words that literally created our world into existence. If He can create a sun and moon with His words, I ought to be quite confident He can communicate His presence through His words too.

It’s the equivalent to me holding my baby girl and reminding her as she cries that I am right there with her, that she is not alone, and that I know better than she ever could that her pain won’t last. How much more true is that the message of Gods word to us in our pain? “I’m here. I will never leave you or forsake you. You don’t have to be afraid. Your pain won’t last, and I will be with you through to the end.”

Our pastor said a couple weeks ago to expect comfort in Gods words. (It was a great sermon, listen to it here).

Sunday Worship Resources

I found his words so helpful. If I don’t expect Gods word to comfort me, it won’t. But if I hold out in belief that what He says about His word is true, that He offers us His comfort in His words, then I hold Him to that — much like our Psalmist did in Psalm 119. “My soul clings to the dust – give me life, according to your promise.”

Are you holding God to His word – to His promise to give you life through His word? Or are you limiting the comfort He has for you by expecting some Tylenol for your pain instead? I beg you, ask Him. Demand it – don’t be afraid. The Psalmist said “gimme, gimme life, God.” So ask Him for life! Such a request is grounded in His promise to give it.

My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word! – Psalm 119:25

Pandemic Ponderings

“Is this virus Gods consequence for people who don’t love Him?” My five year old’s beady little eyes gazed at me with genuine interest.

The virus hasn’t taken as much from our family as it has from many many others. My husband is still employed. My kids were already homeschooled. And we live in a small apartment complex where the three families with kids all agreed to the risk of letting them continue to play together in the gated courtyard. We really can’t complain.

But it has affected my children in small ways. No more play dates, no more going to church and Sunday School, no more visiting with their Great-Grandma. And three times, a scare of being sick with COVID kept our family inside isolated by ourselves for a few days in fear of coming down with the sickness, and the fear of spreading it to others. Most recently, our month-long trip to visit family in another state was threatened to be postponed or cancelled due to one of these scares. So it’s been enough of an effect for my five year old to wonder why this invisible germ keeps dragging on and interfering with her life in these ways.

Her question had me reeling in its brute honesty. There have been times my heart has asked the same. Is this hurricane, this earthquake, these wild fires – are they judgment from God? How do I answer her question? So much is loaded into it: how do we understand God and current events? Is God just watching from above but not interfering? Or is He madly throwing hailstones down on us like He did with Egypt so long ago during the 10 Plagues? We don’t have a prophet interpreting the times for us. Or do we?

In all the stories of Scripture, we see a theme of God bringing about earthly hardship for the purpose of drawing people back to Himself.

In Deuteronomy 28-29, when God is outlining His covenant with His people, He provides the sequence of events they can expect if they continue to disregard their part of the covenant. From droughts and famines, to being overtaken by enemy nations, ending with a 70 year exile, God warns them ahead of time of the judgements that may come if they disobey His rules for them.

In the book of Judges, we see that promise begin to be fulfilled: the people disregarded God, judgement came through another nation overtaking them, and then repentance occurred – they cried out to God to save them. God answered by sending a deliverer.

The judgement cycle continued on the charted course when Israel continued to disregard their promise to God to do what He says. True to His Word, eventually they are hauled off into exile as the “ultimate” punishment. But 70 year later, just as He promised, God raised up a Persian king who returned them to their land. The punishment of exile had been completed.

In this way, we see how God gave a warning of judgment, how all that was required of Gods people to receive deliverance was to confess their need of Him, and how He faithfully and consistently gave them chance after chance to remain steadfast in living out their need and love for Him.

So it seems clear that at least for Gods people, judgment came in a concrete form, and only with warnings and ample opportunity to repent before and after the fact.

But what about the other nations? This is where we see the role of the prophets. In Scripture, the minor prophets (such as Joel, Obadiah, Amos) tell the story of times where God is warning His people AND other nations of judgement to come. The familiar story of Jonah is a perfect example of this: God wanted to warn Nineveh of His coming judgment for their refusal to repent and follow Him, so He sends the reluctant prophet Jonah. In this story, Jonah’s reluctance is juxtaposed beautifully with Gods eagerness towards Nineveh. It’s Jonah that is hesitant to want to offer them a chance — Jonah who wants to see them suffer Gods judgment for all those years of disregarding Him. But God is so bent on being just, fair and compassionate, that He pursues Jonah to the depths of the sea, to make sure that both Jonah and Nineveh know His willingness to withhold suffering if only Nineveh confesses her need of Him. And once Jonah finally gets it, and does what God asked of him, Nineveh repents and God relents from sending His judgment.

This story and others in the Minor Prophet books of Scripture reveal Gods heart toward the world. He is truly slow to anger and compassionate towards people in their sin. He wants them to turn back to Him as their deliverer, and He is not silent in inviting them to this.

How does all this answer my little five year olds question? It addresses her concern this way:

1) God never sends judgment and punishment for sin without giving ample warnings and opportunities for people to repent. God is slow to anger. And His warnings come to us in the voices of Scripture that warn of a coming day of judgment, a final day of judgment, where there will be ultimate exile of those who refuse His offer of love and relationship.

2) The only repentance required is for people to confess their need of Him. God is not expecting people to fix their lives up, to pretty themselves first so that He will hear their prayer. He is so ready to forgive, all we have to do is ask.

3) Since we don’t have a prophet announcing Gods judgment, we can never be certain that any kind of natural disaster or world event is God punishing the world. But we can be certain that it is an opportunity for any who are not relying on God, to turn to Him and ask for His loving protection.

But what about when bad things happen to people who love God already?

The answer of course is Jesus. This was the word I gave my daughter:

Because Jesus has already received the full punishment from God for our sins, there is no punishment left. That means, no matter what bad things happen in our lives, we can be certain beyond a shadow of doubt that God is not punishing us. Because He has already poured out that punishment on His innocent Son in our place. That is why Paul can say in Romans 8:38-39, that nothing can separate us from His love. No physical, circumstantial hardship, neither death nor life, nor angels or demons, not the present or the future nor any power under all creation… there simply is no hardship we face that can indicate God is punishing and judging us. And so we need not fear, no matter what comes our way. For those who put their trust in Jesus, God is on our side.

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