Where are you, God?
The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; he is their stronghold in the time of trouble. Psalm 37:39
Have you ever heard, or participated in, the discussion of what it is, exactly, that is the unifying element of humanity? It's obvious that we are all different, sometimes drastically so, but many believe that there is some particular thing that ties us all together. The answers vary, often depending on the type of person giving them: "We all bleed the same,"; "We all have an inherent desire to be good," OR "We're all inherently evil,"; "In the end, we'll all be buried the same," (tell THAT to the ancient Egyptians...)
The realistic answer is that we're all human. Obviously. But that's not why this question arises. No one is confused about what species they are (actually, I'm sure someone is but that's a discussion for another day). This connection is popularly made as a means of smoothing over differing viewpoints. I'm sure you can think of a few examples. Unfortunately, I most often hear this being used as a way to bring someone down or raise the user up. You know what I mean. "So-and-so is so successful? Yeah, well, we'll both be buried in the same size coffin!" While I could talk all day on THAT particular line of thinking, today I'd like to put forth my own answer to the question, what is it that binds humanity together?
Maybe not what you were expecting? Not the typical fluffy Christian answer? Perhaps not, but it is accurate. All of humanity suffers. This won't be an argument on whose suffering is worst, or that some people need to stop complaining because they don't understand "true" suffering. The fact of the matter is that each individual will face hardships throughout their life. Each person is fighting their own battle. And everyone struggling through a trial has asked themselves the same question: When will it end?
The Bible has tons to say about hardship. Don't quote me on this, but you could probably flip to any page in God's Word and find some reference to a difficulty faced by a member of mankind. Despite this, and for some completely illogical reason, it's become a popularly held belief that Christians don't have troubles in life. Or that whenever a trouble arises, all we need to do is rub our magic genie-God lamp and our difficulties will disappear instantly. But they don't. We suffer on. When we touch a hot surface, we instinctively pull our hands away. But what happens when we can't just take ourselves out of a painful situation? When our prayers seem to constantly fall on deaf ears?
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12
Patience. Oh boy. I don't know about you, but I struggle to be patient in all situations, not just the bad ones. "Be patient" is NOT the answer I want to hear when my world seems to be crashing down around me. And why not? Because I don't want to hurt. I don't want to grieve. I hate feeling like I'm drowning in my circumstances with no rescue boat in site. I don't want to continue suffering. And who does?
You've probably seen this picture somewhere around social media:
The first time I saw it, I laughed until I cried. And then I sort of just wanted to continue crying. The picture is hilarious, but how often do we feel this is exactly how we're expected to go through life? Our situation is a complete disaster, but the Bible says to be patient so... I guess just pretend nothing is wrong? (Personally, I think this is what the "Christians don't have problems" thing really means. Nobody actually thinks we don't have any problems, but rather that we're a bunch of dopes going through life with blinders on.)
Yes, the Bible is full of suffering. But do you know what else it's full of? People crying out to God in the midst of their suffering. God never promised our lives would be easy. He never said "Follow me and you'll never feel pain again." In fact, He tells us multiple times throughout the Bible that Christians are basically guaranteed to suffer. But we'll never suffer alone. He knows our pain. He hasn't forgotten us in our sorrow. Christ suffered in ways most of us will never come close to comprehending, all so that we would know that HE knows.
It may seem that our prayers are going unanswered, or that maybe they're not even reaching Him. But I promise you, He's listening. I can say with certainty that many of my struggles are in some way self-inflicted, but the ones that aren't? Those are the times when all I can do is rely on God. It's frustrating when I don't see immediate relief, or when I can't understand why something is happening. I still feel that twinge of guilt when my frustration builds to the point that I can't help but ask "God, where are you??"
Societal expectations tell me I shouldn't question God. The Bible tells me my faith should never waver. But have you read the book of Psalms? If David, the "man after God's own heart" as he is known, was able to spend that much time asking the exact same question as I do, then why should I be made to feel guilty? I don't ask God because my faith is wavering. My troubles aren't making me suspect that Christ DIDN'T actually die for my salvation. I ask because I have a relationship with God. I'm hurting, and I want God to know. Does He already know? Absolutely. Does He still want me to tell Him everything? Absolutely.
Christ didn't die so that we could be saved and then go skipping off on our merry way and never speak to Him again. He died to save us, and to build a lasting relationship with us. He doesn't want us to suffer, but, as God, He understands the "bigger picture" much more than we ever will: "And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them." Isaiah 42:16. Based off the rest of the Bible, we can see 'darkness' and 'rough places' are synonymous with affliction. But He follows that up with "I do not forsake them."
I can't pretend to know why some things happen. All I know is that Christ loves us and He wants to help us carry our burdens (1 Peter 5:7). We don't have to walk through our sorrows and suffering alone. We are called to encourage and support one another through this, our unifying element. But more than that, we are called to remember God's promises, that our suffering is not eternal.
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 1 Peter 5:14
If you are struggling this week, please remember that you are not alone. God loves you, we love you, and we will be praying for you.
All verses taken from the English Standard Version