A good long-time friend wrote me after reading Paul’s post last week and asked, “Do you really think he has a purpose for allowing what we’re going through, even the incredibly hard things?”
Because I know what he’s walking through, it’s a very powerful question. Here’s part of my answer:
Let me answer with a couple of examples.
The people of Israel were in Babylon because they had rejected God. The result of that rejection was this exile. But God allowed the exile, knowing that there would be understanding, for at least a few, of what their rebellion caused and how much God still loved them. So we later find Daniel, in exile, confessing to God and asking for return. And we find Nehemiah confessing to God and asking for return. And for both of them, there is answer.
Jesus and those following him also have ended up in deep suffering and even death. Jesus, James, Peter, Paul, Stephen were all killed. Paul, Silas, were beaten. The church in Jerusalem was sent into exile FOR obeying in contrast to the Jews who had been sent into exile for DISobeying.
So deep suffering may be what God allows for a purpose.
That said, we want to know whether the purpose is worth it. I mean, if there is a noble purpose, we will risk greatly knowing that we may suffer greatly. That is what happens on every fire call, every emergency run. The noble purpose of giving life to others motivates many.
But what if we cannot see the purpose? I mean, what if there is great pain and little recovery and as a result we are at the edge of ourselves and of our friends. What if we are watching someone with Alzheimer’s slipping away, forgetting who and where she is, and at time who and where God is. And we do not see the purpose or the reason or the value.
At that moment, I still trust that God is aware and can use this suffering to bring glory to himself. But I also still say that I do not understand.
All of 2 Corinthians 4 is about this, but it ends with
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Only Paul, who suffered much, could call the pain of being stoned, of being rejected, of living on the run, of being beaten, of being in prison “light and momentary troubles”.
But somehow he did. So though I don’t understand exactly how it is true, I try to. And though I cannot answer your question in ways that remove the uncertainty and pain, I ask God, somehow, for that inward renewal.