Saturday, October 17, 2009

Hope Side By Side With Suffering Part 3

I start to lose grip of my certain hope in God when I experience the bitterness of my suffering. This bitterness has rocked my faith.  I have so many unanswered questions about God.  Is He really good if He allows so much pain and anguish? How can he stand back and watch my misery unfold and yet not do something about it?  
My world of understanding of who God is and how He works has been turned upside down and inside out. I still attempt to cling to my certain hope that is my faith in God (that He is present with me and loves me). Some days my faith is so small it is hard to find. The questions out number the answers. Anger, depression and anxiety consume me.  I do not understand! I am confused! I do not know how to navigate nor do I want to navigate a life that involves much more excruciating pain than I ever expected to face.
In the book of the Bible, Lamentations, after five chapters of declaring the suffering that has taken place, the author, Jeremiah, does not conclude with a message that everything will be okay. In fact, the last verses in the book, Lamentations 5:21-22 say, "Bring us back to you, Lord, and we will return. Make our days as they were before, or have you completely rejected us? Are you so angry with us?"

*Silence.* Is this really the end of the book? Does anyone else read this conclusion and wonder where the voice of comfort from God that will bring peace is? How intriguing that this book of lament ends with questions for God that are left unanswered. In fact, where is God's voice at all?
Going back to what I discussed in Part 2 of this series, the book of Lamentations has three voices, the narrator, the city of Jerusalem personified as a woman and the man who is a witness to the suffering. Where is God's voice in all of this? What does it mean to me, the reader, that God is silent during and at the end of this book of lament? Moreover, what does it me to me, a person who suffers, that God is silent?

My walk with God often is challenged as I cry out, beg for mercy, ask for relief and in turn hear nothing in response. No rescue. No peace. This walk with suffering can be and often is a lonely road where I simply do not see God's presence. Just as in the book of Lamentations, God is silent. This silence challenges my certain hope (that God loves me and is present).  
The words to the song, "The Silence of God" by Andrew Peterson, has touched a deep place in my soul. (Click on this link to hear the song on YouTube.) It is poetry that has come along side me, validated and expressed the spirit of how I have felt. It is a song of lament but also yet a song of certain hope. In these lyrics, though there is dissonance between the emotions of loneliness, doubt, anger, fear, anxiety, confusion and certain hope, there is also resolution. The resolution, where hope sits side by side with suffering, is found in the following lyrics of Andrew Peterson's song:
And the man of all sorrows, He never forgot what sorrow is carried by the hearts that he bought. So when the questions dissolve into the silence of God, the aching may remain but the breaking does not.  The aching remains, the breaking does not in the holy lonesome echo of the silence of God.

1 comment:

  1. Kelly,

    Your writing speaks so loudly to me. I also believe that God is with us, giving strength and endurance. I often find myself lost in the midst of nasty relentless storms. It is so easy to look to God and ask that He calm the storm. When I sit in that silence and dont see the storms calming, I can often feel abondoned and left alone. In reality, He is not there to calm our storms and make everything ok. As much as I want things to be fixed, I realize that He gets me through. He gives the strength and endurance thats needed. I know that He counts every tear I cry and cries along with me. He holds me in his arms keeping me safe when I am terrified and uncertain. I know he is there to lead and help rather make everything ok.

    As much as I know this is true, sometimes the pain and misery drowns out this truth. We feel that we must 'hear' his voice. In misery it is so easy to doubt or question, but eventually we will see the light and the truth. I love your honest discussion of this topic. For me, it has always been sort of 'taboo' to discuss any flaw, uncertainty, or even a stumble in faith. Everyone pushes, "if your faith is strong, you have nothing to fear, you only doubt if you are not strong in your faith, everything will be fine if you just follow God sincerely with all that is within you."

    In reality, we are all growing and developing as children of God. We are not created with perfect faith and full understanding of God. Every one stumbles as they learn and grow in a relationship with Christ. I believe that when we stumble, it is a learning experience and we pick ourselves back up with a lesson learned.

    I have learned that it is ok to cry out to God with uncertainty, ask questions and be unsure. During those times when He is silent and doesn't give us a way out or the perfect response, I know that He is still at my side, or even holding me in his arms. I think the silence is so that I can learn on my own and grow just that much more in my faith. He may be silent, but He is there!

    With all of the hardship we all face, we have a loving and understanding God. I am sure he is used to questions and uncertainty from His children. I know that I can send these to Him with out judgement. In that silence He is there to comfort, lead, and strengthen. Even when we can't see or hear.