“Everything happens for a reason.”
It’s a platitude that you’ve probably heard hundreds of times, intended to help us feel better when we’re suffering.
It’s also not true.
Not everything happens for a reason. There is chaos in the world. Tragedy. Meaningless suffering.
It’s the consequence of sin.
Of living in a broken world.
No, everything does not happen for a reason.
But, everything is redeemable.
And that’s even more comforting.
The Problem of Suffering
The problem of suffering is one that we all struggle with.
If God is so good, why do we suffer?
I don’t know the answer to that, but I do think it’s important to call out that suffering, while uncomfortable and undesirable, is redeemable.
That is one of the greatest gifts of Jesus’ death and resurrection – that all things, including suffering, are redeemable.
And it’s one of the most beautiful things about our faith, that we killed God and his response was to draw us into His life. We made him suffer and, in return, he heals us.
This paradox, however, permeates our lives…if we let it.
Now, I’m not suggesting that we should seek out suffering.
Suffering is not inherently good.
In a perfect (e.g., not ‘fallen’) world, it wouldn’t exist.
But it’s also unavoidable. It is impossible to make it through life unwounded. Without a broken heart.
When I reflect on my life over the past several years, it has been full of suffering:
- Financial stress (my accountant at one point even suggested filing for bankruptcy)
- Living in a community isolated from friends, family, or the comfort of anything I really enjoy
- Social isolation
- Uncertain career prospects
There have been times when I felt close to burn out or, honestly, break down.
And, I’d like to say that during those times, I reflected on how Jesus fell 3 times on the road to Calvary and got back up. That he leaned on the Cyrenian for help. That his grace inspired me.
I got pissed.
I blamed my ex-wife.
I blamed my circumstances
I blamed God.
I cursed Him for all the ways in which my life was broken, deficient, or for not giving me this gift or that.
I have journals where I went on four-letter tirades at/to God for all the ways in which I whined about my life and circumstances.
No, I have not handled it gracefully.
But, I also never gave up.
No, I never gave up on the Lord, no matter how angry I was at Him.
For years, I continued to show up every day, in prayer.
For years, I continued to write my notes to God every day.
For years, I continued to do my best to listen, even if I wasn’t always ready – or eager – to respond to what I was hearing.
Throughout the time, I cursed and swore and whined.
And he absorbed it.
Then healed me.
I can be stubborn. I am proud. And smart. And often think I know best.
And the Lord needed to show me that.
So he allowed me to wear myself out.
He listened patiently while I whined and swore and cursed and complained.
And when I was done, he introduced me to a fantastic healing ministry at my church. To books that could help me learn strategies for managing my emotions and mindset. To the tools of spiritual warfare and the reality of intergenerational curses. To friends who would be brothers in Christ.
And, over time, I found that while my circumstances weren’t rapidly changing, my heart was.
I started to have peace, independent of the circumstances. To find joy, even when things were chaotic.
To let love into areas that I had shut off or barricaded behind cynical self-protective judgments.
It’s a Process
None of it was easy.
None of it is easy.
Redemption is a process. We need to keep showing up. Be honest with the Lord. And, then let Him work.
Because I also learned that healing isn’t something that happens once and then is done.
Because as long as we live this side of heaven, we will hurt and be hurt.
Redemption is a process and there is always going to be something that needs redemption. Different parts of our heart that are ready for healing at different times.
But, the more honest we are about what we’re brining to the table and the longer we keep showing up, the easier it becomes to identify the wounds. To manage our emotions, responses, and behaviors. To live free from the tyranny of circumstance, anxiety, pain, grief, and rage.
To find peace, hope, love, and joy.
I don’t know what you’re suffering or have suffered. And I don’t know your story.
But He does.
And His patience is inexhaustible. His love inestimable. His desire to heal unfathomable.
And, when you’re ready to confront it honestly, give it to him wholeheartedly, and then wait on the Lord, he will redeem it.
Because that’s what He does.
“Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us.”Romans 5:3-5