Today is a nice day, a bit chilly for some, but a nice day nonetheless. In all actuality today, although it is nice, is probably the worst day of someone’s life. Maybe it isn’t yours, and it certainly isn’t mine, but somewhere around the world someone is suffering the worst heartbreak they will ever experience. Somewhere someone is in pain. Somewhere tears stream down someone’s face. Somewhere someone is asking the question of when it will all end. Why them? Why me? Why is it today is good for me and horrible for them? Why is it that suffering happens to those who seemingly do not deserve it? Why is it that some can walk away unscathed while others have everything they are taken away? Why?
There is no answer to that question. There is no way to get God off the hook, in fact, that isn’t even my job. I can’t tell you why evil exists. I can’t tell you why it seems to strike randomly, hitting some more often and worse than others. I can’t give an answer. But, I can tell you this. There is no way to guarantee it wont happen. There is no magic formula to avoiding suffering. No amount of obedience to God and His law will allow you to escape from suffering. There is no way out of it. It is part of life in general and the Christian life in particular. The Lord Himself did not escape suffering, those who follow in his footsteps will not escape it either. And I don’t just mean suffering for the faith. The church knows all too well that suffering is part of the deal. That to confess Christ as Lord is often a dangerous, and in some cases, deadly confession. But that confession isn’t the only thing that is deadly, life in this world has dangers all the way from the cradle to the grave.
And that wears at you. It certainly wears at me. Suffering hurts. And because it hurts we think we need to avoid it. Some days, all we want to do is avoid it. But the help we hope for doesn’t always show up. Cancer wins. Accidents happen. Life hurts in ways we never thought possible. So where is the hope? Why bother? Those are good questions. They are ones we need to be ok asking. They are ones we need to be ok with not receiving an answer to. Lament is something the church needs to be ok with doing. Lament does not lead away from faith, but is an expression of it. As the Psalmist says:
O God, we have heard with our ears
our fathers have told us,
what deeds you performed in their days,
in the days of old:
you with your own hand drove out the nations,
but them you planted;
you afflicted the peoples,
but them you set free;
for not by their own sword did they win the land,
nor did their own arm save them,
but your right hand and your arm,
and the light of your face,
for you delighted in them.
You are my King, O God;
ordain salvation for Jacob!
Through you we push down our foes;
through your name we tread down those who rise up against us.
For not in my bow do I trust,
nor can my sword save me.
But you have saved us from our foes
and have put to shame those who hate us.
In God we have boasted continually,
and we will give thanks to your name forever. Selah
But you have rejected us and disgraced us
and have not gone out with our armies.
You have made us turn back from the foe,
and those who hate us have gotten spoil.
You have made us like sheep for slaughter
and have scattered us among the nations.
You have sold your people for a trifle,
demanding no high price for them.
You have made us the taunt of our neighbors,
the derision and scorn of those around us.
You have made us a byword among the nations,
a laughingstock among the peoples.
All day long my disgrace is before me,
and shame has covered my face
at the sound of the taunter and reviler,
at the sight of the enemy and the avenger.
All this has come upon us,
though we have not forgotten you,
and we have not been false to your covenant.
Our heart has not turned back,
nor have our steps departed from your way;
yet you have broken us in the place of jackals
and covered us with the shadow of death.
If we had forgotten the name of our God
or spread out our hands to a foreign god,
would not God discover this?
For he knows the secrets of the heart.
Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.
Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord?
Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever!
Why do you hide your face?
Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?
For our soul is bowed down to the dust;
our belly clings to the ground.
Rise up; come to our help!
Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love! —Psalm 44