If God is Good, Why Does He Allow Suffering?

tearsThis is perhaps one of, if not the most asked question of all time and a subject that has brought much controversy and confusion since the days of Job. This issue is the reason many claim to not believe or even forsake their belief in God. Let me be quick to say I certainly don’t have the answer, but as one who has both seen and been through much suffering, I have a few thoughts to share on the matter.

As a victim of childhood sexual abuse, I experienced trauma that leaves deep wounds in the soul causing confusion, distrust, low self-esteem, anger and identity issues to name a few. This later led to many poor choices in young adulthood that brought more pain and regret. I reached one of my lowest points in my early 30s when I seriously contemplated suicide though I was married with two small children and all the material things most people would love to have.

It was at that point I cried out to God telling Him I no longer wanted my life and if He did, He could have it and do whatever He wanted with it. Things began to change very quickly but it was not all for the good. In my late 20s I had been diagnosed with a degenerative bone disorder that my doctor told me would require having both of my hips replaced. After crying out to God that day a few years later, I came to the point of needing surgery.

Within two years I had both hips replaced with unexpected life threatening complications after both surgeries. Five years later I was told both hips had failed and would need replacing again. By this time I was attending Bible college, teaching at a local women’s shelter, serving in my church, homeschooling our two girls, and participating in a citywide prayer group. I didn’t understand why this was happening again, especially after I had given my life to Jesus and was serving Him as best as I knew how.

Over the next two years I went through the surgeries again with the same life threatening complications after one of them. I questioned if God was even real and if so, did He know or care about what I was going through. I became angry with Him though I didn’t realize it at the time. After recovering from the surgeries I received much healing and deliverance ministry and a few years later God called me into full time healing, deliverance, and prayer ministry.

Three years after starting the ministry I fell twice within thirteen months, breaking my left femur both times and had to have yet another hip replacement – the third on my left hip. Two years after the second fall an infection developed in my left leg and I have been battling that for almost two years now. Though I certainly don’t understand all of this, I can say with certainty that God has proved Himself faithful through it all.

I believe that suffering exists to a large degree because we live in a fallen world that came through the sin of our ancestors, Adam and Eve. Sin and suffering were never God’s intent but He allowed us freedom to choose and unfortunately their choice brought suffering upon the whole world. Much suffering comes as a result of our own poor choices as well as those of others. We also have an enemy that is out to steal, kill and destroy as much as possible in our lives. (John 10:10)

Even so, God in His goodness didn’t just sit back and watch us suffer, instead He chose to enter into it so that He could identify with us in it. Stripping Himself of His divine power, He willingly chose to take on our frame and become like us in every way. Yet unlike us, He resisted every temptation and sin known to man. In the most inconceivable and incomprehensible act of suffering and injustice ever to be seen in human history, He actually became sin on our behalf so that we could receive what we could never deserve through our efforts – the life He intended us to have from the beginning.

Though suffering is very much a part of life in this age, God promises to bring good from it when we love Him and submit to His ways by His grace. (Rom. 8:28) Suffering is the primary means He uses to conform us into the image of His Son, the One who “learned obedience from what He suffered.” (Heb. 5:8) Though I don’t understand all of what that means, I am learning to trust that He always knows what is best for me. Suffering doesn’t mean He is angry or that He is punishing us, though that is what I once believed and what many still believe. It is not always a result of sin as Job’s friends believed and wrongly accused him of, as many continue to presume today.

He IS good even in the midst of suffering and He has proved that over and over again. The day will soon come that He will “wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 7:17) and suffering and pain will be no more. Until that time He promises to comfort us in our troubles, that we might comfort others in theirs with the comfort we receive from Him, for He is the God of all comfort. (2 Cor. 1:3-4)

How has He brought good out of your suffering?

What Does Unity Look Like?

There has been much written, preached and taught on the subject of unity in the Church in recent years. Much of it is based upon Jesus’ prayer in John 17, specifically, verses 20-23: “My prayer is not for them alone… that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You. May they also be in Us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me… May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me.”  Most of the teaching that I have heard or read has emphasized unity as some sort of agreement among the brethren. As in, let’s focus on the things we agree on and build unity upon these essential doctrines of the faith.

Though there’s nothing inherently wrong with that understanding, somehow I think we have missed the point of what Jesus was praying. Without going into a long exegetical explanation of this passage, I want to share some thoughts I’ve pondered after years of prayer and meditation on this particular topic. First of all, Jesus never taught anything on what we generally refer to as doctrine, so I seriously doubt unity on the basis of doctrine was what He had in mind.

As the basis of this prayer, He uses the union between He and the Father. Jesus and the Father are in perfect union because they are one in every sense of the word – one in heart, mind, and spirit. There is no discord or division whatsoever between them. They are one in the sense of fullness, completeness, and wholeness. Fullness, because there is nothing lacking within or between them; completeness in that each of them is complete in and of themselves; and wholeness meaning that they are without any flaw in their character or nature.

Jesus prayed that we would be one in the same way He and the Father are one. The phrase “complete unity” in John 17:23 literally means, “perfection; to complete; accomplish; consummate (in character);” not exactly the unity of agreement on issues of doctrine. Another reference to unity found in Ephesians 4:13 gives greater clarity: “…until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”  This is the goal He is after in all of us, becoming complete and mature in our faith and in our knowledge of His Son so that we can be as He is in this world. (1 John 3:2)

In essence, I believe Jesus is praying that our union which comes through intimacy with Him, would be such that we would become whole, complete, mature, and perfect in Him (Matt 5:48). As a result, we would take on the fullness of His nature and character, first as individuals and then as a corporate body. Then, and only then, will the world see Him exhibited in and through us, and believe that He is who He said He is, the Son of God, sent by the Father to save all who come to Him in faith. This prayer is one we can rest assured, will be answered.

What does it mean to you to be one with Him, as He and the Father are one?

Trust and Intimacy

Intimacy is a subject not often discussed.  It has a certain mystique about it and seems a little too personal to discuss with anyone except maybe our closest friends. Yet it’s of great importance when it comes to our relationships; it’s a quality of life we were created to desire and enjoy. Intimacy is defined as, “a close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship with another person.” It is probably most often thought of as the sexual aspect of marriage relationships but can also refer to emotional or spiritual closeness to another and this is the form I will be referring to.  I believe that all truly meaningful relationships require intimacy in order to thrive.

It is the foundation of our relationship with God. (I am speaking of spiritual and emotional closeness to Him). I have only begun to understand this in the last 10 of my 30 plus years of walking with Him. Though I’m certainly no expert on the matter, I have learned a thing or two these last 10 years that may be of help if you struggle with it like I once did.

True intimacy requires trust.  It involves being open and vulnerable before another and this typically necessitates some level of trust in that person. To the extent that we have issues with trust intimacy will be greatly hindered if not impossible. God created us for the purpose of communion and fellowship with Him – He created us for an intimate relationship. He knows us completely because He made us (see Psalm 139), and He wants to reveal Himself to us so that we can know Him as He truly is.

The fallen state of this world and our own souls make it difficult to trust other people and especially God. After Adam and Eve’s sin, they and everyone since have lost the true knowledge of God. Their intimate walks with Him in the Garden gave way to the shame of realizing their nakedness, the fear that led them to hide, and the control that caused them to cover themselves from their once beloved Creator and Friend. Later, jealousy led one brother to murder another. Trust was shattered.

Past and present hurts also play a big role in hindering trust, particularly feelings like guilt, shame, and condemnation.  Only God can set us free from these lies and the bondage of distrust that seeks to destroy our connection with Him and others. We must be willing, by His empowering grace, to let Him search our hearts and show us the hurtful ways inside us.  Only when we allow Him to bring us face to face with the truth can we become free.

This was at least in part, God’s reason for sending His Son to take our place, bearing the weight of our sin and imparting His life through the Spirit. He is that serious about wanting intimacy with us…ponder that for a while. If you struggle with intimacy He wants to liberate you to truly know the freedom that comes from being loved by Him and loving Him in return. There is nothing else like it – it is the very reason you exist.

What is God really like?

Blue treeI believe the greatest need in the Church right now is the true knowledge of God. Our personal knowledge of God – what He is like, how He thinks, feels and acts, is the most important thing in our life. It determines how we relate to Him, to others, even to ourselves. If we see Him as mostly angry and disappointed with us or with others that is how we will treat both ourselves and others. If we believe He is demanding and perfectionistic we will demand the same standard of ourselves and those around us. If we view Him as loving and forgiving we will love and forgive ourselves and others. Our actions are always an indicator of what we believe, so if we treat others harshly, with impatience, intolerance, or any other negative way, it should be a clue that we are in need of a greater revelation of God.

Our personal revelation of God must come directly from Him. It must impact us at the deepest level of our being in order to transform our thinking and actions. We come to know Him just as we get to know people – by experiencing them (spending time with them, talking, doing life together). It requires a real relationship, day after day, week after week, year after year. Apart from this, we have no hope of ever knowing Him.

The good news is that God LOVES to reveal Himself to us if we will simply ask Him. Paul knew this when he wrote, “In my prayers I keep asking… the glorious Father, to give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you will have full knowledge of Him.” (Eph. 1:17) Usually He will choose one particular aspect of His nature to reveal to us in depth. For me it has been His faithfulness. Through many trials too numerous to mention here, He has demonstrated His great faithfulness time after time after time. He has done this so much that whenever I’m facing another trial, I know without a doubt that He will be faithful to carry me through it and it gives me great peace.

I have discovered that what He reveals of Himself to us is what He wants to form in us, for we become like that which we behold. And whatever part of Him we become like is what He wants us to display to those around us. He really, really wants everyone to know Him and we’ve been given the privilege of making Him known to a world who wants to know Him whether they realize it or not. We were made to know Him and will never find our true purpose or fulfillment in life until we do.

What aspect of God’s nature is He revealing to you? Leave a comment below.

Book Preview

My child, I love to teach you as we walk together, side by side, day after day; and I will continue to for all of eternity. I AM training you to use the eyes of your heart more than your natural eyes. Follow the leading of My Spirit, and you will gain deeper clarity into the hidden truths of My Word. Think of it as a treasure hunt we play – there are hidden treasures to seek out and search for and as you uncover each one, you are filled with joy and delight!  I love to watch you ponder and wonder and meditate upon what I  show you – keep asking, My child, for it will be given to you;  keep seeking and you will find; keep knocking, for I will open doors of revelation to you that you cannot imagine right now.

It is My glory to conceal a matter and the glory of My sons and daughters to search it out. When you come with the curiosity of a small child, you will find all you are looking for and more on top of that! These are days of grace, and I have much grace for you in this process of learning and discovering the depths of who I AM and long to be for you – have fun with it, My love, for I take pleasure in teaching you and seeing you blossom and grow! You are Mine!

Rivers of Living Water excerpt

My child, you were made to know by experience the height, depth, length and width of My love for you – to bask in it, feast on it, revel in it all the days of your life and throughout all eternity. You were made for My pleasure and it is My good pleasure to lavish My extravagant love upon you. It gives Me even greater pleasure when you respond by enjoying and desiring My love and pouring it back upon Me. I AM indeed jealous for your heart, your affection, your devotion, and your passion – I long continually for your attention, for My attention is continually upon you.

Rivers of Living Water Preview

I am currently working on writing my first book to be entitled, Rivers of Living Water and Rivers-of-Living-Waterwill be posting previews from it here on my blog. The following is one such preview:

My child, you have come far in your growth, and though you are not where you want to be or think you ought to be, I AM nevertheless well pleased with where you are and how you are growing. I AM patient and kind toward you even in your struggles, immaturity, and insecurity for I see where I AM taking you and I have declared over you – “It is finished.” Rest in My promise that I will complete the good work I have begun in you and you will come forth as pure gold.

Even now, you are altogether lovely to Me, for you look like Me much more than you are able to realize. All is well; you are growing as you should be and your desire to do so is perfectly in line with My will and intentions for you, therefore, it will come to pass. Rest in My love, for you are My beloved.