Bill & Connie were devastated by the miscarriage on their first pregnancy. It was especially hard sense their closest friends were pregnant at the same time. In fact, the loss was devastating to both of them. But now that Connie was pregnant again the painful memory had faded. The sheer delight of now having a newborn was amazing. But it quickly faded when the doctor came into the hospital room the day after the birth and said that they needed to get their new son to the Children’s Hospital. Questions began flowing and the answers were all open-ended and unanswered. “What was going to happen? Why was this happening? What does this mean? Will our baby be alright?”
It turned out that their son had a malignant tumor and it began what would become the most painful week of their lives.
It’s easy to get lost sometimes in the unanswered questions of life. We all struggle with understanding why certain things happen and, in the end, it’s always best to rest in the fact that God is good even when we don’t understand it. That’s where Bill and Connie had to go in their struggle to makes sense of their new son’s problems. They asked the hard questions, but they didn’t demand the answers. In their experience God would shine enough light to see the next step but allowed them to see no more. Even with this understanding there was the challenge of embracing the pain they felt, though embrace is exactly what they did. Partly because of God’s past goodness and partly because they realized that without a provident God, there was not context for pain.
Let’s face it. Pain can be confusing and often throws a wrench in our ability to see things accurately. But pain is ultimately a good thing because it alerts us to several things.
- It reminds us that we live in a broken world. Nothing works the way it was intended to work.
- It helps us ask the question about what God is teaching us. What can we learn about ourselves? What can we learn about the circumstances? What can we learn about God?
- It leads us toward community. We need the body of Christ around us. Our lives were not intended to be lived in isolation.
- It forces our eyes upward. Where does our help come from (Psalm 121)?
Without a provident God our pain has no context. It means nothing, but is merely a random, meaningless, cosmic act. But with a Christian worldview our pain can hold meaning and purpose even if it isn’t entirely satisfying to us. Pain is difficult to understand in the best of circumstances but the absence of Providence creates a whole new set of difficulties. The good news for us is that we serve a loving, merciful and redemptive God. He does care and he does cause all things to work together for good for those who love him. This is where Bill and Connie had to land. This was more accurate and this ultimately caused their faith to grow in the middle of the most painful week of their lives. They decided that regardless of the outcome they would trust in God and even had their child not survived they decided that they would trust God and not their circumstances. He is good, regardless.
By Jerry Bridges / NAV Press