Yesterday was Faith that Works' “fellowship and faith in action day.” On our way home from downtown a few “WHY” questions began swirling around the car. When you see extreme poverty and pain, as we do in tent city, it gives you reason to think through what you have seen and how it lines up with your view on things. We spent the day with Dawn and enjoyed casual banter through the day, and this also made some of our volunteers wonder- why is she homeless? Why doesn’t she have a job, or a family to help her? Why do people have to live like this? The questions can bring defeat to us, ultimately leaving us to answer our own question, and our answer always ends up one of two ways..it is the person’s fault, they did it to themselves, or God did this to them. Why? Because there isn’t really a concrete answer to questions like that. I realized this when I was in Africa for the first time and I experienced dirty water, filthy children, starvation, child sex trafficking and disease. “Why, I asked God.” I began to realize as I wrestled with the Why’s that there was no satisfactory answer. If I concluded it was God’s fault, I would also conclude God was evil. If I concluded it was the person’s fault, then it excused me from helping, because they deserved it.
What could God possibly say to me that would make me feel better about a child suffering so ruthlessly? But God did speak to my heart, “I see, I know, I weep too, and someday, all of this suffering will be made right. I will wipe their tears, I will vindicate the oppressed, and put down their enemies. Don’t ask why, enter their suffering and encourage them with my love. I have a purpose for all things.” For me, It came down to trust in God, and knowing His intentions for us are good.
So. That’s what we aim to do here and abroad-love, bring hope. Let those who suffer know they are not alone, and someone hurts with them and cares. As I was reflecting on a few of these thoughts today, I read John Piper’s daily devotion, and he was addressing the appropriate way to address God in our suffering. Following is Pastor John’s thoughts and scriptures he included with them: Scripture shows us the perfect way to view pain. Hear the Lament of God’s people, and then see God’s heart toward it!
How To Speak about God When He Hurts Us John Piper
The book of Lamentations is the heart-cry of Jeremiah when he and his people were being hurt by God, and by their enemies, and by their own sin. How he speaks of this divine hurting shows us some of the various ways we may speak about God in our own pain. If we affirm them all, then not one of them will be taken amiss.
The Lord directly does the hurting (2:1-4).
"The Lord in his anger has set the daughter of Zion under a cloud! . . . The Lord has swallowed up without mercy all the habitations of Jacob; . . . He has cut down in fierce anger all the might of Israel; . . . he has burned like a flaming fire in Jacob, consuming all around. . . . 4 He has killed all who were delightful in our eyes in the tent of the daughter of Zion."
The enemies have done the hurting and God has exalted their might (2:16-17).
"All your enemies rail against you; they hiss, they gnash their teeth, they cry. . . . The Lord has done what he purposed; . . . he has made the enemy rejoice over you and exalted the might of your foes."
The enemy has done the hurting, as if the Lord were not watching! (1:9-11; 3:49-50).
Her fall is terrible; she has no comforter. ‘O Lord , behold my affliction, for the enemy has triumphed! . . . Look, O Lord, and see, for I am despised.' . . . My eyes will flow without ceasing, without respite, until the Lord from heaven looks down and sees."
The hurting happens as if by God's "forgetting" and "forsaking" them (5:20).
"Why do you forget us forever, why do you forsake us for so many days?"
The Lord will repay the enemies who did the hurting on earth (3:64).
"You will repay them, O Lord, according to the work of their hands."
The Lord will follow his hurting with compassion (3:32).
"Though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love."
God's hurting us is not "from his heart"—not his deepest delight (3:33).
"He does not willingly [literally "from his heart" millibboi] afflict or grieve the children of men."
In his hurting the Lord shows mercy every morning (3:22-23).
"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."
God's decisive mercy is his causing the erring people to repent; he removes the cause of his own wrath (5:21).
"Cause us to return (hasibenu) to yourself, O Lord, and we will return (wunasub)! Renew our days as of old."
When God is hurting us, wait patiently for the salvation of the Lord (3:26).
"The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone in silence when it is laid on him."
In and after God's hurting us, he is our only hope and portion (3:24).
"‘The Lord is my portion,' says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.'"