Without pain we won’t know joy. There is no love if we fear grief or loss. These dark spiritual times when we wonder, ‘Where are you, God? Are you in this? I can’t see you’ are opportunities to experience and grow our faith.
I came across this article this week about the Fort McMurray fire from the CBC — the headline caught my eye:
He’s a pastor and a firefighter and Fort McMurray made him question God.
The firefighter and pastor noted in the headline said, “’Nobody feels like we knocked it out of the park…that’s a tough burden to bear.’ …he wondered how a loving God could let this happen.”
Later in the article, the firefighter answers his own wondering question by thanking God for the opportunity to rise to a terrible occasion and see what we’re made of – which is how our faith grows: “it’s those chances that define us.”
I’m sharing this because I have had my own Fort McMurray experience.
In 2003, we began the process to get a broadcast license from the government of Benin, meet with the President, get land and begin fundraising. The transmitter station didn’t go on the air until 2008, so the four years inbetween — especially the first year of that project, nearly broke me.
My boss and very dear friend Stephen Boakye-Yiadom died unexpectedly and I had to take over his position. My father-in-law became ill suddenly and passed away. A good friend on the mission field died in an accident. My next-door neighbour’s son developed a brain tumor. I faced burn out and was forced to take time off.
Trial after trial after trial came at me.
I was often reminded of the Book of Job when Satan wasn’t allowed to kill Job and so instead the enemy attacked his family, his home, and his livelihood. I went to my pastor in the midst of all this and asked what were we supposed to learn from these stories? From these kinds of experiences?
His reply was that those stories were recorded so that we knew they happened.
I didn’t find that particularly helpful.
But the Bible is full of people who suffered, who faced opposition to doing good work, who struggled and were overwhelmed. They looked up and wondered, ‘God, where are you in all of this.’
“But it is still my consolation, And I rejoice in unsparing pain, That I have not denied the words of the Holy One” Job 6:11.
King David is a man who understood trial and suffering. He was pursued and hunted by King Saul in the wilderness.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Psalm 22:1.
While some schools of thought or religions will have a fatalistic approach to suffering, a punitive view, or a hopeless outlook, Jesus tells us that our suffering is neither in vain nor are we alone in it.
“All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12) so “do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Pet 4:12-14).
John 16:33 “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
This has become so real to me again as my wife has experienced some medical problems. We want it diagnosed and to be fixed right away, but that has not been the case. We have talked numerous times about the “where is God in all of this”, just as the pastor from Ft. McMurray did, as Job and David did.
The conclusion is always the same, it is part of the journey, in the end God’s glory will be revealed through our difficulties (2Cor.4:17).
Our TWR Canada staff gather every morning to pray for the ministry, each other, and our donors. Are you going through a trial right now? How can we pray for you?