We live in a world of suffering. By the time you have finished reading this musing at least one child in the world will have died from abuse or violence. Tens of thousands of people die every day due to unexpected tragedies.
Shakespeare seemed to understand this when he wrote:
Each new morn
New widows howl, new orphans cry,
New sorrows strike heaven on the face.
We all experience suffering in this life. For those who are currently not, but witness it in others, many philosophical and theological questions are raised. For those who are experiencing suffering now, it cannot be treated purely as a philosophical issue. Although we may cry, “Why, God, do you allow this?”, the real concern, I believe, is one of survival: How can I survive this without losing the best parts of me? And yet the experience of suffering will inevitably drive many of them to the big questions of life and often back to or closer to God.
These last few weeks I have suffered with a terribly sore back. I am writing this minutes after receiving results from a CT scan. I have four bulging discs, nerve impingement and mild arthritis in my back. Although I appreciate your prayers, I am confident of a full recovery; however it is a shock.
What I really wanted to share is how I have been ministered to and have felt the presence of God in truly amazing ways through this suffering. On Monday morning Jared Murtha (Baptist pastor and co-leader of our Missional Community, The Common) came to our house with his guitar. He played for me for about 20 minutes, just very gently singing, I will exalt Thee. I stood at the kitchen, leaning on the bench, as tears fell to the ground. I couldn’t really burst out crying because of the pain it would trigger but I sensed God straightening me up. Once Jared had finished playing, I grabbed my Bible, as I sensed God also telling me to read Psalm 145. The first line says:
I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever.
I read the whole psalm aloud through tears. When I was finished, I shared with Jared how God had once used John Stott when he was preaching in Sydney to a large crowd of university students. Stott was suffering from a heavy cold and had nearly lost his voice. He was unable to use his personality but just read in a soft voice about the mercy of God in Jesus. He visited Australia many times after that and each time he would meet people who had been converted through that talk, which seemingly had involved no power or charisma. Although Stott was suffering, the glory of God shone.
This morning (Wednesday) I decided to listen to Alpha’s Bible-in-one-year devotion. I haven’t used this devotion for about a week; instead I have been reading Psalms. As I began to listen to Nicky, his first line was how God can use suffering for his glory and the story he told was that John Stott story I had shared with Jared! I don’t really know what this all means but I am confident that God is with me as he is with you at all times. Let’s exalt him today!
The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. Psalm 145:14