This is a reprint of a column I was asked to write for the Hutchinson News: March 4, 2013
As a pastor I’m privileged to walk through difficult moments with people. It’s an honor to hold hands with someone while tears flow.
I’ve learned that the hardest questions have even harder responses. We encourage, support and love others, but must avoid trite, cliche-ish answers.
Remember, God wants us to wrestle with Him. When Jacob wrestled with God all night long, God changed his name to Israel, which means “wrestles with God.”
God’s not afraid of our questions, and He doesn’t shy away from anger or hurt. So when the pain runs deep, wrestle with Him.
Scripture records that Jesus cried at least three times. In His tears we can see a few wrestling moves for some of life’s biggest hurts.
1. “Why would God allow this to happen?”
It’s that difficult moment when faith meets tragedy and you say, “This is not how it’s supposed to be.” A life is taken, a diagnosis is validated, or the nightmare becomes reality.
Jesus experienced this in the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead:
John 11:35: “Jesus wept.”
Knowing He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, Jesus still broke down and wept. Why?
The only plausible explanation: Death was never intended to be a part of our reality. This is not how things are supposed to be.
The creation account shows humans living immortal in paradise; that was the plan.
Every hurt, pain and disease is the product of humanity’s fall and the broken universe that Paul describes as groaning in pain, waiting for restoration (Romans 8).
2. “If God is good, then why does this hurt so bad?”
Hebrews 5:7: “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears.”
Jesus suffered on the cross and, even in the anticipation beforehand, He cried.
Suffering is the result of risk.
If you could give your children a pill that would make them completely obedient and love you (sorry, they haven’t made one yet), you might be willing to slip it into their dinner.
But shortly you would not be satisfied with their perfect obedience and devotion. You’d want to know they really love you, and that means they’d need the option not to love you. If you’re going to experience love, you must take a risk.
Nearly all of our deepest suffering comes from that risk – one that God knows, too.
3. “I don’t care about anything else; I just want this to be different.”
Sometimes we don’t care about logic, spirituality or anything else. We just want things changed.
In Luke 19:41, Jesus drew near the city of Jerusalem and “He wept over it.” In this passage, we see that Jesus longed for the situation to be different; He desperately wanted the city’s inhabitants to turn to Him, but they wouldn’t, and it caused Him to weep.
We, too, find ourselves in positions of futility and loss, but as we wrestle with God we remember that any loss or hurt is temporary.
Not to demean anyone’s suffering, which is deep and painful, but we must remember that for believers everything in this life is temporary.
2 Corinthians 4:17: “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”
In this life we will have pain, and there are no easy answers. But we can always struggle, grow strong and endure.
It’s time to wrestle.