My last post was about how God hurts with us. When we hurt, he hurts too. Here are a couple more thoughts about that.
I ran across something that the prophet Isaiah said (Isaiah 63:9). I’ve included several versions of it since each carries its own sort of soothing nuance.
In all their suffering he also suffered, and he personally rescued them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them. He lifted them up and carried them through all the years.
In all their affliction He was afflicted, And the Angel of His Presence saved them; In His love and in His pity He redeemed them; And He bore them and carried them . All the days of old.
In all their troubles, he was troubled, too. He didn’t send someone else to help them. He did it himself, in person. Out of his own love and pity he redeemed them. He rescued them and carried them along for a long, long time.
The first part of this is in the first person (I’m talking to God) because this is an entry from my Journal.
You suffer with us, rescue us, redeem us, and carry us! What’s left to be done! You’re good…
I’m particularly stirred by the thought that you suffer with us: in our sufferings you suffer, in our afflictions you’re afflicted, in our troubles you’re troubled… This isn’t all that common a thought… but a thought worthy of a God who cares so much us that it hurts!
One might say, “Why would he hurt when he could fix our hurts; then neither of us would hurt anymore?” You don’t often answer the “Why?” question, so why should I try asking it? But if I’m looking for “reasons” that you would delay in reversing our troubles or even deny such reversal in this life at all, I suppose these could be possible scenarios…
You don’t relieve us of all our pains because they’re part of the human condition and the free will experiment, where you just don’t intervene every time we hurt… But when you stay on the sidelines, it’s with pain in your own heart.
I guess sometimes you don’t intervene, I assume there’s method to the madness of your delay – when we hold on to you and endure through a delay, we grow… You’ve got something better to do! (I mean) something more that you’re after… something better than rescuing me now…
Maybe you’re going to use us in our affliction, and in a way that we might not have anticipated. We may think that our best testimony is one of deliverance and divine intervention. Though that’s often the case, if you took our suffering away we’d only have the testimony of a God who makes things better for us, which testimony has a temporary shelf life… I mean that if you do deliver us, we’ll get to tell the story of it over and over about how you came to our rescue, which becomes further and further away from the event itself at every telling and may lose steam each time… But if we testify that you are feeling our pain and walking with us in it (while not taking it away), it stays fresh and present in the telling. It doesn’t lose its strength as time elapses, because it’s always current. i.e. “He’s sustaining me today though I feel the pain…”
After my journal musing, I was reading one of Charles Spurgeon’s sermons and doing some research about him. I learned that he died at 57-years, afflicted by a combination of rheumatism, gout, and Bright’s disease. Bright’s is a kidney disease whose symptoms are usually severe, including back pain, phantom testicular pain, elevated blood pressure, vomiting and fever … There’s more, but suffice it to say that the great “Prince of Preachers,” whose wife died after a long bout with an excruciating disease, knew suffering first hand.
In the face of all of this, Spurgeon wrote: “In the matter of faith healing, health is set before us as if it were the great thing to be desired above all other things. Is it so? I venture to say that the greatest earthly blessing that God can give to any of us is health, with the exception of sickness.” Can you believe that?! Healing is good, but sometimes sickness is better?!
He went on to say, “Sickness has frequently been of more use to the saints of God than health has. A sick wife, a newly made grave, poverty, slander, sinking of spirit (Spurgeon also experienced periodic debilitating depression, which he called “Fainting Spells”), might teach us lessons nowhere else to be learned so well. Trials drive us to the realities of religion.”
In this connection Charles Spurgeon Junior, wrote: “I know of no one who could, more sweetly than my dear father, impart comfort to bleeding hearts and sad spirits. As the crushing of the flower causes it to yield its aroma, so he, having endured in the long continued illness of my beloved mother, and also constant pains in himself, was able to sympathize most tenderly with all sufferers.”
This reminds me of 2 Corinthians 1:3 – “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.”
There are other reasons he waits on the sidelines and chooses, rather than to alleviate our suffering, suffers with us. He has reasons that our reason might not be able to consider as reasonable. That’s one of the many differences between him and us.
“In all their suffering he also suffered… He lifted them up and carried them through all the years.”
In my final post on God’s pain I’ll share a piece of an AW Tozer essay… Try this on for size – “God’s love for mankind is a hurt – a wound of the heart. Man’s treachery has deeply wounded Him, but He is caught in the sweet and painful meshes of His own love. He is impaled, so to speak, on the point of His own great love for mankind.”