Quote from God in the ICU: Chapter three

 “With a numb sense of unreality, we caught the flight to Cape Town the following morning. I identified my dead brother and then, with Erica (his pregnant wife of just three months), my grieving parents and my sister, we buried him.

For three weeks I thought that I would tear apart from grief as waves of agonising sadness gripped my heart. Then that was replaced by a cold anger against God. I had always regarded Him as loving and caring. He could have stopped this happening. Didn’t He hold the whole world in His hands? Is that how He treated His creation?”

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” Psalm 22:1 “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Why are You so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?”

The question of reconciling suffering with a good God is one that has occupied the minds and words of philosophers for aeons.

My reaction to the death of my brother was merely the echo of a cry that has reverberated through the ages. I did not doubt the existence of God, as many who suffer have done, but I questioned His nature.

Have you done the same? It’s a natural response. After all, from a human perspective, what would we think of someone who had the chance to rescue us from a tragedy, yet stood by and watched it unfold?

Yet, think back to your childhood. Were there times when you thought your parent was unfeeling, harsh, and unfair? But now, through the wisdom of the intervening years, does that parent still seem so cruel? Gauged against the rest of their track record with you, is it consistent with the way they treated you? I remember bawling uncontrollably when my parents would not let me go to a boxing tournament (I loved my boxing as a ten-year-old) because I had been invited to an outing with family. Today, I look with amusement on that incident and realise I learned a valuable lesson. Family comes first. It’s a trivial example, but I can tell you, at the time, my feelings towards my mother were about as vehement as they were towards God when my brother was killed.

One of the problems is that we live with a world view that says all suffering is bad and should be avoided at all costs. In fact, think of the technical advances that have been made through the ages. Aren’t they nearly all designed to make our lives more comfortable?

There is no doubt that God’s ultimate purpose is for us to live in a world where there is no suffering. In Isaiah 51:11 God says, “Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee.”  Jesus demonstrated the heart of God when He walked this earth and relieved suffering wherever He went.

However, the time for that has not yet come. Jesus suffered at the hands of evil men, and we also might suffer because of the evil that lurks in a fallen world.

We are living in a war zone. We are on a collision course with the world and those under the control of the “ruler of the kingdom of the air”. (Eph. 2:2) In 1 Peter 4:12,13 we read,

“Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.

Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.”

Therefore, we will suffer, as Jesus, our Commander in Chief suffered.

Yet, if we let Him, God will walk beside us through the storm, and will often use our suffering.

Looking back, I can see God used the death of my brother to shake me out of my complacency about God. I no longer took Him for granted, living a prayerless life and just assuming He would always be there for me in my independence.

There are two reactions we can take to tragedy. We can walk away from God, or we can hurry towards Him. I chose to walk away — into years in a wilderness of disillusionment.

Further scripture readings:

  • Isaiah 50:10
  • John 16:20
  • Psalm 27:13,14

For discussion:

  • Have you suffered a tragedy in your life? If so, how did you respond? How did that make you feel?
  • Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”  Have you experienced that?
  • When others are broken-hearted, can you come alongside them as Jesus does with you?

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