In the Book of Hebrews, chapter 11 and 12, the author does a masterful job explaining how “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Then goes on the unpack how Jesus Christ is the author, founder, and perfecter of our faith. However, for those of us still skeptical after reading the book of Hebrews… think about a time when you went to a doctor.
Seriously, stop and consider a time when you went to a doctor. If you’re like most people, chances are you have gone to a doctor at some point for an issue, and you found out you needed a routine procedure. It was nothing major, in fact it was really quite simple, and could be taken care of at an outpatient office. You were told about what needed to be done by the doctor, and even some close friends had gone through the same thing. You felt confident going in, and you knew what needed to be done and there was nothing at all to worry about. Nobody had ever had any problems or complications with this kind of minor procedure before. However, when you got to the doctor’s office, and walked into the room, you saw the knives, needles, and other tools that were about to be used. All of a sudden you were having doubts, second thoughts, and questioning the very necessity of this whole thing… what the heck happened?
It was sight… that sneaky little thing called sight had done you in. Your very seeing of the medical tools caused you to doubt… until then, you were as calm and cool as a cucumber… you knew when walking into the room everything was going to be okay, and you had a very real rational, cognitive understanding of the whole situation… but now after seeing a knife and needle, you were freaking out a little… (or maybe it was a routine filling at the dentist and the moment he busted out that needle to stick in your gums, you began wondering if you really even needed that tooth after all…)
While our doubt is healthy inquiry, disbelief is a willful choice. So, what if we do believe… we must ask then, why do so many of us who claim that we believe in God, trust Him, and put our faith in Him, start to second guess the very Creator of our life the moment we see a little dry patch in our life, or the second we spot a desert in the horizon?
“You don’t really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit? You are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!” – Gandalf to Bilbo, at the end of The Hobbit
When we really consider what has helped us grow and mature most in our life, we will usually see it wasn’t the best or easiest circumstances. Many people have to admit that most of what they really needed for success in life came to them through their most difficult and painful experiences. Some look back on an illness or great setback, and recognize that it was an irreplaceable season of personal and spiritual growth for them.
“A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of birth.” – Ecclesiastes 7:1 (ESV)
When God wounds, He wounds like a surgeon. He doesn’t wound like a criminal. He doesn’t bash your whole world with a bat; that is not what He does. But God will lovingly take the scalpel to you. We all, like a cancer patient, have a serious infliction of sin in our hearts, and often times that requires some rough chiseling and intense reshaping of our hearts. Because the heart of the problem with humanity is the problem of the heart.
“The most perplexing theological question is not why there is suffering in this world, but why God tolerates us in our sinfulness.” – R.C. Sproul
Just as Job’s patience in suffering turned him into an example that has helped hundreds of millions of people, and just as Jesus’ temptations prepared Him for His history-changing and world-saving career, so God’s Spirit leads us into our wilderness for our good.
“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world. . . . [Pain] removes the veil; it plants the flag of truth within the fortress of a rebel soul.” – C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
Advice on suffering from one who has never suffered deeply is always shallow, stale, and unconvincing. Wounded healers are needed, and in Christ, we have a great physician who suffered more than we can imagine. When you are in moments of pain or shock, the things that come out of your mind and mouth are the most primal things in your being. And when Jesus was in such moments, out came the words of the Bible.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” – John 16:20-24 (ESV)