This last weekend I had the amazing opportunity to share with the ladies at my church a bit about my story and what God has done with my story over the last decade. When I was asked many months ago now if I thought I might be interested in speaking, I made it very clear that I was not qualified. I was still not ‘healed’ and still struggled with a lot of things (like prayer after feeling for so long that it didn’t make any difference). I had not reached my ‘mountain top’ yet. I wasn’t even entirely sure I had anything good to share since so much of me believed I handled my struggle so poorly. I had fallen so far and I was pretty sure that the best I could do was serve as an example of how NOT to respond to suffering. Plus, I had barely even had time to think about my story in the last few years. They said that was fine and encouraged me to start thinking about what I might share. Clearly they were desperate…or perhaps God was using them to reach out to me, to encourage me to take the time to see what He has been doing ‘behind my back’ over these years.
Knowing I was in over my head, I began reaching out to some mentors. My question was this:
Does God ordain/cause suffering or is all* suffering a result of a sinful/fallen world? Does He, in fact, CAUSE it (as part of His divine plan) in order to teach us lessons, refine our character, etc….or is all* suffering the result of this sinful world and He, in His great mercy/grace, steps into redeem it, to use it for His glory (to show others His glory, show us His loving kindness, and make this world more bearable for us until we can be with Him)?
* all suffering including both suffering that is the result of sinful choices and suffering that is just simply inevitable as a result of a fallen world
I had struggled for so long wondering why God brought me down the path He did and now I had the opportunity to really analyze what happened in my life (what caused my downward spiral), and I started with the ‘why’ of my story because I wanted to be sure I was launching off a proper foundation. I wanted to know if God caused it in order to teach me something or if sin was the cause of suffering (not specifically my sin, but being in a sinful fallen world).
It seemed like a simple enough question to confirm my worldview before building upon it to find out what went wrong. And then my first response was “Big assignment…wow…I’ll give it some thought and prayer and respond soon….you must understand I’m just a pilgrim like you journeying through a lot of grey…[I] will likely give this to you in a few installments….books have been written about your questions.”
It’s amazing how much this response encouraged me – that this wasn’t an easy topic, that it wasn’t solved with Christian cliches…and that my asking it was valid and worth pursing. And pursue I did. I’ve spent the last 4 months or so reading tons of books, listing to podcasts, and seeking wise counsel. I’ve shed many tears and my heart is bursting with all God has revealed to me. So, over the next weeks and probably months I’ll be sharing pieces of what I’ve learned, sharing about books I’ve read, and praying that I can encourage others with the truths I’ve found in scripture. And if nothing else, organizing all the things that God has been teaching me.
My story is still incomplete, but I’m learning to be okay with that. I’m learning that it’s not about the ‘mountain top’, but about the journey. And if God is with me in my journey, if He is the ‘who’ in my story, then what He is teaching me along the way is important, worth pursuing, and worth sharing. No ‘mountain top’ required.
Follow up: I’m terribly delinquent on this. Life got very busy very fast and I had to sideline this. I hope to start again this fall as we settle into our regular routine again. Sorry!!