Suffering has been so misunderstood. Probably because we were created to run on love, we naturally think that life should always feel good and be nothing but sweetness and light.
Know anybody who was raised that way?
My dad’s parents got hung up on protecting him because he almost died three times as a toddler. It crippled him emotionally for life. I wasn’t raised by a single mother, it just felt like it after age 4 or 5. And yes, I’ve had abandonment issues, even though he never left. He had trouble being where he was.
I loved it when I heard Brene Brown say that children are hard-wired for struggle. That has to be true, or there wouldn’t be many of us that make it. Brene is a social researcher who studied vulnerability for six years. (See video post–it’s worth your time.)
We grow from struggle. Someone said we only arrive at maturity slowly in freedom, over time, by making choices. That makes sense since our very existence is torn by the pull of good and evil.
That “pull” also accounts for much of the suffering in our lives as well. It takes awhile for us to learn how to make wise choices, when evil looks and feels good.
And each choice makes the map of our identity stronger. That is exactly what we mean by “character”. Character is who you are when no one is looking. It is who you are when the heat is turned up, that is, what you do under pressure.
So if you were God, and you needed to help people see clearly and grow up, would you give them all kinds of good things and protect them from all the bad, or would you allow them to struggle and develop character?
(I am truly concerned at our societal swing of parenting that provides little boundaries or discipline.)
You (as God) certainly wouldn’t want a bunch of people who reacted emotionally, who lost control in anger when someone disagreed with them. You wouldn’t want followers who couldn’t think, but were products of the media, people who are easy to capture with emotional propaganda.
You would want people you can trust to think carefully, predict results based on their own experience of trial and error. You would want people who know the difference between smooth words and truth that sounds hard.
You would want followers you could depend on to reason and come up with the right deductions even when it seems that you let them down. People like my friend Sarah, the one who lost her 6-month-old son two weeks ago to Malaria in Tchad, Africa. Here is part of her email.
“There is a lot of grieving ahead of us, but not grief like those that have no hope. And we love Miriam and take joy in caring for her.” (The twin who survived.)
“There is no better place to be than where God has put one. He knows all we have to go through until he comes, and he knew he could trust us with this loss that we would not lose faith in him. Besides, I know if we gave in to fear and worry and left for a “safe” life in the US, other children here would die because of our absence. Who says my children are worth more than theirs? Yes, I might love them more, but I’m sure it’s a testimony of the God we love that we are willing to sacrifice.”
“We refuse to give in to fear and worry. Those are sent by the Devil. Besides, the losses we have here are temporary; the work we do has eternal consequences. Grief to me is about patience. I can be patient and wait for my little boy, knowing I will get him back in God’s timing. Like a child, impatient for the Christmas presents – not impatient with anger and sadness but with expectations and joy!”
If I were God, I would want a bunch of followers like Sarah. People I could trust. People who could understand that I (as God) couldn’t keep everything bad from happening to my followers.
If God did keep all evil from His people, they would follow Him for the gifts, or from fear, but not because they know and love Him. And love is the only acceptable attachment to God. If He hates anything, it is first, separation from us, and second, pretense. We might come to Him for the wrong reason; that is ok because if we stay we will learn to love Him.