God and suffering

James goes to Rivendell school on Friday mornings for assembly.  Assembly involves singing, some school spirit stuff and a speaker who gives the students some spiritual food for thought.  This week the assembly had a panel of students who were asked questions about their faith.  Questions like “how did you come to believe in God? When did you know? What led you to know for sure, was there a point in time you were not sure”?  James was eager to join the conversation but waited until he got back to his classroom at our house to write the following:

I HAVE STRUGGLED WITH KNOWING GOD. HE KEPT ME IN PRISON, 14 YEARS WITH NO WAY OUT. I FELT ALONE, FRUSTRATED, ANGRY, AND DEPRESSION WAS ALWAYS NEAR. I PRAYED EVERYDAY. DID HE EVER ANSWER? MONDAY I DREADED SCHOOL, BUT IT DIDN’T GO ANY BETTER BY FRIDAY. MY HOPE CAME FROM FAMILY, TRUSTING I WAS A CHILD OF GOD, AND THOSE MOMENTS OF CONTROL OF MY BODY.
THEN, MY MOM TOOK ME TO TALK TO SOMA. GOD HEARD MY PRAYERS. I NEEDED TO SUFFER, TO ALSO DECIDE WHO I AM, BEFORE I COULD APPRECIATE THIS BLESSING. NOW I KNOW THE LORD IS GOD AND MY PURPOSE.  I AM A MESSAGE AND A LEADER FOR THOSE LIKE ME. I AM NOT SPECIAL BUT I AM DIFFERENT.

 

This was hard for me to read.  As James’ mother I can’t bear the thought that he was in such despair all those years. I like to think that he had some joy in those years and I know he was loved well by his family.  I think suffering is the hardest thing to square about God.  I believe that God loves us beyond measure and wants nothing but good for his creation.  It is a mystery that He doesn’t intervene and stop all the suffering of this very broken world.  In my journey of faith I have come to rely on the author and theologian Henri Nouwen to help me express or understand these questions.  Henri Nouwen was a gifted scholar who taught at the University of Notre Dame and Harvard but he spent the last 15 years of his life living in a community of disabled men and women called L’Arche Daybreak. He learned so much from his time there. I’d like to end this post with a passage from him on brokenness.  I hope any readers are as helped by his words as I am.

Being Broken by Henri Nouwen

Jesus was broken on the cross. He lived his suffering and death not as an evil to avoid at all costs but as a mission to embrace. We too are broken. We live with broken bodies, broken hearts, broken minds, or broken spirits. We suffer from broken relationships. How can we live our brokenness? Jesus invites us to embrace our brokenness as he embraced the cross and live it as part of our mission. He asks us not to reject our brokenness as a curse from God that reminds us of our sinfulness but to accept it and put it under God’s blessing for our purification and sanctification. Thus, our brokenness can become a gateway to new life.

 

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2 thoughts on “God and suffering

  1. I have always seen autism as an injury, and refuse to see the good other than bringing us closer to God. Suffering of our children is a hard thing to endure. We start RPM tomorrow. I don’t want it to bring heartache. I’m Praying I Can Hold up.

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