Faith and the Problem of Suffering

How is it that I can have a solid, unwavering belief in God–and even in a personal, loving (in a way that I do not understand) God–but also have a solid, unwavering belief in the meaninglessness of Suffering?

I’ve been working hard to reconcile these two thoughts in my brain the past few months. While Christian platitudes will generally chalk up suffering to 1) sanctification 2)the greater unknown good 3) the glorification of God, I can not for the life of me see how any of that is accomplished in the suffering of a baby.

  1. If this is for my sanctification, BIG TIME FAIL! I am a way worse person now than I was before, and I doubt we are going to see any big improvements
  2. I’m currently completely uninterested in the “butterfly affect” of goodness that may come out of this (i.e. since I was at the hospital that day, so and so turned left at the stoplight and narrowly missed, etc etc)
  3. If God miraculously heals and saves her, sure, I can see this as glorifying, but I’m really missing it otherwise. Somedays I am totally fine with not understanding, but somedays (like today) I’m less fine.

Suffering Is Never For Nothing by Elisabeth Elliot has been a help. But I think, having read it devotedly in the dim light of the back of Kit’s hospital room, sleeping in a recliner, I think that the gist of it is that we don’t know and we just must carry on. Just “sweep the floor”–do the next thing. Useful thoughts on going on when its hard to go on, so I’ve thought that maybe I should also pick up her “A Path Through Suffering”. And maybe also that Maria Hummel poetry book for good measure.

I’m not discrediting reading the Bible itself and getting a firsthand feast instead of second…however sometimes I need a little hand-holding, so I look to writers like Elliot to help me with the tricky footing.

If nothing else, I’m just trying to be ok with the unknowable, things that have never been properly sorted out by any human brain. Meaningless but ordained is where I land right now. But how to believe that and that God is still ultimately good and loving, unless one delves into the pit of “it was deserved”?

The one thing I am sure of is how completely stupid I am, how very little I know and understand. These thoughts are a luxury I’ve seldom much time for, and usually come to me when writing out my prayers, when stroking Kit’s hair in the hospital room, when sitting in the back of the Sunday school classroom, listening.

2 Comments

  1. I just want to say you’re an amazing mom and you’ve been such a wonderful friend over the years. I have all the same questions and feel all the same things.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’m glad that you are able to write these words which would probably be nearly impossible to vocalize. I hear the heartache and anguish of a mother who has given up so much in the past few months-just the normal everyday things you’ve enjoyed with your other girls-but of course of one who would give up everything to see her baby well.

    Liked by 1 person

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