As I shared recently with a friend, it’s a new world I’m living in without Nanci. I miss the old one. The house is profoundly changed by Nanci’s absence. Not hearing her laugh is maybe the hardest part. But I’m sure looking forward to the great reunion, and eternal life with Jesus in a far better world. And to hear her laugh, louder and more vibrant than ever! Here’s a tiny sample of that laugh:
One of the many quotes that Nanci included in her journals was this one from our precious friend Joni Eareckson Tada:
It is when your soul has been blasted bare, when you feel raw and undone, that you can be bonded to the Savior. And then you not only meet suffering on God’s terms, but you meet joy on God’s terms. You cry out to God and He gets your heart pumping for heaven. He injects his peace, power, and perspective into your spiritual being. He imparts a new way of looking at your hardships. He puts a song in your heart.
Scripture models this crying out to God:
My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?
Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning.
O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer;
And by night, but I have no rest.
Yet You are holy,
O You who are enthroned upon the praises of Israel.
In You our fathers trusted;
They trusted and You delivered them.
To You they cried out and were delivered;
In You they trusted and were not disappointed.
—Psalm 22:1–5, NASB
Here’s what I wrote in my book 90 Days of God’s Goodness:
What an honest cry to God for help: “Why, God? Why does it seem like you’re not answering my prayers?” As he wrestles with this, David turns to Scripture, where God’s deliverance of His people is documented. David reflects on their trust in God. In the end, God’s faithfulness to Israel inspires David to believe that God will prove faithful to him as well.
God’s Word contains countless expressions of concern and anguish about the hard times people experience and the fact that they sometimes don’t feel God’s closeness. In this fallen world, “Why?” is a common question.
Randy Butler, a pastor, told me about his teenage son’s death. “For twenty years, God gave me a perfect life, family, and ministry. Then Kevin died, and nearly every morning, for three or four months, I screamed questions at God. I asked, ‘What were you thinking?’ And, ‘Is this the best you can do for me?’ And finally, ‘Do you really expect me to show up every Sunday and tell everyone how great you are?’ In the silence I began to hear the voice of God…then, without any announcement, when I became silent, God spoke to my soul. He had an answer for each of my three questions.”
Had Randy not been unreservedly honest with God, he couldn’t have completely grasped how the God he spoke to had watched His own Son die long before Randy had. God the Father had endured the horrible death of Jesus, His only Son. So, better than anyone in the universe, God empathized with Randy’s pain.
A lot of bad theology inevitably surfaces when we face suffering. When people lose their faith because of suffering, it suggests a weak or nominal faith that didn’t account for or prepare them for evil and suffering. Any faith not based on the truth needs to be lost—the sooner, the better.
Suffering and evil exert a force that either pushes us away from God or pulls us toward Him. But if personal suffering gives sufficient evidence that God doesn’t exist, then surely I shouldn’t wait until I suffer to conclude He’s a myth. If my suffering would one day justify denying God, then I should deny Him now in light of other people’s suffering.
Believing that God exists is not the same as trusting the God who exists. A nominal Christian often discovers in suffering that his faith has been in his church, family, career, or social network, but not Christ. As he faces evil and suffering, he may find his beliefs shaken or even destroyed. But genuine faith—trusting God even when we don’t understand—will be made stronger and purer.
If your faith is based on lack of affliction, it’s on the brink of extinction and is only a frightening diagnosis or a shattering phone call away from collapse. Token faith will not survive suffering. Nor should it.
Thank you, Lord, for welcoming the honest cries of our hearts. Thank you for allowing us to ask, “Why?” It’s a gift to us that your prophets and King David asked, “Why,” and even your Son, Jesus, asked, “Why?” as he hung on a cross. But give us the grace and wisdom, Lord, to ask our questions while looking to your Word and to your Holy Spirit for answers.