Hebrews 12:6-7; 2 Corinthians 1:4, 4:8-9, 17-18; Job 1-42
Most of my life, I’ve had a hate-hate relationship with pain and suffering. In many ways, compared to most, I have lived a life with not much “suffering” to even talk about. But when I did suffer, I cursed God, I screamed in His face, and blamed Him for people walking out of my life, for anything that I didn’t perceive to be good, for failure, for loss, blamed Him for giving, and blamed Him for taking away. Now, sitting in a season of more suffering than I’ve ever endured at once, I’m not cursing God, I’m not even asking Him why.
For months I’ve prayed for the Lord to take everything if I could just know Him. I’ve asked Him to rip everything that my idolatrous and bloodied hands were holding onto so desperately, even if it destroyed me. I didn’t realize that week after week as I prayed this prayer, begging for the Lord to be near to me, begging to know Him more, I began to mean the words I said more and more. He began to give and He began to take. At first I asked God why He would allow me to suffer, I asked why He would let me be depressed or let me struggle with anxiety. I asked Him to take it away, I told Him I didn’t want it, I told Him that it wasn’t what I asked for. I asked why He would let me in that alone and why still He seemed silent. But with no clear answer, He took more. He withheld human comforts. He took away my best friend, and with her, my closest group of friends at least in some ways. He took away everything (it seems) that I had to go home to. He allowed for hall crises at midnight time and time again, when I didn’t even know how to stop crying myself. But I’ve learned that it doesn’t make my God cruel, He’s doing with me what He did with His Son, and man, what an honor that should be (Hebrews 2:9-10, 5:8). And I stand beaten and bruised but in closer communion with my Father than ever before in all my life.
So praise be to the God who gives and takes away.
“If God has made your cup sweet, drink it with grace; or even if He has made it bitter, drink it in communion with Him. If the providential will of God means a hard and difficult time for you, go through it. But never decide the place of your own martyrdom, as if to say, “I will only go to there, but no farther.” -Oswald Chambers
Honestly, I can tell you that these circumstances are not what I want most days, I want comfort and security, and I want life to slow down, I want my friends back, and I for sure don’t want to be alone. But this is the cup I’ve been handed. I’ve been handed a cup, with lonely, wearying days, tears, emotions that often feel incapacitating, a much smaller community than I had a month ago, but it’s a gift from Abba, because it comes in communion with Him.
So I’ll choose to drink the bitter cup in communion with my Savior. I’ll choose not to curse Him for not making my cup sweet. I will not quickly or in frustration drink from the cup so that it might end more quickly. But I will commune with my Father, I will not ask Him why He is allowing suffering, because I know it is that I may be conformed into the image of His Son. I will not let suffering destroy me or make me ask if the Father still loves or cares for me. “For His heart is touched with my grief; when the days are weary, the long nights dreary, I know my Savior cares.”
My sovereign God knows what I need, He knows the depths of me, and when He takes and when He gives, He has the best for me in mind. Just like He did with Job. God didn’t allow all of Job’s fortune to be destroyed, seeking to destroy Job, the same sovereign God who planned to restore Job’s fortunes, is the the same sovereign God who I serve. So Lord, make me like Job, faithful to You until the end, never cursing You no matter what you take away. Even Your Son saw joy in the trials of the cross, and He was obedient to You until the end. Take it all if You want to, Lord.
Praise the God who takes away.