As I meet and talk with people, it is rare to find someone who isn’t in—or just come out of—a season of pain and suffering. I had a conversation just recently with the most precious of saints who has more joy in the Lord than I have ever seen. Even in her joy, she tears up when she talks of her husband who died four short years ago.
As pastor, one of the privileges I have is to walk with others through the pain and suffering in their lives. They may not sound like a privilege, but I can assure you, it is. To weep with those who weep is as much of a privilege as to rejoice with those who rejoice.
As I’ve walked this path with others, the question of “why?” inevitably arises. In those moments, I frequently feel a degree of angst because an answer to that question rarely presents itself. Why is this happening? I don’t know? Why me? I don’t know. I desire to give an explanation rather than admitting my ignorance when it comes to the will of God.
As I’m reading through Keller’s book, Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering, I came to a passage that struck me in a way that not many words do. “So while Christianity never claims to be able to offer a full explanation of all God’s reasons behind every instance of evil and suffering – it does have a final answer to it. The answer will be given at the end of history and all who hear it and see its fulfillment will find it completely satisfying, infinitely sufficient.”
In the search for an explanation of the pain and suffering we experience, I am not convinced that any explanation that we might receive would ever be completely satisfying. If I somehow knew that my pain and suffering was the direct result of thousands of people coming to faith in Jesus, I would find satisfaction in that, but not complete satisfaction. I know my heart. I would be grateful for such a result, but my heart would still ask the question “Why did it have to be me? Couldn’t you have done it in some other way?”
I don’t believe that any explanation that we would receive would truly satisfy us. We may not like the explanation that we receive because even the best explanation doesn’t provide what the gospel does: hope.
Knowing that God has provided a final answer to our pain and suffering—to all pain and suffering—is the one thing that actually fills my heart with hope.
Jesus endured pain and suffering on the cross so that he would put an end to pain and suffering for all of eternity. We endure pain and suffering knowing that it has a limited shelf life, and then it will be no more. As in a difficult workout or an agonizing meeting or a sermon that is dragging on just a little too long, knowing that the end is coming creates the ability to persevere through the pain and suffering we endure.
I’m walking through a degree pain and suffering now, as most people are to greater and lesser extents. Living in a fallen and broken world means living with the reality of pain and suffering. As we walk this path, may we persevere with hope, knowing we may not receive completely satisfying explanations to our circumstance, but we have already received a final answer: