The psalmist found himself near complete collapse as he faced a series of setbacks, enemies that sought to harm him and the cruel ridicule of others. Nothing seemed to help and God seemed to be absent and silent. Feel the painful desperation in his voice as he writes...
There is a time in the midst of severe testing, when human endurance, one's ability to cope, unending physical pain, the weariness of depression, and the overwhelming fatigue that goes along with suffering, take a dreadful toll upon one's life.
While suffering is an inevitable dimension of life, it seems foreign and unnatural....out of place when linked to a loving God, full of mercy and compassion. In reality, it is not possible to develop Christ like character and spiritual depth apart from experiencing seasons of personal suffering.
Each stage of our lives is woven as an intricate personal tapestry, interlaced with a myriad of threads reflecting our own individual pilgrimage upon the pathways that we have taken. One cannot truly see or understand the true story behind the tapestry until it is turned over, and then the kaleidoscope of threads reveals a progressive work of infinite beauty.
Over our lifetime, God's skilled hands weave the tapestry, knowing what it will one day become. Others, even ourselves, cannot make any real sense of the myriad of threads, especially when suffering and heartache, edge the rough borders of the pattern.
Only God is able to select each thread that is needed at a specific time in our pilgrimage here, and weave it into our lives, be it the first experience of feeling loved, difficult challenges in high school, depression, sorrow, the birth of a child, loss, success, failure, anxiety, illness and ultimately death.
All along the pathway, an infinite, all knowing, all powerful and ever present God, has been at work in our circumstances with the primary purpose to lead us to His heart. He purpose is to radiate His Spirit through our lives, so that we can become a display of His Glory and Majesty to a fallen world.
"For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the Glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair." II Corinthians 4:6-8
There are numerous examples in Scripture where God made His will specifically known during difficult times of testing. His purpose was often made known whereby He could reveal His will to each servant individually. We are eager for quick answers, while He is desirous that we trust His Word, and learn to walk by faith and not by sight. Some of God's answers can only be heard in our own personal Gethsemane.
On some of those occasions, the individual being tested, expected God to disclose His purpose to them in a different way than He did. Abraham, Moses, Joseph, David, Jeremiah, and many other Bible characters, struggled with this very issue. There is a principle that is universal to life:
During a time of great struggle, the psalmist was able to reach through his anguish, cling to God in faith, and eventually trust in the reliability of God's faithfulness, and the complete reliability of His Word.
God may seem to be silent, but He is speaking through His Word. The experience of suffering does not produce spiritual depth in our lives in and of itself. It is how we react to suffering that determines one’s spiritual growth through sorrow and pain.
The discipline of suffering has a primary purpose to accomplish within each of us: God wants above all else for us to be His.
We discover that when we are thrust into trials that are filled with sorrow and laced with hopelessness, that it is He alone that understands. He draws near to nurture and comfort us, and He is desirous to heal our broken heart more than our physical pain.
In the midst of suffering, we discover a rare and blessed intimacy with God that is comforting, as slowly the emotional or physical pain gives way to a sweet song of worship and praise. God’s grace is most present in the lives of the weak, the humble, the downtrodden, the weary and the those who are broken. God may seem to be silent, but He speaks through His promises that are scattered like diamonds throughout the Scriptures.
When we reflect upon the past, we remember the many times where God provided grace and strength, and we are reminded that He has always been faithful. He is the God of all comfort, who comforts us in the midst of sorrow with a nurturance and care that only He can provide (See II Cor. 1:2-4).
We remember that He came near to hear our cry, and He reached forth and healed our wounds, but He did not remove the scars. Our scars have the capacity to remind us that the past was real, and rather than represent mere reminders of our suffering, they become memorials to the grace and glory of God.
Ideally, when a child is hurting and afraid, he runs to his father, and the immediate response of the father is to open his arms and embrace him. So it is with our Heavenly Father. His desire is to bring comfort to us and sooth our tears with His love. In His arms, the silence gives way to the sound of His heart beating against ours, and we become one with Him in the fellowship of His sufferings (See Phil. 3:10).
The Quiet Place is often bathed in the tears of God's people, for it is the very dew that covers the pathway to the heart of God, and it is precious to Him. God sometimes silently and purposefully shuts the door to a relief from our sorrow and suffering. We hear the click of the door to our freedom from pain, as he closes us in where only He is present. He may seem far away, but He is always there beside you, just as He has promised in His Word that He would be.
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
That is His most cherished gift to us in the midst of the storm. He commands the storm to be still not to prevent our boat from sinking, but to enlighten us who need to see in order to believe, that He has been there with us in the midst of the storm as we huddled fearfully in the bottom of the boat.
One of the realities of unanswered prayer, in the midst of difficult trials and suffering, is to learn to be obedient, regardless of any change in our circumstances. The book of Hebrews reveals to us that Christ Himself learned obedience to His Father as He passed through the crucible of suffering.
It is very tempting for a Christian to become bitter in the midst of suffering by hardening his heart toward God for allowing the suffering, and for not delivering him from it. Disappointment with God can create a seed of resentment toward Him, and unless it is laid before the Throne of Grace, it turns into a root of bitterness. We are urged to cast our cares upon Him because He cares for us (I Peter 5:7), and to kneel before the Throne of Grace in the hour of our greatest need.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:15-16
When Christ Himself suffered the indignities and shame of the cross, while enduring unimaginable torture and pain, He remained obedient to the will and purpose of His Father. He knows what it is like to experience physical, emotional and mental pain and sorrow. Drawing near to Him in the midst of suffering helps us to bear up during our hardship and remain free from bitterness.
What are we most tempted to do when we are experiencing insufferable pain and unrelenting disappointment? Our greatest temptation is to blame God, and become bitter toward Him as we wonder, “Where is God when it hurts?” We can struggle with His seeming absence, and conclude that He just doesn’t really care.
“I will trust Him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us. He does nothing in vain.” John Henry Newman
The only shoulders strong enough to carry our burdensome suffering, once carried an old rugged cross to become our substitute for sin...He suffered and died for every one of us. He alone can bear the Unbearable Burden for He already has.
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassion never fails. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him. The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him…” Lamentations 3:22-23
Take a moment to listen to this song by Andrew Peterson entitled The Silence of God