There’s a varied arsenal of Bible truths that I reach for on harder days. Each one of them has their place in doing battle on despairing thoughts and on the suffering in the lives of those we know and love.
Today feels like one of those days. Sad news from friends we love and their losses and, here, another UTI after the last one had just cleared up (and I’d been doing all the things I’m meant to do including drinking cranberry juice by the litre!). Not a big thing in one sense, but in the category of ‘one thing too many’
The range of truths I reach for on these days includes: ‘God provides one day at a time’; ‘it’s okay to grieve’; ‘the Psalms encourage honesty with God’; ‘it’s okay to rest; you’re not indispensible’; ‘God took His own medicine and knows what suffering is like’; ‘God is present even when He seems most absent’
Sometimes the truth I reach for is ‘eternity puts suffering in perspective‘.
So, I’m offering the extract below from Philip Yancey not as the one knock-down thing we need to hear in suffering, as if ‘well, eternity will make things alright’ is the only thing we say to ourselves and others when another of God’s waves breaks over us. It’s not the only thing we need to hear or say. Certainly it’s not the only thing God says to us in the Bible. But it is one of the things. And a really important one.
I think Yancey puts it well:
“Who would complain if God allowed one hour of suffering in an entire lifetime of comfort? …[our] lifetime is a mere hour of eternity.
In the Christian scheme of things, this world and the time spent here are not all there is…remember: less than one-millionth of the evidence has been presented, and that is being worked out under a rebel flag. God is not deaf. God is as grieved by the world’s trauma as you are. His only son died here. But God has promised to set things right.
Let history finish. Let the orchestra scratch out its last mournful warm-up note of discord before it bursts into the symphony.
As Paul said, “In my opinion whatever we may have to go through now is less than nothing compared with the magnificent future God has planned for us. The whole creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sight of the sons of God coming into their own…(Rom 8:18, Phillips Translation)
(Yancey, The Gift of Pain, in ‘Be Still, My Soul’, p.29)
I find that line about one-millionth of the evidence striking. Our perspective on God is limited and based entirely on a tiny fraction of time lived in a fallen world. Like a beached whale basing its understanding of its existence entirely on the dry shores on which it is trapped rather than on the freedom of the Pacific ocean to which it may still return. We can’t imagine a sinless suffering-free world, but one day we’ll be able to judge things from there. Don’t mishear that: the Bible never diminishes our real suffering. But God does want to give us reasons for hope.
As Yancey says, ‘Let history finish’.
That helps for today.