Learning to suffer

On an ordinary Tuesday I get in my car to go to the office. I turn the key in the ignition but nothing happens, the battery is empty. I left my car lights on. So I went back and forth to the store to get jumper cables, woke up my roommate to use his car, popped hoods, plugged in jumper cables and the engine started again. As I get back into the car, I feel something rising in my stomach. It’s that feeling you have before you cry. I was just wondering what the reason was. It wasn’t that I got emotional about the miracle that my car was working again. I drive onto the highway and before I know it I start crying uncontrollably, tears streaming down my cheeks and all I could think was: ‘I can’t do this anymore’. As if this small event opened up something that had been going on inside me for months. Where does this suddenly come from? Sore spot After a number of conversations with Loïs, friends and my colleagues, it became clear to me; I can’t manage to be myself. I move along with what I think is expected of me. I say the things I think people want me to say, instead of what I really think and really feel. Still afraid of rejection. I know what God says about me, I know the Bible texts, he does not reject me. I talk about identity so often, but that place still hurts. Quick fix I am now telling you about an event from my life, and as much as I love it when people encourage me with: ‘you can just be yourself’, this does not feel like the core of what is going on. Can I actually deal with suffering myself? And can I deal with the questions that come with that suffering? To be honest the answer is no. I feel like I’m not allowed to fall over or ask the questions I have. What accusations or one-liners do I receive? How can I find a quick fix for what I’m struggling with as quickly as possible? Pity I often see that when someone shares his/her sadness, grief or vulnerabilities with other Christians, we respond spiritually. Without asking what we can do for that person, we start to say a prayer or Bible verse on our own initiative and we can completely ignore the comfort someone needs or the shoulder to lean on. And don’t get me wrong: prayer and God’s word are powerful weapons to use, and are able to comfort! But doesn’t reflecting God’s fatherly heart also look like an embrace or a shoulder to lean on? Maybe we have forgotten about compassion. And then I certainly talk to myself. We still so often try to quell suffering as quickly as possible and run away from it. We try to understand God or to explain to each other why a miracle, healing or God’s intervention is not forthcoming. And shall we be honest with each other about that? We do not know. Paradoxes It is not surprising that we do that, because we are enormously influenced by Greek thinking. In this way of thinking, knowledge, science and logic are extremely important and we want everything to be correct and solutions to be found. It does not fit with Greek thinking that God both heals and does not heal, that He is holy and merciful, wants to make Himself known and is inscrutable, and so on, to name just a few. These paradoxes go against our sense of logic, because we want to understand and understand everything. God also has a mystical side and is described by David as inscrutable. How can we deal with that? Boy on the moon I recently heard an interview on this subject, based on the song ‘Boy On The Moon’ by Benjamin William Hastings. In the interview he sketched a metaphor comparing the wisdom of God to the moon. He said: When I look at the moon from the earth, I see a large white circle. But I know that the moon is a planet and that the moon also has a side that I cannot see, that is the side where the light is not shining now. You could say this is the ‘dark side of the moon’. When we look at God we can see part of him, but not all. God makes himself known and is also inscrutable. But that does not mean that the side of God we cannot yet see is the ‘dark side of the moon’, for there is no trace of darkness in Him! It just means that there is a part of Him that we cannot yet see or understand. God’s wisdom is beyond our understanding. Our faith may look much more like trust, without having to understand. Because we do not have to be afraid of not fully knowing God. And then he said: ‘It’s not the dark side of the moon, but the far side of the moon’. I can learn to rest in not being able to fully understand and explain God. Why? Because He invites me to trust Him. And isn’t that what faith is? Being able to choose to trust in a good God, even though I don’t understand it, even though I don’t feel it and even though it doesn’t always make sense to me. Is God really good? I believe that we can find peace in the reality in which we find ourselves. This isn’t heaven. We are still on earth, awaiting the coming of Jesus. That will be the era when we say goodbye to pain, illness and injustice for good. We keep reaching for the miracles he can do, and sometimes it doesn’t happen. My desire is that we will embrace together that we cannot fully understand God, but we can fully trust God. That His goodness does not always look like our definition of goodness. We can start to trust God in His wisdom. And I think that starts with surrender. Where we are thrown back to the question: do I believe that God is really good? And that means that if we or the people around us are confronted with suffering and we do not understand it, we can ask God that question and then trust that He is good. How wonderful it would be if that were the paradox we could learn to live with. Poem I have written a vulnerable and honest poem about this process in my own life that I would like to share with you. You can find the video at the link below, the poem starts at 11:14. View the poem here

About Thijs Veefkind

Samen met Loïs, woont in Ede, heeft passie voor de kerk en (jonge) leiders

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