Anthony Weber wrote an article about suffering a long time ago that I had difficulty understanding and swallowing. He said (and I believe he was quoting someone else),
“To diminish suffering is to refuse to need God.”
“Suffering is God’s primary way of uprooting our self-reliance.”
“Our prayer is often for God to change our circumstances or feelings. Instead, we should cry out for strength to serve and glorify Him in the presence of suffering.”
“Faith does not demand the removal of suffering; faith desires endurance in the suffering.”
I could not understand or swallow it, not just because I couldn’t figure out why I should listen to him, but also because it went against every instinct I have. I do not want to ask God to give me strength to serve him and glorify him in the presence of suffering. I want him to take it away and the suggestion that I should desire the former seemed absurd.
I did not think I was refusing to need God by seeking to diminish my suffering – after all, is not our basic instinct to protect ourselves? Are we not supposed to avoid pain?
I returned to his blog the next day to read the post but it didn’t make any more sense. I was sitting in church today when I had one of those moments of clarity. God isn’t going to take the pain away. However much it hurts, it builds us and that is what he wishes to do. I can’t manipulate him with my cries and tears and no amount of prayers would change it. Rather than seek to end it, I should find ways to use it to his glory and in his service. I should let him do his work in me and conform him to the image of his son, who also was made perfect through his suffering (Hebrews 2:10). In other words, what Weber said. It was always very clear.
I prayed (or had friends pray) for God’s help learning to deal with pain five days ago. Now, I can cross it off my list.
Weber has another post on suffering titled “When God Weeps”. I haven’t read it yet, but I will and you should too.