Following the heartwarming hope of Easter Sunday may come the disturbing doubt of an ordinary Monday. Perhaps you have wondered about suffering and death—maybe wondered if God really cares or has a plan. And perhaps like Mary and Martha in the Bible who lost their brother Lazarus, you have experienced the death of a loved one and been deeply grieved. Grief is a process and it takes time to process our feelings of grief and loss—tempered with the comfort of the Holy Spirit and hope of heaven.
The sudden loss of a loved one or other tragedy leaves us with questions, and we long for answers, for some resolution to the tension and emotional pain that we experience. While we believe our loved one is in a better place and can rejoice that for now his or her struggles of life are over, we have a difficult time imagining how our own world will be a better place without them. In essence, we are struggling with the questions of suffering that all human beings deal with.
Questions of suffering include a quest for details and information. Once we learned the who, the what, the where, the when, and the how surrounding a tragedy, we are left with life’s most persistent question: Why?
Like trying to fit together the pieces of a complicated jigsaw puzzle, our minds try to solve this puzzling question. Why, we ask? To solve a really perplexing puzzle takes time, and it takes time to process our grief and quest for the answer or reasons why. Perhaps a better “why question would be to ask, “Why do we sometimes expect our journey with Christ will only lead us on happy trails filled with warm feelings, good light and road signs every mile or so explaining the conditions ahead?”
Is it possible that the path of suffering might provide moments of mystery where our own faith could grow? Could those dark shadows cause us to cling ever closer to Jesus? Might our faith muscles stretch and develop through the twists and turns of an uphill climb when we don’t know exactly what lies around the next corner? Could the mystery of those moments cause us to speak with a little less certainty about our own ability and instead trust more fully in God’s? And is it possible that we are better for those mysterious moments because we can now encourage fellow travelers to keep climbing, keep pursuing, and keep moving forward because we have felt the hand of the Good Shepherd leading us through the darkness of the valley of the shadow of death?
Inquiring minds need to know, yet there are times when no easy answer comes. Ask Jesus. His plea from the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” was met with silence on earth. However, that was not the end of the story–even at that moment. Although unheard on earth, there was applause in heaven as they were preparing for the return of God’s only begotten Son.
“Christ Jesus, Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11 NIV)
He understands the moments of mystery you face. And you don’t have to face them alone. I’m praying for those of you today who are suffering from a Post-Easter letdown based upon the reality of your present circumstances. Remember that where you are right now may only be a detour for your own provision and protection that you will later look back upon and understand more fully. Keep believing.