For the Mom Who is Suffering
After suffering for a year with debilitating postpartum anxiety and panic attacks, out of my frustration, I asked God, "Why are you punishing me? What have I done wrong?"
Surely I had done something.
Maybe I had been idolizing my kids.
Maybe I had been idolizing my own abilities as a parent, not relying on Him enough.
Somewhere, somehow, I had stepped out of line.
These are the fun things that went through my head.
I think this is often times how people feel when times get hard. When something bad happens, or goes unexpectedly, people may feel like God is punishing them.
While I do think there are natural consequences to sin, the Bible says,
"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:1-2).
There is no condemnation for those of us in Christ Jesus!
So if we aren't being punished when we are going through hard times, what is God up to? Why would the All-Sovereign God, who is in charge of all things, allow us to be afflicted? If God is good and God is love, how could we go through so much pain? If we have learned from the Bible and our own lives the character of God, that He is faithful, compassionate, and kind, how could He allow us to suffer?
My initial answer is God's ways are higher than my ways and His thoughts are higher than my thoughts (Isaiah 55:9). If humans could understand God and all His ways, that would make us as big as God and I'm certainly not wise or strong enough to run the universe. I'm so glad we have a God so big I cannot even fathom Him. There's peace in that. He's up to something greater than we can even understand.
I'm reminded of Job's conversation with God after He lost absolutely everything: his kids, his home, and his health. God says to Job,
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand!" (Job 38:4).
Basically, Job (and the rest of us) are small and our God is big and His ways are greater than our ways and His thoughts higher than our thoughts. So we won't always fully understand.
There are reasons for suffering marked out in the Bible. God helps us to understand much of it in His Word.
Here are a few reasons I believe God allows suffering:
1. Suffering develops character.
"We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us" (Romans 5:3-5).
2. Suffering helps us grow.
"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" (James 1:2-4).
3. Suffering helps us develop empathy and compassion that we can use to comfort others (like God comforts us).
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God" (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
4. Suffering disciplines (meaning trains, not punishes) us.
"My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in" (Proverbs 3:11-12).
5. Suffering prepares us.
"For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison"(2 Corinthians 4:17).
6. Suffering draws us closer to God.
"The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth" (Psalms 145: 18).
Think about it: When are you most likely to call out to God? When everything is going perfectly or when you are struggling?
Often times, when I have everything I need and everything is going my way, I'm apt to think I can handle things in my own strength and don't need God.
On the other hand, when hard times come, I realize I can't do it on my own, and I desperately need him.
And that's good news.
Because when we desperately need Him, we will seek Him. If we don't, we should. And when we seek Him, He will meet us there. And that's a relationship. When we talk to Him and He talks to us, when we spend time with Him and He spends time with us, there is a relationship. And when we spend time with God and enter into His presence, there is fullness of joy. He fills us with His love, hope and peace. In His presence, we are fully blessed.
We could spend our whole life thinking we can do it ourselves. In fact, I think that's one of the biggest lies of this day and age: "You are enough". The fact is, you aren't enough. I'm not enough. None of us are. But Christ is enough. Another lie is "God won't give you anything you can't handle." Actually He will. Because He wants you to know You need Him.
And you aren't going to learn that living life on a mountaintop. You are going to learn it in the valley when you have no one else to turn to. Or you don't have the strength. Or you realize you are not enough.
So is this selfish of God? Isn't God just so full of Himself to make us need Him and worship Him?
It's incredibly kind.
Because you haven't been loved until you've allowed Jesus to love you.
You haven't felt peace until you've felt the peace of Christ.
You may seek happiness, but true Joy is found in Him alone.
You will never be truly satisfied until you have a relationship with Jesus Christ.
In a relationship with God, YOU are the one who is truly blessed.
He does it for your good. Because He really is a loving God. And He wants a relationship with you. In Him is everything we truly need.
Christ Himself suffered greatly here on earth and eventually died a gruesome death on a cross. He suffered so we can have this relationship with Him.
He can empathize with us. He wants a relationship with us. Let us draw close to Him through our suffering. Drawing near to God has always blessed me and I truly believe it will bless you too.
And may we remember on our best days that we need God as desperately as we do on our worst.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted" (Matthew 5:3-4).