How Can God Be Loving and Life So Painful? (#497)

sufferingHow can I trust God's love for me when he does nothing about the tragic circumstances that confront me? Why does God seem to treat me worse than I would treat our own children or friend? Pain and suffering are a constant challenge for those schooled in the idea that if you follow God's ways he will always heal your diseases, keep you from tragedy, or ensure your life is painless and comfortable. It's a common misunderstanding and keeps many from the joy and comfort of resting in Father's love precisely in those times we need it most, when life throws it's greatest challenge at us. If we can't figure out how to separate God's love for us from the brokenness of a fallen world, we will miss the greatest resource we have to deal with our pain.

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  1. Hi Wayne,

    The point you made about a parent not wanting to cause or plan harm for their kids really made sense. As a single mom, my thoughts toward my son and daughter are always for good. I want to see them flourish in life and live life to the fullest. I don’t want to see them hurt or be in pain. But when they do experience pain my heart is always to encourage them to not lose hope that they are loved and that I am there for them. My hope is that the hard things they experience will help their hearts to be tender and loving towards others. I know that Jesus in His grace can cause all of the hard painful things to do just that.
    Its strange then that I find that in my own heart I have had the mindset that the Lord has allowed painful things for His purposes. I think there is some sort of weird control or comfort in thinking “Okay, I just need to some how figure out what it is that the Lord wants to teach me through this”, instead of just living life with Him through it and receiving His comfort and love in the midst of hard things.

    We came out of the IC 2 years and 8 months ago and it has been quite a journey and we are just babies in this place. My hearts cry has been that I could really settle into the Father’s love. To rest and take comfort in His constant presence. I happened upon The God Journey a few months ago and I think I’m starting to understand more what it means to know that I’m completely loved and He will never let me go. The struggle I have is being patient with myself and not comparing myself to others and realizing my walk with Jesus is unique. You have encouraged my heart. God Bless you!

  2. Although everything falls to pieces and nothing seems to work out, the economy is quickly falling and there is no money in the bank and there is no prospect of work… I am not even able to work; Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. Hab 3:17, 18 Mangled Version 🙂

    I can relate to a lot of what Wayne said here. I have been through a terrible season of finding fault with myself for not being able to work due to neurological/pain/anemia/health problems for the past 14+ years. I must be doing something wrong! Why else is God not healing me? Fortunately I did not spend all that time in that mindspace, but probably the last year.

    Be careful who you listen to. In this age of sub-cellular chemicals & toxins there are so many illnesses that do not have a diagnosis and do not SHOW on the outside of the body. After 20+ doctors telling me it was all in my head, I was depressed, I was just lazy, etc. I wept openly when I did receive a name for my problems. Just to have a handle to hang all the stuff on was a relief. I used to hate to say this, now it makes sense to me, but it was usually the “church” people that offered no compassion or understanding! I gravitated to those outside the church to avoid the shame and condemnation, and felt guilty for doing so. Now, not so much.

    God does use the effects of sin for our good, but He does NOT cause evil to come upon any one of us. He IS a lover of His children – He causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. What a relief to my soul!

  3. When I hear the statement that God allowed it, there is no relational language in that. What sings to my heart is this; Papa is with us in the midst of our pain and struggles, tenderly holding us in His lap. That He feels our pain keenly and fully understands how much it hurts.

    Our relationship with Papa doesn’t make our life pain free, though we are never alone in those pits of despair, in the midst of darkness we find Papa there. He sits with us, in it all, listening, caring, understanding and empathizing. He is safe to feel all that we feel, the stormy emotions and the sunny ones.

    In the Psalms David shows a clear picture of pouring forth his heart, raw, honest, and vulnerable. I believe Papa longs for us to feel that safety to be that honest with Him. That if we feel angry towards Him, that we express that to Him. Blaming Him for our pain and saying how much we hate Him. Papa can handle it all, He sees us through eyes of such affection and compassion. He embraces us in the midst of our stormy emotions and by Him listening with such empathy, the emotions flow and is no longer stuck.

    Here is a part of an article, where Annette is being interviewed, it’s awesome stuff. ? I wish I could have met her when she was alive.

    You have said in your seminars, “Just because you’re miserable doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy life.” What do you mean by that?

    ANNETTE GOODHEART: We may have relatively little control over the events in our lives, but I think we really do have a choice about how we respond to them. If there’s something missing we’re miserable about we can still inject joy into it. We all have that power. We’re not hopeless victims of our feelings. We can be serious about our problems or enjoy them. If we’re going to have a problem, mightn’t we just as well enjoy it ? Anyone can do it. I work with a lot of cancer patients, helping them to enjoy the process of having cancer.

    How can you actually enjoy cancer?

    ANNETTE GOODHEART: What are the options? A person has cancer. I’m not suggesting that the person should laugh at himself because he has cancer. The laughter that’s healing has to do with releasing the tension which is set up by how we relate to what happens to us. In other words if a person drags around feeling depressed, all that tension and feeling about having cancer becomes part of the sickness, increasing the severity of the problem, not being part of the solution.

    Can you give me an example?

    ANNETTE GOODHEART: A woman came to me at a workshop and said, after some crying, that she’d like to be able to laugh about her ovarian cancer. I suggested that she say ‘I have ovarian cancer, tee hee.’ The ‘tee hee’ was up in her head and it didn’t make her laugh. So then I suggested that we move down her body’s energy centers. We started with “I have ovarian cancer, heh, heh.’ That came from her throat and it, too, brought no response. She continued: ‘I have ovarian cancer, ha, ha.’ Nothing. We finally reached the actual area of her ovaries. “I have ovarian cancer, ho, ho.’ With that she’d hit the tension area around her ovaries. The idea, the whole thing, was so playfully painful that it triggered her laughter. Soon she was laughing spontaneously and feeling much better, specifically about her cancer. Charlie Chaplin believed that the formula for laughter was to take pain and play with it. This is the method I use to help people laugh about the unlaughable.

    • Thank you for sharing about Annette Goodheart, Hannah, what a beautiful way to release the stress and tension of suffering without removing the cause because sometimes we cannot remove the cause. It is all about how we journey through the pain in life, is it not? You made me smile and for that I am grateful.

      • Hi, Michelle

        Your very welcome. 🙂 Yes, it is a beautiful way to release stress and tension, I wish I could use laughter more, I tend to lean to tears as a release. Though even that took awhile to get my tears back, thank Papa I can cry more easily now. 🙂 Yes, I love that about the cathartic processes, it doesn’t change events or circumstances, though it does help give us a new perspective and aids us in thriving in the midst of hardship. Adaptation is such a emotional process.

  4. Hi Wayne. Thanks again for the podcasts, I admit I do look forward to seeing if there is a new podcast and the subjects that you are discussing. My heart missed a beat when I saw ‘How can God be Loving and Life So Painful?’
    I previously expressed my thanks for your introducing me to the writings of Emil Brunner and I do appreciate the challenges for many Christians on some of his teaching, however, I have just been reading his chapter ( Dogmatics vol 2 chapter 6) ‘Of Providence, Preservation, and God’s Government of the world.’ It is difficult keeping quotes short, this one may whet your appetite to read more (c.f. –
    Page 181 If there ever were an event in which evil, innocent suffering, malice and human pain reaches its climax, it is in the Cross of Christ. From the human point of view, from that of freedom, it is the maximum of that freedom which men have sinfully abused, which is fighting against God, and to which God Himself is opposed. At the same time, the Cross is God’s sovereign act of redemption. Judas, Caiaphas and Pilate are the enemies of Christ and God is therefore their enemy. At the same time they are instruments of God, through which, more than in any other event, He reveals His righteousness and His love. Thus, here, at the Cross, it becomes evident that evil is that which God does not will and does not do, and at the same time, that God has such power over this evil, which He does not will, that He is able to make it an instrument of His saving work. At this point we perceive the unity of the mercy, the righteousness and the omnipotence and omniscience of God. At this point it is granted to us to have a glimpse into the mystery of the divine government of the world; the impenetrable darkness which otherwise lies upon it, is lifted like a curtain before our eyes. As soon as we look away from the Cross and try to explain world history ourselves in theological terms, the curtain falls once more, and we are left gazing into impenetrable darkness.

    Emil Brunner has many more observations but I found this so helpful and was reminded that there is nothing that the Father in the humanity of Christ Jesus has not experienced and He understands how we, in our limitation of understanding, find our lives confusing at some stages. Like Paul, I need to be reminded repeatedly that God’s grace is sufficient and weakness is not a limitation to Father. I probably need some help in the ‘boasting’ instead of my tendency towards a ‘pity party’

    Greeting from the family at Newport Wales

    David Kemp

    • Dear David,

      I know I’m a bit late into this conversation, but wanted to comment on your post, specifically the quote from Emil Brunner. My reaction is one of “Wow” along with the tears that run down my face.

      “Thus, here, at the Cross, it becomes evident that evil is that which God does not will and does not do, and at the same time, that God has such power over this evil, which He does not will, that He is able to make it an instrument of His saving work. At this point we perceive the unity of the mercy, the righteousness and the omnipotence and omniscience of God”

      Throughout the years of suffering I’ve endured I’ve always held close to the belief that God is sovereign. I have read the many debates that take place when the topic of suffering and His sovereignty come up and it can be exhausting to follow especially when one is seeking answers. In my own words I believe Mr. Brunner is basically saying that although evil exists its not a will of God nor His doing, but He does have power over it and He uses that power to make evil become an instrument of His saving work. Basically, He’s sovereign and has ultimate control over outcomes and can use evil to bring glory to Himself.

      Many people want to remove God from the equation of sufferings because they believe He’s good and no bad can come from Him. But, is He ultimately good or ultimately sovereign? He is both. What I understand is that pain and trials are a part of this earthly life. We live in a fallen world. This earth is satan’s domain and let’s not forget we are all sinners. God gives us free will and therefore life happens. God can make good of anything. In His endless mercy and love for us He can use evil for good. He does this in the life of Joseph as well as others.

      Do I think God is sitting up in heaven picking and choosing who gets zapped with a “pain and suffering” arrow? No, absolutely not. Do I believe that He has no control over what happens to us here on earth and sits by helplessly waiting to see the outcome of our actions or the devil’s plans? No, never. He loves me with an everlasting love and wants to bless me and shower me with goodness and mercy. But trials come, pain enters into our lives and people suffer. Is He still in control? Yes, and He can use these times as an instrument of His saving work as Mr.Brunner states.

      Thank you for sharing this statement from Emil Brunner. I will add it my growing list of validations that “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good”. Genesis 50:20

  5. Hi Wayne,
    Have been listening to your podcasts for sometime and really look forward to hearing them. I, too have been on a long painful journey within organized religion and am now enjoying the freedom of relating to Father and family outside of it. However, I do enjoy listening to those within who have helpful insights into the ways of God. I heard T.D Jakes (one of charisma’s forty) speak recently on living in the middle, where you don’t understand what is going on, where there is confusion and pain, but where you experience the presence of God. He used the illustration of the ark with the two cherubim and the mercy seat between where the glory of God manifest. I think this is true in terms of the pain we experience. On one side, there is the sovereignty of God and on the other side, human responsibility, brokenness etc. I have not a clue how they come together, but do know that in between, God has made Himself known in His affection and faithfulness.
    Wayne, I do sometimes feel that you consider the only path to transformation as the path you are journeying, or even that it is the best path to take. Maybe this is unavoidable as the weakness that we perceive in others is often our own.

  6. Hi Richard, may I preface this by saying that I appreciate your thoughts on “living in the middle” and feeling the confusion of both sides (God’s sovereignty and human brokenness). I empathize b/c I often experience the same. I’ve come to see that walking us out of this or untwisting things (Wayne’s phrases) takes SO much more time than I ever would have expected. God’s patience and love means He sees things with such a wider perspective and as we turn towards Him our focus becomes a little larger, we see more of the wider picture. I am finding that re-turning and turning again to Him seems to be something He loves. When I find myself feeling impatient with that process…and truthfully… resisting the humility that living this out means, I can turn to Him with that also. Hope that this brings encouragement…please “eat the meat and spit out the bones” if my words are not helpful. blessings, Sue

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