It’s been a draining week at the Michael home. Well, draining few weeks really.
Graham’s busy schedule and mine combine for the perfect storm of exhaustion. Add to that a tough week at work (the unexpected death of a core church member, a staff member’s miscarriage, a different staff member’s spouse’s fall and ensuing brain damage: all coupled with four admins doing the jobs intended for eight!) and not sleeping well and it can get ugly.
I find myself wanting to just burrow in my safe, [sort of] clean house and forget the world. To cling to the health of my husband and family and deny the possibilities of pain beyond the front door.
But here’s the reality. Even when I burrow, pain finds me where I am. In the form of a silly argument with my generally very wonderful husband, a text from a friend struggling, my own inability to sort my emotions or any other manner of moments that intrude. I cannot hide from it. I cannot deny it’s existence or delude myself that if I don’t think about it, it won’t be there.
We live in a world broken by sin. Babies miscarry when parents so anxiously await their arrival. Wonderful husbands of dedicated wives trip on the sidewalk on their way home from lunch with friends and end up in ICU. Godly men die suddenly at their grandkids games leaving a shell shocked church behind to grapple with the loss. Children in Africa, not just on TV, but before my very eyes, go without food, or shelter or protection. We’re broken and we live in a world that is broken.
Oh the glorious “yet”.
Yet we do not despair. I will not despair. I am not prepared to give a well thought out treatise on the problem of pain…though there many who are and have better than I could ever (see here and here). But here’s what I know. Scripture speaks of all creation groaning like a woman in childbirth as we wait. What a vivid descriptor- we’ve all seen the movies (terrifying to a girl who wants kids but isn’t quite sure she wants to go through that!). Romans 8 is a passage that talks of suffering candidly. Being a normal person and not the Greek and Hebrew Scholar/Seminary student extraordinaire that my husband is- I don’t pretend to understand it all. But here’s the part I get. It talks about the suffering of those who have dedicated their lives to Christ (we should be exempt right? not so much!). It says that all creation is groaning and crying out like a lady having a baby while we wait (sounds pretty desperate and painful). And then it says that the Spirit helps us. He intercedes for us when we’re so sad, so stricken with despair that there are no words. He knows our hearts. Then there’s this:
“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who DID NOT SPARE HIS OWN SON, but gave him up for us all- how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? …Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? …No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:31-37ish)
John 16.33 says “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
So to recap. I don’t fully understand the theological implications of suffering in the world. But this is what I do get. That there will be trouble. It will be hard- hard enough to want to groan and scream about at times. And it’s going to get tough. But this is the promise we have. He will never leave us. Nothing (you heard me, nothing) can separate us from him or his love and for that reason we have hope.
AND if that wasn’t enough- he puts us in community. A grief shared is easier to bear. Christianity was never meant to be lived alone, behind closed doors and barred windows. It was meant to be lived together. Exactly for moments like these.
Last night our small group gathered to share a meal and sing and talk and enjoy each other and the Lord. Somehow, my heart is better today. Being together, bearing each other’s burdens. Claiming the hope we have in Christ- reminding each other of his unfailing presence when we forget.
So I’m thankful for you- Michael Small Group of North Wake Church! And thankful for the comfort that comes straight from the Father in the middle of a yuck week.