We have a choice to make. When face-to-face with suffering, we have to choose where to begin.
We can either start with the chaos, like this horrific Colorado shooting. We can hold it in our hands and examine every evil angle. Then through the ache that inevitably comes, we can define God as unfair, unjust, unpowerful, and unloving. We can look through the lens of circumstance and determine who we think God must be in light of the evil around us. We can. It’s our choice.
But there’s a high price to pay with that route. The price is fear. If we choose to begin with the suffering, we will find ourselves standing on very shaky ground. We will feel exposed and open to the evil schemes of this world.
That kind of fear steals all peace and debilitates any hope. It makes us want to hide ourselves in a closet with our loved ones. It squelches dreams and hinders forward-movement. And to be honest, that route angers me — to think that such evil suffering could not only harm us in an instance, but could keep on killing our soul-peace with fear.
And that’s exactly where the enemy wants us. He loves to paralyze us with fear. (John 10:10)
But there is another choice — another route. And we can choose it.
Instead of beginning with suffering, we can begin with God. We can remember this One who reigns — the One who reveals Himself throughout time and in the pages of His Word. (Isaiah 40:12-14) And after we lift Him high in our hearts — believing “My God is good! He heals the brokenhearted! He restores the runaway! He pursues in love!” – our perspective changes.
When I begin with Him I remember that this is not my ultimate home. It’s too broken. Our short stay in this fallen world is a time of testing that proves who will choose to believe God, and who will not. And those who choose Jesus will one day move on to an eternal home. (John 14:1-6)
When I begin with Him I remember that as His child I am not at the mercy of evil. When we say “yes” to God — giving Him our lives to do with what He wills — He promises to never leave or forsake us. That doesn’t mean suffering won’t come. Suffering will come. But we will only go through the suffering that, in His infinite wisdom and eternal understanding, He deems “necessary” for His greatest glory and our greatest good. (1 Peter 1:6-7)
When I begin with Him I remember that He gives people over to their evil desires. He says so in Romans 1:18-32. When a person turns his heart away in rebellion to God, He allows them to run far and wide. He allows them to follow their twisted, heartless, depraved desires while He faithfully protects those who trust Him. (Psalm 139:5)
When I begin with Him I remember that forgiveness frees me. When we harbor bitterness in our soul, we cheat ourselves of life. We harm ourselves rather than the accused. For the sake of our souls, and in response to God’s great forgiveness, let’s choose to release others from our personal judgment. (Matthew 6:14-15)
Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
1 Peter 4:19
Suffering will come. Sadly, until Jesus comes again, more shootings will send shock waves across the nation. We will weep bitter tears. But if we choose to begin with God, hope can rise from the ashes. Hope can rise up from these ashes.
Fill me, Lord…
How is your spirit today in light of all the suffering?
How does beginning with God change your perspective?
To my friends memorizing the Sermon on the Mount with me, I hope you had a productive breather week. Now we press on.
19 Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.