Tag Archives: suffering

God Speaks from the Storm

I had to sit down on the step outside my door. I just couldn’t ignore the awesome display of God’s greatness unfolding across the sky. Thunder constantly rolled in the background. Lightning danced from cloud to cloud as mesmerizing as any fireworks display. And the clouds visibly moved across the horizon like rafts floating down a swiftly moving river.


In both good and bad ways, so much in this world can make us feel so small. Senseless shootings. Political unrest. Terrorism. Poverty. It all feels so overwhelming and makes us feel so powerless and out of control. Thunderstorms. Stars. Mountains. The ocean’s tide. Miracles. They all feel so overwhelming and make us feel so powerless and out of control.

You see, it is all about perspective. We can spend time anxious about all of the things that are out of our control. Or we can relax because we are not in control and be grateful we know the One who ultimately is.

Proverbs 19:1-4, 7 says,

The heavens proclaim the glory of God.

    The skies display his craftsmanship.

Day after day they continue to speak;

    night after night they make him known.

They speak without a sound or word;

    their voice is never heard.[a]

Yet their message has gone throughout the earth,

    and their words to all the world.

The instructions of the Lord are perfect,

    reviving the soul.

The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy,

    making wise the simple.

The commandments of the Lord are right,

    bringing joy to the heart.

The commands of the Lord are clear,

    giving insight for living.

In times of doubt, anxiety, fear, confusion, anger, or grief, God’s creation proclaims His glory and reminds us He holds all things together. It is so tempting to wonder why this world is the way it is because so often it just doesn’t seem right. But God isn’t done redeeming yet. When Job questioned God about the suffering he had endured, God reminded Job that he was not there when God created the world and everything in it. For an entire chapter (Job 38), God reminds Job of how great God is and just how small Job is. The chapter starts with, “Who is this that questions me with such ignorant words?” I used to imagine God scolding Job and putting Job in His place. I used to read the first verse as the Biblical version of, “Who do you think you are!?” But I’ve grown to read it differently. Now I see God as a compassionate Father telling a beloved son that the way of the world is not his concern, that it is too big for him to understand, and what he must do instead of question is simply trust. Essentially, God is saying, “Job, I’ve got this. I know what I’m doing.”

Isaiah 55:6-9 says,

“Seek the Lord while you can find him.

    Call on him now while he is near.

Let the wicked change their ways

    and banish the very thought of doing wrong.

Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy on them.

    Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.

    “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.

For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,

    so my ways are higher than your ways

    and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.

No, this world doesn’t always make sense. Yes there is unimaginable suffering happening everyday. People are capable of causing such great harm to one another. And yet, God holds it all together. He is slow to anger. He is patient. He is full of grace. He is not to blame for the evil. He is responsible for redeeming it. And that redemption process in ongoing. In order for our relationship with God to be real and true, He must allow us choice to either love or hate. And even that truth doesn’t answer or satisfy all of our “why” questions.

So as I sat staring at the light show in the sky and took in the power of the rolling thunder, I was reminded that I have an intimate relationship with the Creator of those things. He created the thunder and the lightning. And He created me. And though I don’t understand it, He wants to relate to me intimately and He loves me fiercely. His ways are so much higher than mine, and slowly I’m learning to trust His way and love Him back.

Lessons from Losing Megan

A little over a week ago I learned of the death of a former student. I never expected to lose a student before losing a client. These types of things aren’t supposed to happen. Megan was only 24 and had her whole life ahead of her. Which means she wasn’t supposed to die and especially not in a tragic and unexpected way. Not to someone so full of life and possibility. It’s not supposed to happen to someone so intelligent and driven and talented. Not to someone who so clearly loved Jesus and loved others so intentionally. She was so kind, so humble, so joyful, and so compassionate. Tragedy was supposed to leave her alone. This wasn’t supposed to happen to her. Yet these things do happen, every day. But to someone else right…until it happens to you.


And when it happens, it simply takes your breath away. And you can’t think clearly. Or sleep soundly. And you find yourself weeping uncontrollably at your desk or in the arms of a friend. And the “why” questions begin to flood your mind…Why her? Why did God allow this to happen? Why…?

But great pain brings opportunity for great growth so the appropriate questions are not “why” questions but “what” and “how” questions…what can we learn and how shall we live in light of Megan’s life and death?

You see, answers to the “why” questions always seem to leave us unsatisfied. While the “what” and “how” questions can comfort and help us find a new normal. So what have I learned? I’ve learned how important true friendship is in the wake of tragedy. Friends showed up and sat with me every night last week. Those who lived far away texted  and called and emailed. My neighbor brought my trash cans in from the curb. Friends hugged, and asked, and genuinely cared to listen. They didn’t try to fix. They simply showed up. They didn’t leave it up to me to tell them what I needed. They simply did what they felt called to do. I hope you have people around you like this and if you do not, my prayer is that you will begin to reach out and foster these kinds of relationship. And if you know someone who is grieving, reach out, show up, and just do.

What does tragedy teach us? That though it is awfully easy to blame God or accuse Him of evil (which He is no stranger to – see Job, the prophets, and even Christ on the cross), that in the midst of the pain, He is ultimately our greatest source of comfort. God does not abandon us in the darkest of moments. In fact, that is when God shows up most tangibly. The power of death is destroyed by the immense love of the cross and the greater power of the empty tomb.

How then should we live? At the risk of sounding cliche, like Megan did. We should send birthday texts and hand written notes. We should grab coffee and enjoy slow, deep conversation. We should take genuine interest in the other and treat all with great kindness and respect. We should choose joy, unexplainable joy. We should ask questions, passionately seek answers, and be inquisitive lifelong learners. We should have fun. We should laugh.

How shall we live? Unashamed of our faith but humble and full of grace. One of my favorite comments about Megan came from a graduate school classmate of hers who identified as an atheist. She wrote, “Megan was truly one of the most beautiful and gentle people I have ever been lucky enough to know…Megan lived so gracefully in her strong faith. She was never in your face about it, but was influenced by it in all she said. She was so smart and would bring up very compelling points in classes that challenged my own belief system without ever making me feel shamed or condemned. I told her once that her faith was a beautiful example of what a Christian should be, that her actions made me want to be a better person. She responded with something along the lines of ‘thank you, its always nice to be able to discuss difference of opinion without anger’. She not only believed in her faith, but she lived it, and that is something I will never forget.” I’m afraid this can rarely be said of me, but this is what I aspire to and hope one day it will be true of me as well.

I will never forget Megan. I’ll always remember her challenging questions, fired from the back row after consulting with her buddy Blair. I’ll remember how embarrassed and fake angry she was with me for playing “God Save the Queen” as she walked into class after being crowned Central’s homecoming queen.


I’ll remember watching her counseling skills develop right before my eyes. She was a natural, but she also worked so hard to improve. And of course, I’ll never forget the way she and her group members decorated the observation room to look more like an actual counselor’s office.  I’ll never forget conversations about her future goals and dreams and what she felt was God’s calling on her life. We all took Megan for granted when she was alive. She is not taken for granted in her death and may her death remind us not to take our own lives or others for granted either.


“3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.” 1 Corinthians 1:3-7 NLT


Hurt versus Harm

No one wants to experience pain. And yet, life seems to be full of times of challenge and difficulty that cause discomfort, anxiety, and yes, pain. Everyday people come into my office because the pain they are experiencing has become more than they feel they can bear. Pain comes in so many different shapes, sizes, and forms. And most of us will do about anything possible to avoid pain. And indeed, there are some pains that must be avoided at all cost. Touching a hot stove is something I only need to do once! This kind of pain is harmful. It warns of danger, but it does nothing beyond that.


However, there is some pain that cannot be avoided so easily and serves a purpose beyond just warning. In fact, there is pain that is actually good for us. For example, sore muscles after lifting weights, burning lungs after a good run, or the discomfort experienced when rehabbing an injury. These situations hurt, but they are good for us. The short term pain results in long term gain. One of my favorite examples of this is concept is the dentist. Eating sugary foods, forgetting to brush, and skipping the floss might feel good for a while but results in cavities causing harm in the long run. Going to the dentist, on the other hand, often hurts, but it is goof for us by keeping our teeth healthy. Sometimes avoiding short term pain, like not going to the dentist, actually causes long term harm.

I avoided the dentist for 5 years. When a rotten tooth finally demanded I go to the dentist, I ended up needing six cavities filled and a tooth implant which required surgery. My dentist and I got to know each other very well! Since that time I’ve kept my regular appointments and have only needed one procedure in the last five years. Now I try to see my dentist at church more than at his office! Here’s the point: hurt is temporary, harm is permanent. Temporary hurt to achieve or maintain health is well worth it to avoid the long term harm. This is true of dentists, of exercise, of health in general. And it is certainly true of emotions as well.

Denial, blame shifting, stuffing, and other ways to avoid acknowledging and dealing with the emotional pain in our lives feels better than facing it head on, but it all too often causes much more harm in the long run. Dealing with emotional pain definitely hurts, but it is the only way to achieve emotional health. One of the truths that I hope and pray all of my clients are able to cling to in the midst of their deepest and darkest times is that the pain will not last forever and that emotional pain is not fatal not matter how overwhelming it may feel. Healing hurts. It just does. Whether it is the pain of working out to lose weight, the pain of a teeth cleaning, recovering after surgery, or facing an emotional wound.

So when life’s emotional wounds seem to big to bear, remember Paul’s words to the Corinthians. Paul, a man who endured more pain and suffering than most. He was whipped 5 times, beaten three times and stoned once. He was shipwrecked three times, run out of cities, homeless, without food, thrown in jail, and even rejected by his own people. Not to mention the “thorn” he prayed God would take from him that never was removed. Paul knew pain! And yet Paul writes these words, “We are hard pressed on every side but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed…Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:8, 16-18)

2 corinthians

Temporary hurt in exchange for long term health is a great trade! Momentary troubles that give us eternal glory are well worth it! Yes, we need to avoid the things that harm us, but so often we fail to recognize that hurt is not harm and that harm is actually the result of avoiding hurt. Face the hurt. Deal directly with the pain. It is temporary, it will not overwhelm, and you will come out on the other side better for it.