People say you learn a lot about God when you have children. It is true. Lessons are everywhere if you just have your eyes open. One struck me last week I wanted to share. When Jonah is teething he frequently gets high fevers and has twice had febrile seizures. We were monitoring his temperature this weekend and at one point it hit 105! So we did what we hate to do but know is best for him. We got the lukewarm bath ready, got him undressed and placed him in it. If you have ever attempted such a thing you know how miserable it is. They hate it and fight you ever minute of the way. It is agonizing. He does not know it is what is good for him. He just knows it does not feel so good. From his perspective it is terrible.
But as his father I know it is what he needs and there is no safter place for him to be than in my hands. And so I gently but firmly do what has to be done whether he understands it or not. It is for his health and safety. Even though he does not understand it, it is necessary.
I think that is a good picture of the involvement of God in our suffering. People often think God must be the last one to know how bad things have gotten and so we ask him where he is or why he is not doing anything to help. Little do we know he is the first to know and we rest in his hands even though we do not understand what is happening or how he is involved in it all. There is no safer place to be than in the hands of our Father, whether in suffering and pain or in comfort and peace. I think this is reflected very well in Psalm 23.
What lessons have you learned about God from your children or your suffering?
I always try to love others, even in trying times, despondent times, and stressful times.
Matt, I’ve learned that Our Father isn’t causing our suffering, that He hates our suffering just as much as we do, and that He isn’t using our suffering to “teach us a lesson.” He’s defeating our suffering the best possible way – His way, the way of patient sacrificial love.
I agree 100% and that fits perfectly with the story above. I didn’t cause Jonah’s fever but I am there to get him through it. In fact, for the first time in my life I “hate” illness. I never hated illness until I became a father but now I do. But it also gives me hope for something better to come.
I agree with the illustration if we are talking about God letting us fail (which would teach us and mature us) or letting something happen to us that prevent us from a greater danger…though it is hard to say what that would be from a human view point.
However, this illustration (and I have heard it told in a variety of ways) cannot explain all suffering. I know of a married couple who had three different children die…the first died from SIDS death at about 6-months old; the second died after being hit by an authomobile; and hte third who had been sick for sometime died shortly after the second from cancer. It strains the imagination to see the death of multiple children could somehow be for the better good even if that good is presently unknown.
I believe there are just times when there is no response to give for suffering, no rationalization, and no spiritualization other than weeping with those who suffer while longing for the day when will make all things new.
Grace and peace,
Of course there is no perfect illustration and there have been times in my life, as I am sure you have had as well, where there was no rational explanation for why things happened the way they did. I think your last paragraph sums those times up very well.
Remember that there are two different sufferings in mind in the illustration — the suffering from the disease and the suffering caused by the father’s remedy.
The deaths of your friends’ children is awful — that story is enough by itself to drive me to prayer and open theism — but those deaths didn’t come from the father’s remedy – they came from the disease under which creation groans, rebellion and war in the spiritual realm. The Father’s remedy, longsuffering sacrificial love, is responsible for their births, not their deaths, I think.
I agree with you. However, the friends I am speaking of were part of a support group my wife and I ran for parents who had lost children. These friends were both raised in the Roman Catholic Church and as I understand, they were taught to believe that all suffering served our greater good. They were able to accept one child’s death as serving their greater good but three children….
I was only mentioning this because most people do not make the distinction between the suffering that comes from a sick and broken-down world and the suffering that comes from walking into the wilderness in order to prepare oneself for the mission of God.
Grace and peace,