Making Sense of Suffering
Facing a major loss, one faithful man asked, “So is that the end of plan A?” In other words, had the Lord for some reason canceled the main event, the highest blessings? Of course not. Our Father leads us into valleys, but ahead of us are even greater elevations than we have known before. The greatest days are yet to come. With each passing mile, plan A gets closer all the time.
What is man…that thou shouldest set thine heart upon him? And…visit him every morning, and try him every moment?
Job, for one, may have felt God had too many plans for him! Why all this close trying and training all the starting over again? God was not following Job’s plan, he was changing Job into a grand and holy being! He placed Job below the angels and monitored him incessantly. God’s attention to us comes not from too little love for us but from what C. S. Lewis called “the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense.
Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
Before we accomplish plan A, we face ironies—humble preliminaries that seem unrelated to the main event. In the tedious cultivation, in the rambling route of agency, in the time-consuming preparations, even the faithful seldom notice God’s hand moving them toward plan A. Jesus himself had to descend before ascending. Surely we are no greater than he.
He raiseth up the poor…to set them among princes,…to make them inherit the throne of glory.
But later comes the good kind of irony: wondrous reversals. Plan A. the main event, emerges. For example, countless people have gone through a whole mortal existence without basic blessings—health, sanity, happiness, parents, spouse, children—or have lost them along the way. But there awaits, perhaps in the world of spirits, a stunning harvest after all that hoping and hoeing, thanks to the God of perfect reversals.
Thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great.
Timing is everything. God unfolds his deliverance in customized ways that a less comprehending being could never attempt.
Each trial in life is tailored to the individual’s capacities and needs.
We need more, not less, irony in our diets. We need God’s careful planning, his watchful eye, his miraculous tailoring of our trials. Whatever other crying we do, we must cry unto him for all our support. With that support, we will see the puzzle come together and the main event at last unfold. We are each getting closer, even now