Nancy Guthrie lost two of her three children. No wonder she is not easily satisfied with platitudes about God. She has put together Be Still My Soul: Embracing God’s Purpose and Provision in Suffering, a collection of writings from old and new authors designed to help us come to terms with pain as believers.
I plan on dipping into this book myself, as if this extract is anything to go by, it is going to be worthwhile. We should not wait until we face major trauma to tackle what we think about suffering. This seems as good a place to start as any as we understand a fairly typical Christian response to significant suffering:
At first what our heart feels is that we cannot square this with our God as we imagined Him, as we had dreamed Him to be. The God we had, we lose, and then it costs so much bitter conflict of soul, before refined and purified in our knowledge of God, we grasp another, and now the only true God in the place thereof . . .
We fancy ourselves the main object at stake; it is our happiness, our honor, our future and God added in. According to our idea we are the center of things, and God is there to make us happy. The Father is for the sake of the child. And God’s confessed Almightiness is solely and alone to serve our interest. This is an idea of God which is false through and through, which turns the order around and, taken in its real sense, makes self God, and God our servant . . .Cast down by your sorrow and grief, you become suddenly aware that this great God does not measure nor direct the course of things according to your desire; that in His plan there are other motives that operate entirely outside of your preferences. Then you must submit, you must bend . . .
This is the discovery of God’s reality, of His Majesty which utterly overwhelms you, of an Almightiness which absorbs within itself you and everything you call yours. And for the first time you feel what it is to confront the living God. And then begins the new endeavor of the soul, to learn to understand this real God.