As Nanci dealt with suffering and faced her death, I saw greater joy and more profound happiness in her than ever before. She had been happy in Jesus all our marriage, but great suffering is a big test. She didn’t merely pass it, she aced it. Sure, she had tough days where she longed for relief and release. But her light didn’t gradually go out; it shined brighter until the last week or so where it really did fade, and her eyes were looking at another world. A far better one.
In October 2018, Nanci wrote in her journal that she was “above all, eternally thankful for the incredible growth in my heart spiritually. I honestly would not trade this cancer experience to go back to where I was—which wasn’t bad. I believed and experienced God’s hand on my life before cancer. But these last months have been used by God to propel me into a deeper understanding and experience of His sovereignty, wisdom, steadfast love, mercy, grace, faithfulness, immanency, and trustworthiness and omnipotence.”
Nanci’s journals have so much Scripture and so much Charles Spurgeon woven into them, way more than personal details of her battle with cancer. In her own words, she expresses the depth of her trust in the love and sovereignty of God. She is a wonderful example of seeking comfort and perspective in God’s solid truth, just like I talk about in today’s blog, excerpted from 90 Days of God’s Goodness:
I am laid low in the dust;
preserve my life according to your word.
I recounted my ways and you answered me;
teach me your decrees.
Let me understand the teaching of your precepts;
then I will meditate on your wonders.
My soul is weary with sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word.
Keep me from deceitful ways;
be gracious to me through your law.
I have chosen the way of truth;
I have set my heart on your laws.
I hold fast to your statutes, O Lord;
do not let me be put to shame.
I run in the path of your commands,
for you have set my heart free.
Don’t you love the heartfelt honesty of the words God has chosen to include in the Bible? “My soul is weary with sorrow.” It’s the burden of life in a hurting world that causes the writer to turn to Scripture for strength: “Preserve my life according to your word.… Strengthen me according to your word.”
If abuse, rape, desertion, paralysis, debilitating disease, or the loss of a loved one has devastated you, then the issue of evil and suffering isn’t merely theoretical, philosophical, or theological. It’s deeply personal. Logical arguments won’t satisfy you; in fact, they might offend you. You need help with the emotional problem of evil, not merely the logical problem of evil. Like children at times, each of us must snuggle into our Father’s arms, and there receive the comfort we need.
But remember this: you are a whole person. Truth matters. To touch us at the heart level—and to keep touching us over days, months, years, and decades—truth must work its way into our minds.
Never seek comfort by ignoring truth. Comfort in falsehood is false comfort. Jesus said, “The truth will set you free” (John 8:32). When you try to soothe your feelings without bothering to think deeply about ideas, you are asking to be manipulated. Quick-fix feelings won’t sustain you over the long haul. On the other hand, deeply rooted beliefs—specifically a worldview grounded in Scripture—will allow you to persevere and hold on to a faith built on the solid rock of God’s truth.
In writing His magnificent story of redemption, God has revealed truths about Himself, us, the world, goodness, evil, suffering, and Heaven and Hell. (I capitalize those terms as proper nouns because they are actual places, like New England or Saturn.) Those truths God reveals to us teem with life. The blood of man and God flows through them. God speaks with passion, not indifference; He utters fascinating words, not dull ones. To come to grips with the problem of evil and suffering, you must do more than hear heart-wrenching stories about suffering people. You must hear God’s truth to help you interpret those stories.
The Bible reveals Him to be a great God, sovereign and all-powerful, gracious and all-good, kind and all-wise. And He is also our Abba, our Papa. But we do not always feel warmth and security, do we?
Maybe you’re holding on to years of bitterness and depression. You blame someone for your suffering—and that someone may be God. You will not find relief until you gain perspective. That perspective can be found as you meditate on His wonders and ask Him to use the truths of His revealed Word to strengthen you.
Lord, at times my heart is heavy with sorrow. This fallen world isn’t an easy place to live in. You know because you descended from Heaven’s happiness and lived here, laughed here, suffered here, and were crucified here. Thank you for living as you did and dying as you did and rising as you did so I can live forever with you and your people in a world where you will, once and for all, make all things right.