We only have to watch television or spend time on the internet to be bombarded with messages that if only we have the latest gadget, dress in the latest fashion, or stay current with the latest news, we will know happiness and will no longer suffer. If the latest gadgets, fashions, or news don’t alleviate our suffering or bring us happiness, then there are pills and beverages that we can take to bring us happiness and eliminate our suffering. No one wants to suffer but what society, as a whole, fails to accept is that suffering is a part of our lives due to sin entering the world in the garden of Eden.
Megan and Eric are excited to become parents and in chapter 14, we read of their joy and then ensuing heartbreak. At a routine sonogram, they are told that their daughter, Hannah, has a condition which will result in her death at birth if not before. The news rocks them to their core and Megan struggles with the question of “why?” As her pregnancy progresses, Megan is subjected to numerous tests and begins to feel like a lab rat. One night when insomnia grips her, she spends time in prayer and at that moment, she surrenders it all to the Lord. She is still fearful for what is to come but knows in her heart that the Lord is with her and her child. The doctors offer her the option and even encourage her to terminate her pregnancy but Megan cannot take her child’s life. There is still a ray of hope within her that Hannah will survive. When the time comes for Hannah to be born, Megan realizes just how sick her baby was. She held the tiny lifeless body and cried for the life that could have been. Losing their child was not what Megan and Eric expected in their life, but as time went on, Megan begins to feel honored that God would trust her with such a heavy suffering. In her mind, she thought “what have I ever done that would exempt me from the human experience of suffering?” She actually began to feel blessed to have been chosen to usher that sweet baby straight into the arms of Jesus.
I was 34 when I became pregnant with Kyle. Due to my “advanced age” and my history of miscarriages, I was considered a high- risk pregnancy. This meant that I was closely monitored and had regular sonograms. After a routine visit, I received a phone call informing me that there was a concern about the baby’s head and they wanted me to come back in for further examination. However, they could not get me back in until the following Monday which was 5 days away. All kinds of scenarios raced through my mind during those 5 days. I thought back to Wayne’s brother and his wife who had lost their third child due to Anencephaly and I envisioned history repeating itself. I spent a great deal of time in prayer and did a lot of questioning of God. “Why” was a frequent word on my lips.
It came out with the follow up sonogram that Kyle’s head was formed perfectly but was growing a faster rate than the rest of his body. We were relieved to learn that, but there was still the concern regarding the size. I had visions of him looking like Charlie Brown from the Peanuts cartoons. At one of the final visits before he was born, the doctor informed me that the actual size difference was only a centimeter to a centimeter and a half beyond what would be expected. That helped somewhat to put my mind at ease. Kyle was born a few weeks later and all was well… he just bears the family trait of a large head!
My pregnancy ended differently than Megan’s did but those questions of “why” still hung in the air for both of us. To see suffering as a blessing takes a great deal of strength and bravery that I am not sure I could muster if I were in Megan’s shoes.
1. How do you try to make sense of suffering? What have you had to give up to come to a deeper understanding of why God allows painful experiences in the world? What have you gained as you wrestled with the hard questions?
When we were first married, we spent a great deal of time with a dear friend and his wife. They were newlyweds and as such, we had a lot in common. Rick felt called by God to become a Director of Christian Education and they packed up to move from Los Angeles to Nebraska for him to attend college. Along the way, their car and U-Haul trailer were rear-ended by an 18-wheeler truck and Sharon was killed. I had lost my grandparents but this was the first time I had to deal with losing someone my own age. It was devastating to say the least. At the time, Wayne was working as a mechanical assembler and had burned his forearm at work. It was a nasty burn and would most likely leave a scar. When I talked with my dad about Sharon’s death, he used the burn as an analogy for the healing that would eventually come. He told me that my pain was raw and ugly right at the moment but over time would fade and not be so painful…. Just as the burn would heal. There would be a scar as a reminder but the pain would not be there any longer. I have fallen back on those wise words many times since then.
2. What does surrender mean to you in the context of your relationship with God? Does the idea of surrender to God make you feel angry, relieved, confused, empowered, sad, thankful or something else?
The meaning of surrender is “to cease resistance and to submit to authority.” As hard as it may be at times, this is what God wants us to do. Give up our own will and cease striving against what He knows is best for us. I actually feel empowered when I give everything over to God. I trust that He is in control and I can loosen my grip on what I feel I need to hang on to.
3. In Genesis 22, you can read the full story of Abraham’s willingness to surrender his son Isaac to God. What does this story say to you about the nature and character of God? Do you believe God is trustworthy?
The story of Abraham and Isaac is an example of pure and unadulterated trust in God’s character. Abraham loved his son but was willing to sacrifice him because of his love for the Lord. It is said that this story is a foreshadowing of the death of Jesus. John 3:16 tells us that God so loved the world (us) that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. What greater gift can we be given?