Yesterday, my grandmother passed away.
Like I said on Thanksgiving, I thought this would be a good time to talk about suffering. So let’s talk.
Today, I’ve eaten pie, shopped, went to a favorite restaurant, cried over some chocolate cake that someone gave me as an early birthday present, watched some of the Gilmore Girls reboot and teared up because I felt myself relating to Lorelai and Emily a little too much as they grieved over the loss of Richard, slept, cried again, ate again, listened to some worship music, and started writing a blog.
So there was a lot of crying, eating, retail therapy, worshiping, and napping today. These are things I do when I’m sad, I guess. Yeah, I know I said I’m rejoicing in suffering. And I am. I know my grandmother is in heaven because she was a born-again Christian, and that brings me joy, and I know what great things come about through tribulations. I’ve never heard of a Scripture thought that says “don’t ever be sad and don’t cry ever”, and heck, Jesus cried, so I think I’m justified.
Even so, how does one find comfort in the hard times? We’ve all heard someone say, “It’s okay. God has a plan.” When you can’t see the plan from where you’re standing, I think it’s a lot harder to find comfort in that thought, even if it is true.
Through street evangelism and various conversations I’ve had about pain, evil, and suffering, I’ve noticed that people tend to approach things from two ways. The logical side of “how Christians can believe God is loving if there is evil” and the more emotional side where “I’ve been through something, and I don’t get why it’s happening to me.”
Since my grandmother just passed and since I know holidays are hard times for a lot of people who have lost loved ones, I want to address to the hearts in this blog.
First of all, if you’re going through something this year that’s difficult for you, whether it’s the loss of a loved one or otherwise, my heart goes out to you and my prayers are with you.
Secondly, I want to introduce you to a passage that has comforted me, Romans 8:22-28:
“For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
My mentor helped me to understand this verse. He explained it to me by using that “Footprints in the Sand” poem. You’ve probably heard it or seen it. The guy is walking on the beach with God and he sees the footprints in the sand and there’s two sets where God is walking with him, and then there’s only one set. So the guy asks God where He was during those hard times when there was only one set of footprints, and God tells the guy that that’s when He was carrying the guy.
That’s a beautiful poem. I love it. But it’s even better than that. It’s not just that God is walking alongside us and he could stay or go whenever. When we become Christians, the Holy Spirit enters our hearts. He dwells in our hearts. Romans 8 tells us that God uses all things to work together for good, but it’s not just that either. We groan and want things to be better and have hope, and God isn’t just a bystander, seeing us go through something, patting us on the back and saying “there, there.” He is going through every bit of it with us because He is in us. When we don’t know how to pray, the Spirit is groaning and interceding for us. He intercedes according to God’s perfect, wonderful will. We are never alone, and we are never without help. Our prayers do not go unheard. The Spirit Himself is interceding and feeling the reason for our prayers. He searches our hearts and minds. Knowing that God really gets it and intercedes for me, even though I’m a messy sinner, is one of the most comforting things in the world.
If you aren’t a Christian, please read this and consider this. When you ask God to come into your heart (and all you have to do is repent and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead), God will never, ever leave you. Really. All you have to do is ask.