by Rev. Richard DeFord,
Chaplain at Fitzgibbon Hospital, Associate Pastor of Katy Park Baptist Church
You don’t have to look very far to see suffering, grief and anxiety about the events around us. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that a) not all the things we have held dear for so long really matter and b) we take a lot of people and things for granted in our lives.
Our high school seniors don’t get to walk when they planned to. Our medical personnel are stretched personally and professionally. Our budgets have taken a hit, not only for our household but for those companies that employ us. Truly it is a challenging time for us all.
When I face these times, I try to reflect on what other people would have felt as they experienced difficult times in the past. I certainly remember 9-11 as if it was yesterday, but what about other deeply troubling times that I was not around to remember. What was it like to send your sons off to war in Vietnam, only to hear of the devastation and loss of life? What was it like to have to ration your food so it could be sent to the troops during World War I and II? Or to have to leave everything as a housewife to work on aircraft?
What was it like to experience the harsh winters in New England not long after arriving at Plymouth Rock? Or to be plunged into a nation of death and turmoil as neighbors fought neighbors during the Civil War?
These are times that were so difficult, kids learn about them from our text books today. Or we sit glued to the History Channel as we watch the documentaries. What will we say to our grandchildren someday about this pandemic? Where was God in all of this?
Suffering is not a new concept. Ever since Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s instruction in the garden, suffering has been a part of the human condition. And in these times when our churches are unable to hold face-to-face services, many may be reading this article and wonder, “What does God have to say about all of this today?”
When his friend, Lazarus died, Jesus waited to go when he was summoned to provide healing. It was not that he did not love Lazarus. It was not that he did not want to provide healing. But he says something very curious to his disciples in John 11:14-15. He say, “Lazarus is dead, and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him.”
I find this to be a very curious statement. Lazarus died and he knew he was going to provide a miracle that would reinforce the belief of his work in this disciples’ minds and hearts. What is God waiting to do in your life so that, when it is accomplished, you will have the opportunity to have your faith deepened?
There is something else that I find curious about the times we find ourselves in. I have been through some measure of suffering in my life. From serious health concerns to broken relationships and financial worry.
I have lost people near and dear to me through sudden death as well as prolonged illnesses. And in all of those times, while I questioned God, I feel that my faith grew in those times of testing. But what really amazes me is that individuals who suffer far worse times than I often emerge with a far greater faith than I have ever experienced for myself. Those who have endured war or famine, or the murder or suicide of a child, or the final journey of loss from cancer; many have such a deep, abiding faith that I cannot help by be inspired, challenged and encouraged.
What difficult time are you in as you read this article? What shadow are you sitting under? Know this, the God who spared not his son and watched as he poured out his life on the cross wants to have a relationship with you.
He calls his Holy Spirit the Comforter for a reason. And he tells us to bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill Christ’s law. May your faith be deepened and your character stretched in this time of testing, and may you emerge with a deeper love of Christ and who he is during this time.