Over the past 20 years, our path has repeatedly crisscrossed with that of a particular family—one that’s had an overdose of suffering, or so it seems.
This family has five grown kids. One—a son—lives in heaven now. A car accident claimed his life. Another son—the father of two preschoolers—just underwent his third cancer surgery and awaits results. The only daughter is battling a rare brain cancer.
My humanity protests. Seriously, God? How much can one family bear? Enough is enough already. I’d love to wrap them in a protective bubble to prevent hardships from touching them anymore. And then the folly of my perspective comes to light in the light of His Word:
“From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that he had to go to Jerusalem, and he told them what would happen to him there. He would suffer at the hands of the leaders and the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, and he would be raised on the third day. But Peter took him aside and corrected him. ‘Heaven forbid, Lord,’ he said. ‘This will never happen to you!’ Jesus turned to Peter and said, ‘Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, and not from God’s’” (Matthew 16:21-23 NLT).
Seriously, Jesus? Wasn’t Peter merely trying to protect You from suffering? Wasn’t his desire to spare You from pain? Your response then—calling him ‘Satan,’ labeling him a dangerous trap, and telling him to get away from You—seems a bit harsh, don’t You think?
We met this family unexpectedly again on the weekend. They updated us on the latest, but they uttered nary a word of self-pity or complaint or anger toward God. Instead, the father spoke of experiencing the Lord’s faithfulness in their pain.
“Our kids all love Jesus,” he said. “And we’ve learned to pull together through the hard stuff. I don’t know whether or not this would be true had we not walked through suffering as we have.” He spoke about Job and how he asked, “Why?” to no avail.
“God didn’t answer Job’s question,” he said. “Instead, He presented him with 137 reasons for why He was worthy of worship and trust. Like Job, I’ve come to a much greater understanding of who God is through our circumstances, and I know I can trust Him.”
Our human and temporal perspective, like Peter’s, seeks to avoid pain. We enjoy ease, comfort, and security. I mean, who says, “Suffering? Yeah! Bring it on!” But God, who sees things from an eternal perspective knows that suffering leads to a glory beyond our comprehension.
Where would we be if Peter had had his way? Where would we be if Jesus had not walked the road of suffering? Mankind would be eternally lost—doomed to doing life and death and eternity apart from God. And Satan would have whooped a song of victory.
This family would never have chosen the road God has called them to travel. But they’ve adopted His perspective, and, as a result, hundreds (or more) have watched them experience His faithfulness, strength, and mercy in the shadowlands.
May God grant us spiritual eyes to see suffering through His eyes and to respond in a way that both draws us into deeper intimacy with Him and brings Him glory.