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Is God the Author or Publisher of My Suffering?

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What may seem an innocuous question to most, and likely irrelevant to those who do not believe in a sovereign God, was one that plagued me quite early on in my chronic illness.

To me there is no randomness in the universe, but rather a closely guided plan that is the divine will of God. While this faith is complete, and without question in my soul, it created an internal turmoil from many unanswered questions due to my recent pain and illness.

Having accepted that my illness was not just some random fluke of a fallen world, or from a disinterested God, I was forced to acknowledge that God had actually allowed me to go through years of pain, disability, frustration, and even doubt in Him.

In the process of coming to terms with my chronic illness, it became very important for me to know if God was actually afflicting me as a punishment, or allowing the affliction as a form of lesson.

Perhaps this is, as I said earlier, a trivial thing to most, but I doubt that there is anyone suffering from chronic pain and illness who has not asked “Why me?”

I started by trying to figure out what great sin I had committed that would cause God to be angry enough to strike me down with this illness. In hindsight, I admit that this was a futile effort, because there were so many wrongs I had committed in my past.

From my youth to my salvation at age 33, there wasn’t one of God’s commandments that was left standing in my life, and I was further pained to admit that my record as a Christian had not been much better.  If I was to accept the salvation from Jesus Christ as a real event in my life, then I also had to assume that my true repentance for each of these new sins came with the same forgiveness as those that fell before my salvation.

This left me with the struggle of what lesson was I to learn from this illness. Was God honing me with fire? Was he trying to purge my own self-reliance? Was he trying to humble me?

The answer to all of these questions was probably yes. All of these goals were necessary for me to walk the road ahead of me with a body ravaged by a long-term illness. I would also later learn that these lessons were necessary for my sanity, and health. But the questions I still faced were: Would changing these things in me fix what was wrong both spiritually and physically? Could I put forth the effort in changing these things, such that I would please God, and He would, in turn, heal me?

Oh what futile thoughts, and what futile efforts!  After some time, though, with the honing, humbling, and and final admission that I was helpless to do anything to change the circumstances of my life all accomplished, I was left without a direction or purpose to my pain.

I had confessed every sin, I had righted every wrong, changed all that I had perceived needed to be changed. Why was God leaving me in such misery? Why would He not heal me?

on knees praying

Perhaps it is at this point, when I had struggled without result, striven without healing, and prayed without answer, that I came to my lowest point. Driven into a deep depression, and without the hope of answers, or a cure to my physical illness, I surrendered all that I had to God. I told Him to take me from this world. I was no good to anyone, and if God thought He would create a mission in the miserable existence I had, well He was wrong! I could see no use to my suffering, and viewed myself as a hindrance to my family and friends. There was no meaning in this, it was just miserable suffering and pain without end.

On my knees and at my wits’ end, I offered all of this up to God on His altar. This time I did not receive silence, but rather a very simple, powerful sentence. “There now you understand what I want,” and I did.

God did not want me to ask why He had done this to me. He did not want me to confess my miserable life. He did not want me to seek a ministry in my pain. What he wanted me to understand was that each and every minute of my life required the support of God’s powerful hand. I literally could not take a breath, or walk a step without Him.

Since that time, I have not healed. In fact my health has declined, and each new diagnosis brings me closer to my own mortality. I am, however, more able to deal with what each day brings.  I do not struggle against God asking why, but rather work with God asking how.

I look back at that time of darkness in my life with some regret. I spent a lot of time spinning against God’s will by trying to answer questions that were irrelevant. I will continue to struggle against God with my sinful nature. I will also require more lessons in life that will hone my walk as a Christian. But I am determined now more than ever to lean on Him for each answer.

Perhaps what I have gone through is something everyone with chronic illness will have to, but if I can save any of you the frustration of this journey, in these few words, then my time has not been wasted.

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them…yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me”

1 Corinthians 15:10

Signed,

A Simple Christian

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About Keith Brenneis

  • Yvonne

    Dear Keith,
    Thank-you for sharing your journey so far.
    I found your blog while preparing for a bible study on ‘when life hurts’ for a youth camp in Zimbabwe where i am from.

    I would like to share your story with them- i hope that is ok?! It has really impacted me and i am sure it will impact the teenagers who may be wrestling with God and issues right now or in the future.

    I have been wrestling with God since my father died in 2007(I dont know if he was saved) and asking ‘why’ and other questions that i still do not have the answers to but God has given me a peace that i do not understand and is not logical to me cause my questions are still unanswered and will probably never be answered this side of heaven.

    I pray that God gives you the grace that you need from day to day.

    In Him,

    Yvonne

  • steve

    Keith,
    Your experience is very touching. As you are well aware, you are not alone in your suffering. Yes, it does seem unfair. Others that have suffered similarly have become angry with Jehovah because he has not answered them in a manner that they like. They have gone as far to declare that there is no God, or if he does exist, he does not care about us. But I assure that Jehovah is aware of the suffering of mankind and is going to end pain and suffering. He understands better than anyone. I know it may seem strange, but Jehovah has feelings too (Prov. 11:27; Gen 6:5-6; Ps 78:38-41). It pained him very deeply to see his son Jesus brutally murder.

    Though one prays to the Jehovah and even in the right manner, his prayer may not be answered because he must also pray on the right matters. To be answered, prayer must be in harmony with the divine will. All prayer not in harmony with Jehovah’s purposes, as revealed in his Word the Bible, will go unanswered.
    Many of the answers we seek are already answered in God’s word the Bible. For our prayers to be favorably heard, we must not reject the counsel of God’s Word. “Whatever we ask we receive from him,” wrote the apostle John, “because we are observing his commandments and are doing the things that are pleasing in his eyes.” (1 John 3:22) The challenge is to accept what the Bible says. Jehovah wants you to know him in an intimate way. The best way to get started is by reading his word daily with a sincere heart. Many have read the Bible but have not applied the principles to their lives. As a result, they blame Jehovah for the bad consequences of their choices.

    Placing the proper evaluation on communicating with Jehovah will aid your supplication to a righteous course, while at the same time not expecting a spectacular answer to every request. In fact, one may need to exercise much patience when one is under trial or chastisement, in waiting for an answer. One should never underrate the power of prayer, but, rather, should show a “waiting attitude” with confident expectation, as expressed by the prophet Micah, that “my God will hear me.” (Mic. 7:7).

    Truly we are living in the most demanding time of all human history. The pressures of living in Satan’s world are increasing as we get deeper into the time of the end. Remember, like a hunting lion, the Devil waits for us to grow weary and give up so he can take advantage of us as easy prey. How thankful we can be that Jehovah gives to the tired one power (Isaiah 40:29-31).

  • Keith Brenneis

    Yvonne,

    Please forgive me for not responding sooner. I have been going through somewhat of a down time. I greatly appreciate your feedback from my blog.

    It has always been my hope this, and any other writing I do can service some type of inspiration for others experiencing the day-to-day pain, fatigue, and soul wearying journey that comes with chronic illness.

    Yours in Jesus Christ,
    A Simple Christian.