There are a lot of words we can use to describe heartache. Despair, discouragement, stress, struggles, difficulties, trials, loss, hurt, and probably a few more before we even get into the actual causes of some of those heartaches. Words like death, divorce, job loss, financial calamity, and acts of nature all bring a tug at our hearts because we all know someone that has experienced one or more of these even if we have been able to avoid them ourselves. The one thing they all have in common is that they all bring some sort of pain into our lives.
Why? Why are we asked to face these things? It goes back to the old question, “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?” Why do innocent people suffer? Why are we given these portions of pain that we must carry?
The simple, old-fashioned, answer is that we live in a fallen world. There is evil in the world that mankind introduced with his first sinful act. (Yes, I said his. Adam failed his wife before she ever took a bite.) Because of that, sin did enter the world and as a result, we are not living in the perfect, hazard free environment of the Garden of Eden. The question I ask after that though is “What is the point of it then?”
I’ve heard a lot of answers to that question over the years, and I don’t want to sound cynical, but it is hard to hear them when you are in the middle of the pain. They sound trite. They sound too easy. They sound insincere when the person has no idea what kind of pain you are dealing with.
A couple days ago, I stumbled across an article on Fox News that linked to an interview of Steven Colbert for GQ magazine. Joel Lovell interviewed Colbert about several different things, but one part of the interview really stood out to me as Colbert talked about the loss of his father and brothers when he was 10 years old. Colbert was the youngest of eleven kids, and after the tragedy, he was the only child left at home with his mother.
Lovell asked Colbert how he could have suffered the losses in his life, but somehow still arrived where he is today, about to take over the microphone for the legend, David Letterman. The thing that struck Lovell was not that Colbert did not exhibit anger or open woundedness, but that he appears to be “genuinely grounded and joyful.” Colbert answered by stating that he did not want people to think this was a pat answer, but it was because of his mom.
Colbert lost his father and two closest brothers in a plane crash when he was just 10 years old. He would go on later in the article to say that it was “a bomb” that went off in his life. In the aftermath he watched his mom cope with the loss, and the thing that hit him the most was that she was not bitter. He said, “by her example I am not bitter. By her example. She was not. Broken, yes. Bitter, no.” He said he thinks that she drew on her faith in those horrible days of grief so that she would not be swallowed by it. He also said that her faith may have been what allowed her “to recognize that our sorrow is inseparable from our joy…what is sorrow in the light of eternity?” What a phenomenal example for a mother to give to her son! To be open and honest with the pain, but also showing that it need not take over your life.
As Colbert continues, he shares that we need to remember that acceptance of a terrible thing is not the same as being defeated by it. We need to be real and accept that a bad thing happened. The “bomb” went off, and it caused a huge explosion, but he said that he learned to love the bomb because of what he learned through it from his mother. He said. “That is why you don’t see me as someone angry and working out my demons on-stage. It’s that I love the thing that I most wish had not happened.”
Tolkien believed that death was not a punishment from God, but that it was a gift. God’s desire to give us a way back to Him makes that true! Colbert echoes that belief today when he asks, “What punishments from God are not gifts?” I believe that he really understands the crux of this through this last quote, “So it would be ungrateful not to take everything with gratitude. It doesn’t mean you want it. I can hold both of those ideas in my head.”
Let’s face it, we all have faced, are facing, or will face something terrible in our lives at some point. It isn’t that God hates us, or that He has given up on us. He has simply allowed it into our lives for the purpose of telling the story of His redemptive work in His most prized creation – us. We go through things so we can help people go through things so they can help people go through things too, and it is all because God is working in hearts and minds for His glory and to help us grow. That’s it.
I’m personally watching some people go through some of these things right now. Some are near the point of coming out of the bad time, others have been in it for awhile now, and one in particular has just entered it. I have also been able to see them all reaching out to each other for help or to give prayer support, and even to thank God for allowing them to suffer a similar situation so they could fully understand the hurt of another! That is the answer to the question “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?” It gives us the opportunity to be the hands of Christ in the life of another.
Relentless people living Relentless lives. People who can see the importance of hurt, not to be a martyr or to gain sympathy, but for the expressed purpose of using it to help another. I can say I have been on both sides of it, and it brings back all the pain when you enter into it with someone else, but I know the power of the love that flows from that person into me when I see that pain in their eyes as they share their hurt not to show me how they have gotten through it, but to show me that I can get through it.
So, the next time a “bomb” drops in your life, remember Steve Colbert’s words, “You gotta love the bomb.” Remember these words too:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28 (ESV)
He has a purpose for each of us. Sometimes it will involve pain. Embrace it. You will never know who God is planning for you to help one day.