Growing up in church we get a vision of a Christianity that’s sanitized. We see Noah and the animals floating on the water in the Ark and landing on a mountain. We see Moses walking between fake walls of water. We see Jesus saying “let the children come.” And He looks very much like me, this felt-board Jesus. We are given a vision of Christianity that’s clean, but isn’t complete. Maybe not even real, to some extent.
Because we can’t envision Noah, when the flood begins, hearing the screams of the dying outside of the Ark. We can’t imagine the terror of looking to the left and the right, praying that God holds the walls of water and keeps them from collapsing on us. We can’t even see the real Jesus, the one who was whipped and beaten and bloodied as He cried out “It is finished!” while dying to bring glory to God and to save His Bride from her sin. We can’t imagine the tragedy that this God-man suffered to bring redemption to the world, to complete that which began in Genesis 1. So we grow up thinking and believing that God protects His people from all suffering, because these images of a clean gospel soak deep within our souls.
No one tells us that there comes a time when words just stop. When friends suffer the effects of cancer or pastors cheat on their wives or you hear the startling reality of 336 million abortions in China, it seems that words just can’t hold up against this…this darkness. The darkness from which we were protected as a child, and maybe rightly so, but now we find that in this protection we weren’t prepared to deal with the harsh realities of living in a broken, fallen world.
Even when we get older, hearing about the God who allows His children to suffer for discipline’s sake, or for sanctification’s sake, seems so wrong. Even when we look at the pages of Scripture, where Paul and Peter tell us over and over that there will be suffering in the life of the Christian, we can’t believe it because this isn’t the God we knew, the God we believed in. This isn’t the God who protects us. When friends write about bearing burdens unspeakable and when life is just unsatisfying, we find that all we can do is light a candle and all we can pray is “God, help.”
But because of these same Scriptures, we know that this is enough. We can have faith that this is enough. Because the God who says “let the children come” is the same God who stepped out of heaven and walked toward the cross, not considering the shame of that moment even worth comparing to the glory and joy which awaited Him. Because this God is no felt-board Jesus, but is the sovereign King of all creation, and yet He cried when Lazarus died. Because this God walked among a faithless generation and loved them still, and loves us still. Because the Jesus who suffered my death for my sin is the same Jesus who removed Death’s eternal sting, and crushed the lasting power of sin. Because the God who willed Christ’s Bride to be free is her Father now. So we know that nothing comes to us without first being filtered by His sovereign, loving hands. And as hard as it is to wrap our minds around it, He lets nothing come our way that will not produce ultimate joy in us by causing us to glorify Him with our lives.
Our cries, feeble though they may be, are enough because of the God who hears “Lord, help my unbelief” and saves and comforts through the storm. Christ did promise us suffering in this world, both from living in a fallen world and specific persecution for following Him. Yet Peter reminds us to suffer as Christ suffered (1 Peter 4:1), focusing on the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12:2). “God, help” is enough because the God who is listening has promised life with Him to those who are His. It is enough because in our weakness, He is strong. It is enough because the God who promised us suffering in this world also promised the redemption of this world.
There are times when answers would fail to penetrate our hearts, and maybe that’s why He doesn’t give them then. There are times when we mourn with those who mourn because that’s all we know to do, because that’s all we can do. There are times when we hold the broken before the Lord and ask Him to make sense of it all, and for faith when it just doesn’t. And it is enough.