Pain, suffering, death….none of it makes sense. It doesn’t seem fair, and it isn’t. But facts aren’t always fair. The fact is we live in a world that is ransacked with pain, suffering, and death. Why? Because of sin. When sin entered the world, it held the door open to pain, sorrow, death, and despair. But that isn’t the end of the story.
Andy Stanley pastor of Northpoint Church in Atlanta, Georgia observes, “The brutal fact of Christianity is this: we have a future hope tethered to the brutal fact that sin and suffering goes beyond a personal impact; it’s a global impact that goes beyond our control…If you divorce the hope you have in Christ from the brutal fact, you run the risk of losing your faith.” None of us likes being out of control, and when we feel out of control, our faith sometimes falters. We like the fairness scale: a one to one correlation. For example, If I do good, then I should receive good. If we focus on this misconception, then the risk of losing our faith ensues. We need to recognize that pain, suffering, and despair does not work on that model of a one to one correlation. Covid-19 is a prime example. Cancer is a prime example. Death is a prime example.
When I work with people struggling with the concept of weighing two truths such as the “brutal fact” with the hope of Christ, I use the metaphor/visual of the balance of scales. The fact is sickness can happen, death can happen, pain can happen. Each of those truths can be added to the brutal fact side like a pebble. But the other truth is hope can happen too, which can be like a pebble added each time it occurs. Each time you think on the truth you are focused on, you add “weight” to that side of the scale. Therefore, although we may not have control over much, we do have control over keeping balance or even allowing the weight of hope to tip the scales a bit. What do we do to balance or allow for hope?
One of my tween clients had a fabulous analogy provided with a cute country accent: “When we think about all the negative stuff and keep thinking on it, it’s like toilet paper on the bottom of our shoe. And nobody wants to walk around like that!” SO TRUE! The way we get rid of the “toilet paper” (the focus on just brutal facts), and find balance is to trust in Jesus, the one who took on the global consequence of sin. Hebrews 4:19,22-24 reminds us, “For in this hope [ultimate hope of Jesus, not that suffering won’t happen], we are saved.” We live in this messy middle by putting our confidence in the Heavenly Father who offers grace [to endure] through his righteousness [security in our relationship with him] (Romans 5:17).
C.S. Lewis summed up this battle of balance well, “If I find myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” We must never lose faith in the end of the story: our present suffering is nothing compared to our ultimate hope! As Stanley states, “Sin will have its way today, but not forever.” We have the ultimate hope, certainty, that one day there will be no more suffering, no more pain because of the One who took on the ultimate consequence (death) for us!
If you are struggling with finding balance of the truths in your life with hope, if you are having difficulty embracing hope, mercy, and grace, we are here to help. We will walk this journey of hope and healing with you. You can contact us at 318-562-6903.
Written by: Peri Gilbert-Reed
LPC, RPT, EMDR Specialist for children and adolescents