My dear friends are suffering. Their daughter has dangled over death and even now is straining one foothold at a time toward life. You should follow their story here: In and Out of the Woods. You’ll trust and love God more. I want to do something for them and I have where I can, but now there is so much waiting and watching, praying and perseverating in my mind that goes something like:
I hate sin. I HATE IT! As this sick little baby curled her toes around my finger, I felt the inevitable question bubbling up in my mind, “Why Lord?” I was quickly chastened to remember that where I see suffering I should always draw the line back to sin: Adam’s and my own. Why death? Why suffering? Because we are a cursed people, because we are a God-hating, sin-loving people. When people asked Jesus why? He said, repent and believe. (Luke 13) I never want to sin again.
But I do. Suffering and sin grow up together. When Christ is in the garden (Luke 22), sweating blood, he tells his disciples, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” But they don’t pray, their spirits are willing but their flesh is weak and so they sleep. In their stupor, they self-protect, scatter, and deny the Christ in his darkest hour. Or consider Job’s friends. When they can hold silent no longer and it seems that they’ve put in their grieving quota, latent jealousy and pride spews out of their hearts. Suffering is refining, which means that there is much dross to consume, and sin will rise to the surface. It seems one of the greatest temptations we encounter while suffering and watching someone suffer is to assume that the waves of sin will take a break from crashing into us. But this false notion is deadly.
We suffer for each other’s good as well as our own. 2 Cor 4:11-12 “For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.” Currently our friends are feeling the weight of the curse more than many. Yet, instead of caving they are pressing hard into Christ’s death for their own good, and yours, and mine, in order that Christ’s life will be at work in us all. It’s necessary that they not suffer alone because we are one body with one head that wears the crown of glory.
So weep and rejoice. My sweet niece was born Sunday. Covenant nieces and nephews are being born all around me. We are called to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12). At times like this, it is more obvious that only in our union with Christ is this possible because he is everywhere. When we go to the depths, he is there. When we soar on the heights, he is there. (Psalm 139) It’s only in him that we can give true and full expression to our emotions across great distances in short times. He’s that big.
But, “God is not big, he’s infinite.” (Doug Wilson) It’s good to think that God is big. But perhaps better not to use spatial constraints at all. He extends his care to all his people, at all times, in all places in the exact measure that is needed. While my finite friends poor their energies and prayers into their baby, God is still caring back at their home for their kids, their parents, and their friends. God cares about your loneliness, about your headaches, your panic attacks, and your job. He cares about your new baby and your husband who is away. There is no zero-sum at work. He is infinite, omnipresent, omniscient. He knows your name, how many tears you’ve cried, and he knows how many heart beats we will all have. In fact, he plans and sustains each one. Praise him at all times, for he is worthy.