Church and God’s Comfort During Suffering

Almost everyone I know asks where God is when we suffer. Today, I was asked this very question. I don’t know the answer, but I think this woman has an outlook that I think comes closest to what I’ve come to believe over the years. She writes of the guilt she doesn’t feel over her son’s chronic illness and how she is supposed to reconcile that with Psalm 91:

I am left with this: This experience belongs to everyone it touches: The illness itself is my son’s path to walk, his burden to bear. Our family’s path lies in learning new ways of living with each other through sorrow and concern and changed expectations. Our path lies in developing bonds that strengthen our relationships, finding ways to accommodate the emotions and reactions that come when a beloved members lives with chronic illness. I don’t know where God is in all that, but I am confident that there is a God, and that God is really, really big. Bigger than the bible, bigger than the church, bigger than Christianity. Big enough and good enough to provide meaning for our existence, even if it’s not in Psalm 91.

This has been on my mind lately and especially so this morning as I trotted off to church with my bible.Yep, I bit the bullet and went to church. Taking the stance that church is just ONE aspect of my faith and not the be-all and end-all of faith has helped me deal with the disappointment that I have had in other Christians (as I’m sure they have with me as well). I realized that new believers are set up to rely way too much on other Christians in the church. The real never lives up to the ideal in my opinion. But I’ve noticed that the farther away I get from the institution, the more my spiritual vision clears and I can accept them for what they are and for what I am; completely imperfect, but completely accepted by God anyway. Taking it a step further (something other Christians should do, but don’t), I realize that I am just as untrustworthy as any other Christian in the church. I have failed to keep my commitments, but I also refuse to beat myself up over it any more.

Friday afternoon, I had lunch with the pastor I’ve mentioned in my blog previously. It was a very nice lunch and I think we put our relationship back on friends status. I’m glad. I’m sure she’s glad. I saw her today and honestly I feel no more animosity. I wonder where the bitterness came from before, but maybe it’s always necessary to step away from the situation to see it properly. A trial separation in relationships is always good. Obviously, some churches are very abusive and we should flee from those. But, this situation was as much my doing as theirs. So can you say “heaps of burning coals?” I came to Sunday school this morning and the love and warmth I received from the people there was overwhelming. Remember I had resigned my membership and am no longer on the rolls. It didn’t matter. I hugged and was hugged. I worshiped. I studied. We laughed and exchanged prayer requests. It felt mighty darn good. Am I setting myself up for a fall? Perhaps. Do I think all my problems will be over? Nope. I’m sure there will be disagreements and other run-ins, but I feel so at home there. It was such a relief to be back. I’m strong enough now to hold to my beliefs and convictions. This church honestly does not try to change your opinion, they just have strong ones of their own and aren’t ashamed to speak them out loud. But that’s the risk we take in forming and maintaining relationships. I think now, wiser and mentally healthier, I’m ready to take on that responsibility. Like the post quoted above says:

I don’t know where God is in all that, but I am confident that there is a God, and that God is really, really big. Bigger than the bible, bigger than the church, bigger than Christianity. Big enough and good enough to provide meaning for our existence…

Blessings to You,

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