When it Just Doesn’t Make Sense...

So there you were. Praying for that circumstance to change, with all the faith you could muster up. Fear kept knocking on the door of your heart, but you resisted. Time and time again. Reciting those precious verses of scripture that gave you the strength to keep on believing. Then after all the nights of prayer, you got the dreaded news. That fear you’d been resisting came to pass.

What do we do when it just doesn’t make sense? When the reality before us seems to dampen our faith. Like when Mary hopelessly watched on and wept as her innocent son (Jesus) was tortured to death. Or when Job’s life crumbled in a matter of moments, as his children died and his health deteriorated (amongst other things). Dig deep with me for a moment. Let’s get past all the Churchy “it is well” and “God will come through” cover ups. Well-meaning as statements like these may be, they often rob us of what we really need: a chance to let go of our untested formulas, so we can get to that lowly valley of death. It’s a place where we learn not to fear in the face of tragedy and death. Not because we’re certain things will always work out on earth. But because we know and trust our Father, who will one day remove our pain, mourning and cause for tears (see Revelation 21:4).

To the person on their knees in the valley ...

Being where you are can be difficult for others to understand. Sometimes, it’s a lonely place - especially when you don't know anybody else who’s traveled this painful road. When they say things like, “don’t worry, God’s gonna work it out”, they’re not being malicious or insensitive. They’re probably giving you the best that they know how to give as an observer.

Here’s the thing. As Christians, we read the scriptures and benefit from seeing the end from the beginning. We know David becomes king, so we make sense of his difficulty along the way. We know that Joseph becomes prosperous and full of authority, so we make sense of his slavery and betrayal by his brothers. We’re so used to seeing things pan out like that, so we try to make sense of our own lives. That’s why they tried to explain your difficulty. They genuinely believed it’d work out, just like you’d hoped.

We can take encouragement from the stories and successes of others, but we must do so with a sense of humility. The truth is, none of us know everything ahead in this life, and there’s a healthiness that comes with keeping this in mind.

Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit"— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that." As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil” - James‬ ‭4:13-16‬

I’ll tell you the truth that some of us observers fail to admit. I don’t know the reason for the pain you feel right now. I don’t know why your prayers weren’t answered how you’d hoped. And I have no idea how to make sense of the difficulty, pain and hurt that’s in front of you. But on behalf of the people who might’ve insinuated that you simply didn’t have enough faith, I’m honestly sorry. Their words were insensitive and might have pierced in places nobody can see.

In the midst of this low and dark valley, I can’t give you the answers you’re looking for. Honestly, you might not get them here on Earth. But a promise you can hold onto is that there’s better ahead than we think. In this world, we will have troubles and difficulty (see John 16:33). We’re not promised an exemption from this reality. But we’re promised a time on the other side of this life when the pain will subside and our tears will be no more (Revelation 21:4).

So contrary to what some might steer you away from, if you need to cry, then please do cry. If you need to mourn, then please do mourn. As we express our deepest hurts and the things that baffle us to God, we don’t always get the answers to our questions. But one thing I know for sure is that He helps us where we are. He might not make sense of it in the here and now, but He’ll comfort you throughout your weeping and mourning, cradling you when you need it most.

To the person watching their brother/sister suffering in the valley...

When we see our loved ones suffering, we want to make it stop. We try to explain the pain or promise them things will work out in time (which they will, but sometimes on the other side of eternity). Our intentions might be pure, but we have to think our words through.

Sometimes, a shoulder to cry on or a sincere embrace is all it really takes. Remember, we’re called to mourn with those who mourn, weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). Mourning and weeping doesn’t require an explanation, or a prophetic word to explain the pain away. Instead, it requires something so simple, yet often overlooked in the midst of our over-analysis: it requires compassion.

God teaches us to be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19). So our default position shouldn’t be to blurt out our spiritual analysis on a given challenging situation. Instead, we should start by listening. Before we promise people future outcomes that we have no certainty or control over, let’s take a step back to hear them pour out. Give them the space and grace to express themselves, being sensitive to the context of their pain. At times, it might be appropriate to address what they’re saying directly. But other times, you might need to simply listen and empathise. And when you’ve gone back to your home or private space, you might need to stand in the gap and lift them up in prayer, appealing to God over their circumstance.

Carry one another’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the requirements of the law of Christ [that is, the law of Christian love]” - Galatians‬ ‭6:2‬ ‭AMP

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