“Are you sure you want to walk with me?”
“It’s about 90 degrees out there and you know how far I walk,” I added.
“I know, I’m coming with you,” said Dak, the foster child who came to live with our family that year.
Was I surprised when Dak started petering out about half way through the walk? Yes and no. He was a sturdy 9-year old and had come on the walk with me before. But, Dak had a penchant to want to prove himself stronger, smarter, and faster than he really was, more often than not, getting himself into trouble.
We, previous foster parents, and social workers all strove to bring balance to Dak’s life. But one mile from home, he stopped in his tracks. Dak had sweat one drop too many. Something triggered and he sulked.
I remember sulking in the same way when I was a teenager after realizing I wasn’t getting my way.
But that day, we were on a desert trail. Not a high traffic area. So, I picked Dak up and started carrying him. His grouched weight strained my 115 pound slim (read non-muscular) physique. I started suffering.
Was my love for Dak’s safety carrying the load even though I was suffering? Probably not, I was pretty pissed. But the faith in me knows that God loves Dak. And the realist in me knows this human experience reeks with suffering; so much suffering in fact, that I’ve searched the Bible for meaning.
At the Pool of Bethesda, Christ Jesus healed a disabled man who had suffered for 38 years. Interestingly after the healing, “Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, ‘See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.’” (John 5:14, ESV)
In this case, Jesus attributed suffering to sin. On one hand, it appears as though suffering serves to draw us away from sin and closer to God, life and love. But on the other hand, suffering isn’t posed as an agent to God because Jesus stopped the suffering of the man before fully knowing if the sin was stopped.
What about the times when innocent people suffer?
Prior to his crucifixion, the innocent Christ Jesus told Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” (Matthew 26:38, ESV)
I take his “watch” instruction to mean stay awake to God, to life and love, mainly because Jesus went on to show the result of staying awake to God, rather than being mesmerized by, or trying to manipulate the drama and suffering. Although he experienced horrible human suffering, Jesus passed through the suffering alive and useful.
Suffering may get our attention but it doesn’t have to keep it.
Instead of letting suffering use me, I use suffering to repent or think differently.
As I carried Dak in the desert, my attitude cooled off. I gave God the pissy feeling to deal with and felt thankful for the fact that God loves Dak. Mercifully, Dak relaxed and offered to walk on his own and the whole incident never became a thing.