Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines; though the produce of the olive fails, and the fields yield no food; though the flock is cut off from the fold, and there is no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, and makes me tread upon the heights.
We all experience discouragement. Sometimes the little losses—worries about kids, home repairs, health issues, strained finances, dreams deferred—can bring some days of disappointment. But those everyday things can shrink in significance when I am brought close to real tragedies and injustices. It seems the recent years have had more than their share of sadness and trials. Too many hard, unfair and painful things have come to visit those I love too many times. Sometimes my heart is broken and sore and there is no feeling that supports faith. Discouragement is real. It is part of real life to cry out to God wondering why bad things happen to people.
Asking those hard questions about where God is when there is suffering and injustice and pain are really crucial in the life of a believer. The Psalmists teach us that God is big enough to hear our cries of pain and anger. God is big enough to receive our questions and listen to our arguments. We may always turn to the God who doesn’t seem to be there with our tears, our sorrow, our pain and frustration and we may ask the God we cannot see or feel to give faith and trust when we have no faith or trust.
I know some people who have seen the suffering and injustice of the world and have concluded that there is no God or that a God who doesn’t act to fix the injustice or suffering more quickly isn’t a God who they want to know anyway. I understand their questions and know how it feels when there is no answer to the question WHY?, when there is no answer for the suffering. But I also know that it is possible to keep waiting for the God who is silent. Many times across these years I have turned to the book of Habakkuk to spend time with a man who clearly was waiting and waiting amidst great desolation for God to act upon the sufferings of his people in the world.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we got our way and God rained down justice and mercy and love and fixed all these broken things RIGHT NOW? I think I would like that. But I also know, past the anger, in the waiting and the heartache, something else can grow from those ashes and the place of desolation—a knowing and trusting in God even though nothing good happens and we feel no happiness. And one day, there comes a still and plain presence of the One who knew unspeakable injustice, suffering and emptiness; amidst our questions and sorrow, in our brokenness, we are no longer alone.
I pray that those who suffer would have the courage to turn towards God in the dark and be given the grace to wait for God when God seems silent and far-off. We need to carry one another’s burdens and pray when our friends are brokenhearted. I am so grateful for those who pray for me when I begin to lose hope: what would I do without you? Thank you for the prayers that sustain us as we dwell among the brokenhearted.