If we live long enough, we will all have them; those times when life deals us heartless and brutal blows. We struggle with the tasks and obstacles facing us and don't know how to maneuver them successfully. We doubt if God is still in control or if He is even aware of our present trouble. We wonder if perhaps this hardship slipped past Him unnoticed? We question His wisdom arguing, "Is God really working all things together for good in THIS situation? Really? Really God???" Doubt can be a frequent hurdle Christians have to overcome as they run the course set before them.
Caution is needed here; please know that I don't believe God causes our suffering. I STRONGLY reject that notion. Suffering is not part of God's perfect plan for us. Man sinned and rebelled against God's perfect plan and thus we are now living with the natural consequences of those choices. God is the source of all life, to rebel against Him is to choose death; thus sin=death. Thankfully we have a loving and merciful God who cares for us and who sacrificially gave Himself so that we now have a hope and a future--eternal life in God's Kingdom. Since the fullness of God's Kingdom has not yet been established on earth we struggle to wade through the thick muck and junk of life in a sinful world. This is a challenging endeavor to say the least.
My heart breaks at the tragic stories of loss and suffering that are so prevalent in the world today. The casualties of sin are numerous and no one is immune. Just last week I read a Facebook post written by a mother grappling with the imminent death of her infant daughter due to brain cancer. Her baby girl had undergone months of hospital stays, chemo, and treatments which were apparently unsuccessful. At the time of her writting Sophia was alive but no longer conscious or responsive and there seemed to be no hope for recovery. The mother writes:
I miss the Sophia I know. I miss her smile, her laugh, her little personality. I look at pictures, I watch videos...and I cry. Her body is here, but oh! I feel like she went away and I didn't get to say goodbye.
I want to memorize every detail. I don't want to forget anything. Her hair as it grows back, soft and curly and brown. So much lighter than it was. Her stinky little feet that she used to stick in my face. My heart melts each time I change her socks...I could stare at her perfect little feet forever. Maybe only another mother would understand that feeling. Her perfect little nails, her chubby little cheeks, her pudgy little thigh rolls. She's here...but she's not here.
We both told her today, "It's ok. Sophia, if you're tired you can go. We'll be ok. Don't fight for us. Don't stay for us. We want you to be happy. A new, perfect body. You won't have to fight to breathe. You'll run and play. You won't be tired. You'll be better off. No more pain. No more cancer. You'll be in His arms. In the best arms. He'll take care of you better than we can. We won't forget you, Sophia. We'll tell your brothers and sisters about you. They'll know about their brave, strong sister. It's ok, Sophia. If you're tired, you can stop fighting. Mommy and daddy love you."
I ache for this family. The tears stream down my face as I consider their loss, the grief they will carry, and the agony they have lived through. In these situations, I can't help, but marvel at God's incredible restraint. I can't help but wonder, "How does He do it? How can He endure even one more day of suffering for His children?" If I hurt so much for this family, how much more must God hurt as He witnesses the suffering of His children globally!?! This family represents only one of many similarly tragic stories; yet, God sees them all, knows every person intimately, and loves each one infinitely. Given that He could end all the suffering today, I wonder, "What is He waiting for? How can He stand it any longer?"
Because God IS perfect love, I believe that no one hates sin more, is hurts more by sin's consequences, or has a greater longing to end suffering than God does. Yet, we wait. I believe that it is out of His very nature--love--that He acquires the patience to wait one more year, one more month, and/or one more day. Love is patient and God has been very patient with mankind and the disastrous consequences of sin. Out of His great love for us He waits in order to give opportunity for all, that will, to come to Him in repentance. 2 Peter 21:4 says, "The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."
So for now we wait and endure. We run battered and bruised with tear stained faces and heavy hearts, but we "Run on!" knowing that God is love, God is patient, and God will keep all of His promises to us. I admire how Sophia's mother so clearly clings to God's promises in her struggle. Though the situation is completely out of her control, she knows it isn't outside of God's reach. She clearly trusts that weather Sophia lives or dies presently, God holds her eternal future securely in His hands. Isaiah 59:1 says, "Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor His ear to dull to hear."
I don't know what hurdles and/or obstacles block your path as you seek to run your race, but I do know hardships and difficulties are a universal reality in this world. However rocky your path may be (or may have been), those difficulties don't define you and they certainly don't disqualify you for the race! Yes, they beat you up, knock you down, and may leave you hobbling or even crawling to the finish, but no matter your circumstances the choice to finish the race is yours! You can "Run on!"--bumps, bruises, scars, and all. Keep running, holding fast to your faith, trusting God in ALL things, and never ceasing to place one foot after the other.
God does not promise a perfect life here and now. He doesn't even promise an easier road. However, He does promise to be with us always, that nothing can separate us from His love, and that one day He personally will reach out to us and wipe away all of our tears. Also, "There will be no more death, crying, mourning, or pain for the old order of things (sin and all of it's ugly consequences) has passed away (Revelation 21:4)." In that day, we will know what running was meant to feel like, "those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not grow faint." Though I am eager for that day for the sake of all those who suffer presently, I will endure patiently knowing that God's timing is perfect and that there is much rejoicing in heaven over even one sinner who repents (Luke 15:7)!