Wednesday, November 4, 2015


One day last week I had a conversation with a friend who is struggling with feeling distant from God, feeling like the brokenness of her life is only moving her farther away from Him. She asked how I had coped with the losses I have suffered in recent years. Yes, I had felt that same distance, but in time I developed a closer relationship with God, not in spite of the pain but because of the pain. And I heard myself saying that I found something sacred in it.

The word “sacred” in relationship to human suffering sounds a bit out of whack. Was I being ultra-dramatic, spouting off a bit too much sanctimonious woo-woo?

It is absolutely true that my communion with God and my desire to continue to grow closer to Him would not be what it is today if I had not suffered some big, painful losses in my life. I have said it before and I’ll say it again—when life brought me to my knees, it was then that I realized that on my knees was where I needed to be. God did not cause the brokenness in this world. He didn’t point His finger at me and say, “Let’s see what I can dish out to her and let’s see how she’ll handle it.” No—wretched things happened that I could not control and that I will never understand on this side of heaven. After years of moaning and unending questions, I have stopped trying to analyze rationally all of that life junk. Ultimately it’s a big waste of energy. It’s like going into a maze that has no exit, because there are no answers that would make any sense to me now. It is not for me to know. I have pretty much accepted that life sucks sometimes. But the darkness, those wretched things, led me to a deeper and deeper reliance on the Lord.

We are not alone when in the wake of pain and loss we question God’s benevolence. Perhaps in our minds He becomes a maleficent overlord with whom we want no relationship. It happens to the best of us who call ourselves believers. In the abyss of grief after his wife died, even C.S. Lewis had his understanding of God shaken and he referred to God as “the Cosmic Sadist and Eternal Vivisector”—tough words coming from the revered author of Mere Christianity. (CS Lewis, A Grief Observed, p. 38)

Pastor John Pavolvitz wrote about this on his blog Stuff That Needs To Be Said: (

"There’s an oft-misused excerpt found in Scripture, where the author Paul writes:

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:2

"This isn’t a heavenly insurance policy paid with faith and exempting us from anything unpleasant, but the promise that if we choose to respond to all things from a place of love and goodness, that we—not necessarily our circumstances—will be better for it.

"In this way, I believe in suffering as a sacred space."

Yes, he said it—suffering is a sacred place. For me it took much too long to get to that understanding, but thankfully God walked beside me through the whole ugly mess and I now rest assured that He will continue to be beside me.

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