One of the most common questions people ask in rebuttal to Christianity is this: if God is good and He loves His people, why is there so much suffering in this world?
That is a GREAT question.
I don't know.
BUT, what I do know is that the closer I get to rock bottom, the harder I have to cling to Jesus.
When I look back on my life, the most painful moments are the ones that still haunt me today, and they affect my relationships, my attitude and my perspective every day. I grew up feeling like I would never be enough in so many ways (just some examples: thin, pretty, kind, ya feel?). I always felt like I was a burden, annoying and unwanted when I was around my friends. I have almost never looked in a mirror and not wished something about me would be different.
As I've gotten older, my testimony—or my story—has evolved. Being in your 20's is no joke, my friends. Since college, I've moved home, had to rebuild community, prove myself in my job and as an entrepreneur, face the reality of gender inequality, suffer through the worst presidential election ever, developed depression and anxiety, lost friends and made new ones... a lot of growing up in two years and it has brought me to today.
I've always been known as the Christian girl—that's who I was in high school. That's who I was in college. Everyone looked to me and expected me to fit their stereotype of Christianity. I never cussed. I led worship for youth group. I was super nice. I didn't smoke or drink. I volunteered. I wouldn't have sex. I never missed class. I got good grades. My identity was in how well I performed as a Christian and that bled into every aspect of my life.
Today, I am not the perfect Christian. I was broken then, and I am broken now. I am more broken than I ever have been. And in this place of complete and utter brokenness and helplessness, I am finding that I NEED Jesus.
I've believed in God my whole life. I think I was baptized when I was 8-years-old. Right before my senior year of high school, I had a "come to Jesus" moment and realized that I never had a relationship with God or His son. Only in the last year and a half have I ever had an authentic prayer life... Through it all, Jesus is showing me that I NEED Him. I've seen life without Him. I've seen this world when it doesn't love Him. I've seen people crumble under the weight of the Enemy's forces—my own heart is in pieces.
But the beauty of suffering is that it reveals to you that you cannot live without Jesus, and all the places you've sought refuge are pointless. And that's not to say that God sadistically wants you to suffer so that you'll love him. It's not that at all. It's mercy. We have free will. We get to escape however we want. But our temporary escapes like drinking, sleeping with one guy after the other, cutting, pornography, even books and movies and TV shows... anything you use to escape is a false refuge, and it is damaging and painful. God's mercy is in His humbling.
King David writes in his 91st Psalm, verse 4: He will cover you with His feathers and you will find refuge under His wings; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
HE WILL COVER YOU WITH HIS FEATHERS
This is a promise. He WILL cover you. And his covering is gentle, kind and compassionate.
YOU WILL FIND REFUGE UNDER HIS WINGS
This, too, is a promise. You WILL find refuge. When an eagle beats its wings, the earth beneath him shakes. He can carry himself by the strength of his wings. And anything that comes under them cannot be touched. God's wingspan stretches from the highest of mountain tops to the deepest, darkest crevices of the ocean. There is nowhere you can run that God will not find you. You WILL find refuge under His wings.
HIS FAITHFULNESS WILL BE YOUR SHIELD AND RAMPART.
Another promise. His faithfulness WILL be your shield and rampart. You are protected by His faithfulness. You are shielded from the pain and suffering in this world by His faithfulness. What's a rampart? I wondered the same thing: a defensive wall of a castle or walled city (fortify or surround with). Because saying His faithfulness is your shield isn't enough (no shame in admitting it; God already knows it), His faithfulness will fortify and surround you like a defensive wall of a castle or walled city. He will equip you for battle against your demons and He will shield you.
Something that helps me to realize the gravity of this promise is to reword the verse. After all, God speaks to us in His Word.
"Angela, I have covered you with My feathers and you have found refuge under My wings. My faithfulness is your shield and rampart."
Put your name in there. It's still true.
Why am I suffering from all of this pain? God does not want me to be in pain, but it is through this pain that I have had to cling harder to my Jesus, to my relentlessly loving God, and there is grace for sinners like me. If that's true for me, it's true for you.
If you have never given your life to Jesus who died for you and you want to know more, or you have questions about Him, please ask me. I would love to hear your story. It has taken years and many, many people to get me to where I am today, and I still have so far to go. But that is what community is for. Check out the resources below that have helped me in my walk with Christ.
ESV, NIV, The Message
Find a church near you
Attend a service, get connected to a group
Captivating, by John & Stasi Eldredge
Understanding the heart of a woman