I’m fortunate enough to get my fair share of emails throughout the day, and from all sorts of people—family, friends, those who are not yet friends but will be, and so on. I like my emails. It’s nice that people think enough of me to drop me a little note to say hello or thanks or please.
Lately, the ones most on my mind are the ones who say please.
As in, Please pray for me. Please help. Please listen.
Though I don’t often do this, I blame the times. It’s the world’s fault, a place that each day seems to spin a little farther from straight and bends a bit more crooked. Life has gotten much more difficult for a lot more people in the last few years. I have sixteen pieces evidence to that fact in my inbox.
There is sickness and death. Jobs lost and homes gone. Hearts broken. Hopes dashed. Love failed. There is fear and anger and sadness. Dark souls and darker futures. And hanging over them, pushing down, is one question that may go unsaid but is never unfelt:
Why is God doing this?
“This” can be best explained by a friend who wrote to say that his job of twenty years would be no longer in less than a month. His house will surely go soon thereafter. His wife cannot work due to health issues, which has already emptied their savings. Their furnace is on the fritz, and the last snow damaged the roof of their home.
“I’m not sure we can pull out of this one,” he wrote. “I feel like I’m being buried.”
I wrote him back as well as the sixteen others. Yes, I said, I will listen. And pray. And help all I can. But then I wondered about all the other people out there who were feeling buried themselves. What would I say to them if they decided to write, too?
I thought about that, which didn’t take very long. I’ve had a lot of experience in feeling buried. So if such a letter would drop into my inbox, this is what I would say in return.
It never ceases to amaze me how quickly life can turn. How we can be going along steady and straight and then suddenly find ourselves in places both unfamiliar and dark. We can neither go forward nor back for fear we’ll get lost even more, and so we’re left to sit there motionless and hope the clouds eventually break.
We’re taught the principle of What Goes Around Comes Around from an early age. Many of the troubles in life are the result of neither God nor the devil, but of our own poor choices. And while that’s true, there’s no denying there are plenty of troubles that are beyond our own doing. I’ve always thought those were the worst troubles to have. Those are the ones that will make you fear life and dread tomorrow. That make you wonder not only what’s coming next, but that there isn’t much you can do about it.
The more religiously inclined would say now would be a good time to trust in your faith and your God, and I would agree in principle. But while those words might be easy to say, they can be pretty hard to put into practice. Especially if, like me, you’ve caught yourself thinking He either has too much to do or too much to keep an eye on. Because it sure seems as though He lets a lot of things slip through the cracks sometimes.
He doesn’t, of course. I know that. You know that, too. But knowing it and understanding it? Well, that’s just not the same.
If there’s a good thing about enduring one’s fair share of suffering, it’s the wisdom that comes on the other side of it. And since I’ve endured my fair share, this is what I offer:
You’re right to feel like you’re in a deep hole and there’s no getting out. That it’s dark and damp and cold. That you can’t get out. It’s right to feel as though scoop after scoop of more of the same is being tossed on top of you.
But God is not burying you.
God is planting you.
He is sinking you into this world, not as punishment, but so you may grow and blossom and bear fruit. So you may offer shade and rest.
And so He can prepare you to not only be good, but also be good for something.