Faith when it hurts

“Faith doesn’t take away the hurt.” – Sharon Rice, mentor, friend, prayer warrior, and lover of Hot Tamales

No, it doesn’t. But there are times I think it should. One of those times happened a couple of weeks ago when a friend and colleague of ours was killed in a car accident outside Atlanta. She, her husband, and three young daughters were getting on a plane two days later to return to their home in Rome.

I have spent the last couple of weeks trying to figure out if I wanted to write about it and if so, what I wanted to write. I knew Kyra and her husband, Reid. They arrived in Rome during our last year in Naples, and I was looking forward to reconnecting with them as we settled into life in Italy again. However, I don’t want to give the impression that we were best friends. I don’t know Kyra’s favorite color or flavor of gelato. However, I knew her and continue to know her husband. So I hurt. I hurt for Reid. I hurt for her daughters. I hurt for her parents and sisters. I hurt for our mutual friends in Italy and America who knew her better than I did. I hurt for those whose hearts are broken. And though I knew her briefly, there is still a great sense of loss and broken-heartedness in me as well.

There were so many unanswered questions being asked in the days that followed the seemingly untimely death of Kyra. Questions that will continue to be asked for months to come. However, most of them are questions that will never be answered. I find it futile to even ask the question “Why?” Why did it happen? Why were Reid and the girls spared and not Kyra? Why did God not STOP IT? Questions that will never be answered no matter how many times they are asked except with “for God’s glory.”

But how can that be? How can something so tragic bring glory to God? A pastor said at Kyra’s funeral that we see the finite and the end. However, God sees the infinite and the beginning of a life in eternity with Him. But that still doesn’t answer the question for me. There a lot of things I don’t know, but here are some things I do know. I know God’s ways and thoughts are greater than mine. Isaiah writes, “ ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways.” This is the Lord’s declaration. “For as heaven is higher than earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.’ ” I know that God is good. The psalmist in the 31 Psalm writes, “How great is Your goodness that You have stored up for those who fear You and accomplished in the sight of everyone for those who take refuge in You.” I know that He is close in times of suffering. David writes in the 23rd Psalm, “Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff—they comfort me.” 

My prayer is that in Kyra’s death people will come to know Christ for who He is and if only one person does this then her death has significance in light of eternity. That seems like a ludicrous statement. But Kyra knew when she died she would walk with Jesus on streets of gold, praising God with a heart full of love. And if her death means even one more person will know this unspeakable joy, then yes, it was worth it. And that does bring God glory. 

I want to return to the first statement made by my friend Sharon. She’s the one who   reminded me that we often think that because we have faith in the all-powerful God of all creation that the pain we feel when something tragic happens will be taken away. Faith is not a pill that takes away all the bad things that happen in the world. Faith is what gets us through all the bad things that happen in the world. Faith gives us hope. It gives us something and someone to cling to. It is why we can have joy during the midst of suffering, which is at times easier said than done. But faith in what?? I can’t tell you how many times I have heard people say, “You just gotta have faith.” or “You just have to believe.” This always reminds of something Oprah would say. George Michael even wrote a song about it.  But what does it mean? Faith in who? Belief in what? Faith in other people or myself will ALWAYS turn out badly. People fail and disappoint because we are sinful creatures. However, for those who choose to put that faith and belief in the One who made them, died for them, saved them, redeemed them and loves them, they will never be put to shame. Paul writes in the book of Romans “Through him (Jesus Christ) we have also obtained access by faith in to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

I have faith in a God who knows suffering, which He has had His fair share of. We see it in the very beginning when the creation He loved so greatly chose a piece of fruit over him, and in doing so decided they knew better than Him. Separation from His beloved creation, caused by that creation. He rescued His people from the horrors of slavery to take them to a land of bounty and rest only to have them disobey at every turn and choose other gods made of wood and stone over Him. Again, separation from his beloved creation caused by that same creation. He left the glory of heaven to take on flesh to walk among the creation that has continually rejected Him, which meant He no longer was in the presence of God the Father or God the Holy Spirit. Physical separation from the Trinity. He was whipped, punched, spit on, despised, beaten to a bloody pulp, mocked, and nailed to a cross. Physical suffering to the extreme caused by the very ones he came to save. As he died bearing the sins of the world on his shoulders he cried out to the Father and for the first time there was silence. Spiritual separation from the Trinity. This last suffering might be the greatest and one that we can never ever comprehend.

Sometimes in life, faith is a choice. Well it’s always a choice really. Everyday we choose to follow, serve, love, praise, believe in someone or something. And in not choosing we are still choosing. Faith in Jesus in not always easy and it doesn’t always make sense.

Oswald Chambers said, “Can you trust Jesus Christ where your common sense cannot trust Him? Can you venture out with courage on the words of Jesus Christ, while the realities of your commonsense life continue to shout, ‘It’s all a lie’? When you are on the mountaintop, it’s easy to say, ‘Oh yes, I believe God can do it,’ but you have to come down from the mountain to the demon-possessed valley and face the realities that scoff at your Mount-of-Transfiguration belief.”

It is in our suffering, in the valley, that those things are put to the test. Will we follow, serve, love, praise and believe when it is hard? When there are no answers to questions? When life seems to have dealt us an unfair hand? When we are beaten and bruised? We make a choice EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. The circumstances of the day matter not. We choose God or we don’t.

So, although I have questions that will never be answered and hurt, I choose to believe. I choose to praise. I choose to follow. I choose to put my faith in the One who knew after 31 short years on this earth, Kyra would be called home, having left behind a life lived for Him.

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