“Everything will be okay…”
How many times have you heard this phrase uttered by someone who is trying to offer hope or support? Regardless of whether your pain emanates from a broken heart, mind, spirit, or body makes little difference. We tell others, “It is going to be okay. I know it is hard now but you are going to be okay.” This may offer solace in the moment but the harm it can do when circumstances never become, “okay”, can be severe. Worse yet is when these misguided comforters bring God in to reinforce their statements. A person enduring severe suffering hasn’t the strength or the ability to see a distant light at the end of a proverbial tunnel; therefore, our words must be chosen with care. At times, silence is better than anything we can offer except a soft and strong shoulder to cry upon. Words have immense power to create great good or great evil so we must be wise when we use them.
This seemingly innocuous statement holds hidden harm because many situations in life can never be made, Okay. Things do not turn out alright every time and the good guy doesn’t always win. Sadly, when God is attached to the ‘Okay’ thinking it sends the message that God promises to make everything turn out positively, the way we want them to turn out. This false reality is one in which those who have enough faith are healed, the poor are blessed richly, and disease and pestilence are eradicated. As I have stated in previous posts, the strength of one’s faith does not equate to God giving us whatever we want. He is not a genie in a bottle and our faith should not depend upon whether or not we are happy in life. Pain, of any kind, is a game changer and is the reason we question our faith.
Acknowledging that God will heal His creation does not mean that every crisis in our lives will turn out ‘Okay‘. The truth is much more difficult to accept; therefore, believers alter it so that they can cope with pain and crisis compounding their own and other’s suffering. God promises us many things in scripture and some of those things are wonderful and easy to accept while others are not so easy. God tells us that if we follow Him then our lives will be difficult (Luke 21:17; Mt 24:9; Gal 3:4; Rom 8:18, etc.). He is not the cause of our suffering, for His perfect plan for our lives and creation is for our good, to build us up and not to tear us down (Jeremiah 29:11). He wants us to prosper but above all, He wants us to love one another as purely as He loves us.
Just imagine what the world would be like if we would just try to treat others as if everyone we met mattered…because they do matter… an awful lot. We meet so many people while trying to live our lives and this has never been truer than in modernity. In this age, we have the possibility of interacting or affecting millions of people. Time and distance are no longer the barriers they once were. We have the power, through our choices, to impact the walk of another.
The people we meet are as varied as the fish in the sea or the flowers in the field. There are people who know pain and are either surviving it or have survived it. These are the folks who keep getting knocked off the path, by Satan, but choose to claw their way back up time and again. Then there are those who were on the path the Lord wanted them to be on but when they got knocked off they could not find the strength to climb back. Next are those who never got on the path because no one told them it was there and they ignored the evidence of God all around them. Finally, there will be those we meet that actively and viciously fight the truth and cling onto worldly things in order not to be swayed. These people know the path exists but make choices that actively take them further and further away from it. They are concerned about their own pleasure and prosperity.
Each and every person we come into contact with will impact us and we them. Regardless of the degree of impact, we need to remember that what we do, say, read, write, or create has an outcome, good or bad. No matter how infinitesimal you believe it to be, your choices have a ripple effect throughout all of creation. God uses everything that He has created, including you, to bring about the fulfillment of His plans. You needn’t acknowledge Him or cooperate with Him but he will use your choices to bring about the good of all of creation. That does not mean that He approves of the choices that his children make. It only means that He will use anything and everything to bring about his plan to destroy all pain and suffering (2 Thess. 1:5).
If God is all powerful and all knowing then why is there so much suffering and heartache? Indeed, He has the power to stop your suffering and bring justice to those who caused it whether it is another human or the result of a broken creation. Why then doesn’t he just stop it all right now? Why doesn’t He make things ‘okay’ for His hurting children? Is He deaf to our pain? Of course not, He hears us and feels our struggle as His own, His heart aches for his children, all of his children. None of us were ever meant to suffer. This was never part of His plan but we were given choice and that changed everything. We may not like or accept the answers we seek because they may be difficult for us to hear; however, if you want to get beyond the pre-packaged one-liners then you must investigate and delve deeper. In doing so, you will likely find more questions than answers because our finite minds and limited perspective can only take us so far into understanding.
The reason He does not stop the pain and suffering this instant is because He is merciful and patient. You may feel this to be a ludicrous statement but He tells generation after generation who have been persecuted and had injustices thrust upon them that He not only hears our suffering but he mourns for it too. Yes, He could come back while you sit here reading this post, eradicating all evil and pain from the lives of all his children. He does promise that He will destroy all evil in His creation, He will rescue the children that have chosen Him but it will be in His time. He will create a new heaven and a new earth and all who have chosen him will live in a world so pure that our minds cannot fathom it. No pain, of any kind ever again! He will reward his faithful children by living among them and eliminating all brokenness. This is not only a promise made to us but it is a warning to all who have rejected Him. There will come a day when His patience and mercy will end and He will judge all. It will be a fierce day of many losses and God’s anger against those who have rejected him and persecuted all of us who have held unto him will be unmatched in all of human history. No one knows when this day will come but it will be a day when God says, enough. The cost to all those who do not know him or actively oppose him will be so great that it will be incomprehensible. If he would act now many of his children would be lost for all eternity. He holds back his hand of judgment in order to allow non-believers, his lost children, every opportunity to come home before they are weeded out (Mt 3:12 NLT).
Knowing this, we must be patient as well and I am saying this from a position of chronic pain and disability; therefore, my words are not uttered lightly. We are not the first to suffer greatly throughout our lives, although it may feel like it at times. We are not the first to feel heartache so deep that it threatens to cease our breath altogether.
When you become a flickering light within the vast empty darkness, Satan will do whatever it takes to snuff you out. This does not mean that he will kill you. Nope, all he has to do is kill your faith. You get to keep suffering and he has stopped you from reaching out to the creator for help. He wins this battle then will move onto the next person. He actively attempts to destroy God’s followers every moment of every day regardless of how you pray or the strength of your faith. In fact, if you have strong faith then Satan will try that much harder to destroy you because he knows if he is able to make you to give up then he has won a victory over his creator. Imagine the ripple effect it would have upon all humans if a person, who has been a champion for Christ, begins to succumb to Satan’s tricks. Of course, you do not have to use too much of your imagination because one viewing of the nightly news will provide several examples of “godly” people who have committed horrible atrocities and in doing so soiled the name of God.
As illustration, if your pastor/priest were suddenly accused of adultery, molestation, murder, or some other crime/sin, how would you react? How many would fall with him or her? How many unbelievers would use the failures of these “pillars of the community” as reason to flee Christ or blame God for their troubles? When things do not turn out ‘okay‘ then both the misguided comforter and the person in crisis will have their faith shook to its core. Their pain may turn to poison and serve to kindle anger against God and everyone else. In our limited understanding, we believe what others have told us (instead of investigating it ourselves) and then blame God for our disease, heartache, poverty, persecution, etcetera but all of these things are a direct result of evil’s reign upon the Earth. Collectively, human sins have not only opened the door wide to evil but we have taken the door off its hinges allowing an acrid sea of evil to invade our lives. Nothing has been untouched, nothing. No, I am not saying that we cause our own suffering, although that is true in specific incidences. No, the problem runs much deeper than the suffering specific to our life at this moment in time.
Suffering is caused by a shockwave from each sin committed by every human being that has ever breathed life on this planet. This wave of evil permeates every molecule in creation; therefore, all of creation is broken. We are living within the shockwave of sin the generations that came before committed. Plus, the sins we commit ourselves will strengthen that shockwave laying waste to future generations. None of us are sinless; therefore, none of us are blameless. We invite evil into our world and its only purpose is to destroy us and all we love for only through our pain can it thrive. Obviously, you have the choice to dismiss all of this as spiritual mumbo jumbo and that is your God-given right but its truth is not dependent upon your belief.
Here are some examples that illustrate the ripple effect of sin throughout creation. If a land developer decides to decimate thousands of acres of untouched land for the purpose of building a shopping mall and in doing so inadvertently destroys an insect or plant that held the cure to cancer? Has not his sin of greed affected us all? If one child takes the life of another because he/she wanted something the other had, are we not all the cause and the victims of this deadly transaction? “I do not want my kids to grow up the way I did so….I will give him or her everything I never had.” Advertisers use psychologists to feed the idea that to be a good parent is to give everything to your children. They deliberately try to make us think we need what they are selling! Our entire “free-market” society is based on the premise of greed and over consumption. Hence, should we not hold ourselves, as part of the human race, culpable?
A few more examples: You are the best friend of a woman who has just found out that her husband has been sexually abusing her daughter and son who are now 8 and 4 respectively. Her husband purports to be a Christian and has twisted God’s truths to reconcile hurting his children, his wife, his community, his church, and all Christians everywhere. What do you say to your friend, “Don’t worry, everything is going to be alright…”? This is never going to be okay, this has caused a wound in creation that will swallow both the faithful and faithless alike because it is evil. No matter how much time passes, this will never be okay for any of them. Will God make good from the evil that was clearly intended and perpetrated by Satan? Absolutely He will! However, there is a catch of sorts. God gave each of us free will or choice because he loved us. It is the choices made by the abusive father that brought another wound upon God’s creation. It will be the choices of the mother and other relatives that will affect how the children heal. And it is the choices of the children themselves that have the potential to bring about God’s will or to perpetrate further evil. God allows us to choose to follow Him and do good to bring His plan to fruition or to become embittered and then toxic to others. Will God’s plan come to fruition if you choose not to follow Him? Yes, He will work through another, who has chosen to work through the pain that is certain, to bring about healing in His Creation.
Consider this one; you are sitting with a husband and wife who have just been told by the doctors that their child can look forward to a life filled with unimaginable pain and mobility problems. There is no cure but there are medications that can be taken to manage the disease but they will cause all sorts of nasty secondary health issues the longer the child takes them. What do you say to them? Their hopes and dreams for their child have just shattered into a million pieces. However, God will use this child to fulfill His will for good if the child chooses to follow Him. Regardless of whether you were born with a debilitating disease or have one diagnosed later in life, it will never be okay. Yet, good can come from it.
The disease itself will bring no good to anyone BUT our reactions to knowing someone who has chronic sickness or our reactions while enduring it ourselves has the greatest potential for good or evil. Does that mean we are supposed to be smiling all the time and be a joyful sufferer? No. That is not humanly possible and anyone who appears to be “joyful” in their suffering is faking it, which will later lead to resentment and anger toward God and others. However, chronic suffering does not give you license to be angry and bitter toward everyone. You can be joy-filled because joy comes from God but no one can sustain happiness all the time. If you truly want to see someone’s character or whether they live what they believe, watch them during times of suffering because anyone can be a good Christian or just a good person, in general, in times that are happy. Remember, only under great pressure can a lump of coal shine like a diamond; therefore, your thoughts and words will shine brightly when they are born in hardship if tempered with love and faith.
As you read this post you have probably thought of at least ten sins/crimes committed by those you know or know of and can see how much damage their sin has done, but have you dared look inward and identify the sins you have perpetrated? Evil is very real and our sin allows it to corrode us from the inside out. So much harm is caused in our world by those who ardently call and fight for justice but refuse to stop and look at what they, themselves are doing to perpetuate the crime, violence, and brokenness of this world. None of us are innocent. Our ideas and words have power regardless of whether we think anyone is listening. The ideas we purport to the next generation either deepen or help heal the brokenness.
The idea that “everything will be okay, if you just hold onto your faith”, is a lie and telling it to someone who is suffering may set them on the road to faithlessness or self-destruction. In the end of time, yes, God promises to eradicate evil but many lifetimes have come and gone in which people wasted their entire lives waiting for God to reward their faith by taking whatever hardship they were enduring and making it, Okay. Some things can NEVER be made okay and instead of accepting that and working hard to make our little corner of creation better; some of us fall into angry, destructive bitterness. If we provide false hope to a suffering person/family it would be as if we added gasoline to a smoldering fire.
Understand this, Satan’s days are numbered and he knows it! His reign over the earth is coming to an end and he wants to cause as much pain to God as possible in the time he has left. How then can a parent’s heart be shattered? Yes, by attacking his children (John 10:10). How does this equate in real life? Pain, lots and lots of pain for all humankind but those who have Christ in their hearts will have hope; whereas, unbelievers face the same evils devoid of all hope. (Luke 21:17; Mt 24:9). God promises to give us strength through His grace to survive these attacks. He will use our weaknesses because in them there is strength (2 cor.12:7-10). It will not be easy but with God all things are possible, if your will and God’s will are aligned (Philippians 4:13). Yet, you must be careful in how you interpret this statement as well. Just because we have this “great idea or notion” does not mean that God promises that it will be fulfilled. It may be a fantastic idea and glorifying to God but you may not be the one he needs to do it or it may not be the right timing. Recall the story of David, Solomon and the building of the Lord’s temple as an Old Testament example. Our thinking is finite, constricted to the problems we see or experience in the now but we need to widen our scope if we hope to understand what God wants of us and how our particular suffering plays into His plan. No, he hasn’t caused our suffering but it is through the most broken that he brings healing to his creation. If we choose to follow him then our suffering will have purpose and positive things can be born of it instead of it leading to destruction.
I know that I am headed for excruciating levels of pain that no medication will touch along with being bed-ridden some day but knowing the end does not exclude or excuse me from the good I can and will do. There is purpose in my suffering but it will be the choices I make that determine whether that purpose is going to heal creation or tear it further apart. Do I give in to my desire for self-pity and woefulness? Yep, I have been known to throw week-long pity-parties but then I get back up and step back on the path and keep climbing.
What should we do to offer help and hope to others? Should we even try to offer hope to someone suffering? Absolutely, just remember that God never created us to suffer. That was not in the original plans; therefore, any suffering we or others undergo is from Satan not God. We must offer hope but do not make it false hope because that is a faith-killer. In an attempt to soothe the wounds of another, you may drive them away from God all together by misinterpreting scriptures or simply delivering trite statements to those in pain. Scripture must be felt within one’s soul in order to be useful; otherwise, they are only empty words. Scriptures like, “What Satan meant for Evil will be used by God, for Good (2 Thessalonians 1:5),” “All things are used for the Glory of God so that his will may be served”. These phrases are rarely understood in full by the user but are commonly offered for counsel or support during a crisis. Understand, both of these statements are true; however, when and how they are used is crucial. The bearer of the pain hears, “God wants me to suffer this horrible _________ to give Himself glory”!? “I have lost my child because it was God’s will?!” or “God gave me this debilitating disease in order to glorify himself? Why does my suffering bring him pleasure?” These thoughts are knee-jerk reactions to the pain and our minds need to hold someone accountable for our suffering. When no human can be blamed or justice is denied then we blame God for the agony that threatens to swallow us. When consumed by the apex of pain, nothing else can be seen or heard. You are raw and every fiber of your being throbs with an inhumane intensity regardless of the type of pain (Physical, psychological, spiritual, emotional, etc.). It is better to say, “God will provide you the strength to bear this and he weeps with you as you mourn.”, rather than ‘everything will be okay’. This is a true statement that can offer hope after the person/people have come down from the crisis period. Your words must have fertile soil to grow and nothing will get past the intense pain of the apex.
We live within the New Testament era where Christ has paid for all of our sins; therefore, the pain we live in now is a direct result of the sins committed before us, the sins committed now, and our own life mistakes. Again, here is another chance to misunderstand what is being stated here. I do not mean that the sins you committed this day have caused your direct suffering; although, that can and does happen frequently. Sometimes A + B = C, meaning if we choose to rob a bank, are caught, tried, convicted, and then we experience abuse in prison making our existence a living hell, who is to blame? Is God to blame for this consequence or are we ourselves responsible for that suffering? If you abuse alcohol and are later diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver who then holds the blame? If you smoke like a chimney and are diagnosed with lung cancer, again, who is to blame? I understand all of these examples have exceptions and there exist many details that make each one unique, which is why I stated that Sometimes A +B=C.
However, suffering does not only hit those who have made poor life choices. This is where it gets sticky. If we concentrate on the immediate ramifications then we will miss the big picture. The first sin committed started a ripple effect throughout every molecule of all of creation. In the instant evil entered creation, everything changed. Nothing was untouched, nothing. The brokenness spread like a voracious poison. Pain, shame, anger, envy, jealousy, and bitterness made their entry into creation. God never intended for any of us to suffer. He never wanted us to suffer sickness, bitterness, depression, desperation, hopelessness, or fear but these are natural consequences of human choice. We were given choice and we blew it and we keep blowing it making that ripple effect of pain spread throughout all the future generations.
I struggled a long time with the scripture stating, ‘children will suffer due to the sins of their fathers’ because I thought it was saying that God would punish and afflict the children of a sinful parent but I have come to understand that this is not the meaning at all. I believe this is what it is really saying; if the father/mother commits sins then the consequences will be felt by the successive generations not as a punishment from God but as a natural consequence of sin. Again, the ripple effect of sin is fearfully awesome in its devastation. Consequently, sin has both immediate and long-term negative ramifications. And lest we become self-righteous and blame those who came before we must stop and think of how many sins we have committed this single day. All sin allows evil into the creation bringing with it pain and suffering; therefore, we must guard against it so that we are not inadvertently hurting our loved ones or those who must bear the weight of our sin in generations to come. Things may never be okay but you will be given the strength and endurance to create something good from the ashes of suffering, IF you choose that path.
2 Cor.12:7-10: 7.though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. 8. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. 9. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (NLT)