When we suffer, we seek answers. Perhaps it’s the desire to regain some semblance of control over circumstances that remind us of our utter powerlessness in certain realities. Or, maybe it’s just our human longing to believe that everything happens for a reason; we believe that all the details of our lives should fit together like puzzle pieces revealing significance beyond anything we can see from our surface perspective.
For those of us who trust in the goodness and sovereignty of God, this compelling need to understand why certain events occur is no less stringent. Even as we cling to the promises of divine truth, we scrutinize our natural world for answers that require supernatural solutions. Somehow we inherently believe that if we can understand the motivation and contextualization of our crisis, then we can contain it, reduce it, and eliminate it.
Rarely do we glean the understanding or revelatory insight we crave in the midst of our suffering. From my own experience and the privilege of walking alongside others during their most painful losses, I’ve learned that grieving is not the time to look for answers; it takes all your energy just to survive the turbulence of the loss. And truth be told, there is no philosophical or theological comprehension that can adequately articulate the pain radiating from one whose soul cries out in silent sorrow.
How is it that the righteous suffer? Throughout the history of humankind, we have wrestled with the “why” behind our losses. Across the pages of the Bible, we see this question posed again and again. Even the psalmist contemplated why the wicked seem to prosper while the faithful suffer. Answering this question is crucial to your recovery from life’s crushing blows.
For, you see, the difference between pruning and punishment is intention. It’s not figuring out how one suffers something different than someone else – it’s looking at why they suffer. Both sufferings look and feel almost the same. For Mary gazing up a Golgotha, she saw two men being crucified beside her son, screaming, bleeding and crying out in the delirious spasms of excruciating pain. Despite their resemblance, there was a crucial difference: two were being punished, and one was being pruned.