“Suffering can refine us rather than destroy us because God himself walks with us in the fire.”
-Timothy Keller, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering
In scripture, we see a pattern of God responding when his people experience suffering. We see it when he led the Israelites in a miraculous exodus from Egypt, and again when he brought Joseph into a place of leadership to save his kinsmen from famine. He sent comfort to Shadrach, Meshak, and Abednego in the fiery furnace, and they came away unscathed. And we frequently see it in our work.
People like our friend Jumana have cried out to God to help them in difficult circumstances.
Jumana and her children live in Hillé Bar, a tiny village in Chad on the edge of the Sahara. The river where they collect water has dried up, and Jumana and the other women have to excavate the sandy banks to find deeper reserves. Their land has turned to dust. Her children don’t go to school and never have. Jumana must delve deep into the parched earth to steal seeds from ants’ nests. She has to dig several feet down to find the scant harvest. This provides only a day’s worth of food for her family. Sometimes they’re so weak with hunger, they can’t play or even stand. Already, one of Jumana’s children has starved to death.
In the words of Isaiah, God has given us a promise that we can hold onto in the midst of suffering: “I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Jumana knows extreme suffering, and our powerful God who created all things and loves His creation deeply promises to be with her. Despite all of her suffering, Jumana has hope. God heard her prayers; rain came and relieved the drought. Now her crops are growing, and there is grass to feed the livestock.
In times of suffering, we often have no other option than to draw close to God, and in those times, we learn what it means to have deeper intimacy with him, to depend on him, and to trust Him in all things. Without enduring difficulties and trials, we would never have the need to cry out to Him.
And our relationship with Him would never know the depths of His love; nor the care and comfort He provides in times of great pain and suffering.
We serve an all-knowing God, who knows you through and through, the very depths of your heart. He is aware of every trouble you face; He knows the hidden worries that keep you up at night; He hears your cries of desperation.