This past weekend, we got to spend a few days in a beautiful little Bavarian town hidden in the Cascade Mountains of eastern Washington. Leavenworth celebrates autumn with full finesse, sporting bright leaves on every store window and door. Beautiful trees blow their colors through the town, yellows and oranges covering the sidewalks. The town really treated us to one final farewell to the beautiful October, and the crispy cold air ushered us into the colder weeks of winter soon to come.
The beautiful lodge we got to stay at had all the luxuries you could imagine. It accommodated for the twenty-something of us that came for the weekend and we had the most comfortable stay.
The retreat topic was on struggles and pain that we face in our daily lives. This topic was very personal and practical for every person. We all have struggles, we all face disappointment. No one goes through life without feeling some degree of pain and hardship. No matter how big or small our trials, we all suffer.
But why? If we are christians who believe in an all Mighty, Loving God, who does good and hates evil, why do bad things to happen to His children? Why does He sovereignly let us feel pain and heartbreak? Why does he lead us through the valley of shadow and let us feel loss and regret? Why do we often find ourselves in tears from having what we wish we didn’t, or longing for what we don’t have? Why does He let grief fill our lives?
If we know that He runs the universe, if we know that He makes no mistakes, if He is a good God, then why do we suffer?
This weekend we discovered the (partial) answer in 1 Peter.
Our God, Creator of the Universe, does not sit on His throne in the clouds and watch as His people suffer in pain and agony. On the contrary, He is a God who has suffered a greater pain, a bigger loss, a more immense grief than we can ever imagine. Our God is a God that has bled from His limbs being nailed to a cross. He has gone through it. He has been there. He knows what it is to die and agonizing, torturous, shameful death.
He fought, and He won the battle. But at a great price. He went through hell because there was an end victory. There was meaning in the pain. There was so much good in the ugly pain of the cross.
God lets us suffer because He knows what will happen at the end of the story. He is writing the story. We see the here and now, He sees the end result. He is shaping and molding us. Eroding away our ugliness and faithlessness and pride. The process of sanctification is painful. He crushes us with struggle, that we may look to heaven and know that this is not our home. He knocks us down with trials to show us our desperate need. He loves us, so He painfully devastates us to make us see His splendor.
He is the potter and we are his clay, He is shaping us, molding us into something beautiful. But as he shapes us with his scarred hands, he feels our pain. He bleeds with us, He weeps as we hurt, He knows the pain we feel because the pain He felt was bigger than ours. We suffer a little, because He has suffered much. He has glorious victory through pain, so he breaks us that we can become glorious with Him.
Our trials are good, our pain has meaning, our sufferings are making us better. So lets rejoice. Lets be grateful for the hard times. Lets take our gaze from our pain and see Him at work, shaping us, bettering us, strengthening our faith as He bleeds with us.
“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
1 Peter 1:6-7
It has been a blessed weekend. We had amazing fellowship, yummy food and a lot of laughter. Karaoke, foam swords fights, capture the flag in the dark, volleyball in the rain, movie night and popcorn. We grew closer together and saw our struggles in a clearer light. God is good, we are blessed.