I periodically have to remind myself of something:
God may not always have my best interests at heart.
At least not as I understand them.
He never promised me joy. He never promised me freedom from loneliness. He never promised me a life with purpose and meaning. He won’t even promise me my next heartbeat or thought.
The same can be said of you. Show me anywhere in the Bible where God promises us the high life, and don’t use Jeremiah 29 11 as a relevant scripture because that promise wasn’t made to each of us individually… back up and read Jeremiah 29 4 first, This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon … So Jeremiah 29:11 was a promise specifically to the Jewish people who were brought out of bondage from Egypt during the Exodus, not you and I.
But back to my premise: God never promised us a pleasant, Earthly life. And to Christ-followers, He promised the exact opposite. Because of the Fall, we all live in a world of disease and pain, but to the Christ-follower things are even worse,
“Remember what I told you: A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. John 15:20 (Partial) NIV)
Before you accuse me of being all negative and dour, please note that God did promise to be with us throughout the suffering, so there is some hope.
But my point is that God doesn’t say He’ll shield us from the worst The Enemy brings to Earth. He just says He’ll get us through the trials and suffering.
A quote attributed to Mother Teresa of Calcutta goes, I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish that He didn’t trust me so much. That is pithy and funny, but not accurate. God also never said He would never give you more than what you could handle. He did say
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1st Corinthians 10:13 NIV
I believe He does allow temptation that may only be endured when we lean on Him for strength because if we attempted to face down the temptation on our own strength, we’d fail. Every. Single. Time.
The reason I’m dwelling on these thoughts tonight is that I’ve come to believe that I’m addicted to abusing the worst addiction man can face: Food.
Why is food the worst addiction known to man? Mankind doesn’t require (unnecessary & abused) drugs to survive. We don’t require gambling to survive. We don’t require porn to survive. We don’t even require sex to survive. But just try going more than a couple of days without food and you’ll begin to see that food is as necessary to survive as air.
Ultimately an addiction of any kind is a coping mechanism to avoid or dull pain. Pain is a byproduct of suffering. And humans will always suffer because of the introduction of sin.
One of my favorite authors is C.S. Lewis, and one of my favorite Lewis writings is a poem about suffering titled, ‘As The Ruin Falls.’ There’s debate about what the author meant or even whom it was addressed to, but I believe it was meant to be addressed as a prayer to God:
All this is flashy rhetoric about loving you.
I never had a selfless thought since I was born.
I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through:
I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn.
Peace, re-assurance, pleasure, are the goals I seek,
I cannot crawl one inch outside my proper skin:
I talk of love –a scholar’s parrot may talk Greek–
But, self-imprisoned, always end where I begin.
Only that now you have taught me (but how late) my lack.
I see the chasm. And everything you are was making
My heart into a bridge by which I might get back
From exile, and grow man. And now the bridge is breaking.
For this I bless you as the ruin falls. The pains
You give me are more precious than all other gains.
I won’t pretend to understand all of the poem, but this is what I take from it:
1. It is my nature to always think of myself and my well-being above all others, including my loved ones, and yes, even God.
2. It is also my nature to want to be comfortable and enjoy life.
3. I talk about what love is and how I want to be loved, but I don’t really know what love is because I can’t think of others first and I avoid pain and suffering.
4. The only way to know love is to be willing to risk loss and self-sacrifice, and as long as I put myself before everyone else I’ll never really understand love.
5. The only way to grow is to risk something knowing full well the cost of growth is almost always pain and vulnerability.
The author closes with the realization that God allowing suffering in his life ultimately serves to inform him of the importance of suffering as a catalyst for self-realization and learning.
Another maxim that I feel I have to remind myself of often is that a 100% struggle-free, suffering-free life would be extremely boring because it’d not only be monotonous but there’d be no growth because there’s be no challenges. So my goal is not to give in to temptation or give up when faced with problems, but instead to ask God for help in all things and see problems for what they are: Opportunities for growth.