Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl said, “Despair is suffering without meaning.”

The problem of evil. Atheists and Theists alike seek resolution to human suffering. Does any one group hold the secret salve that eliminates meaningless suffering?  If you are an atheist and you don’t mind my inquisitive mind, where do you find hope in the midst of suffering?  I am not asking to be facetious, I truly want to understand your viewpoint. So if you don’t mind taking a few minutes of your time, please post a response. I learn so much about life from my atheist friends, many have had very thoughtful insights and I would love to hear from you, too.

Philip Yancey wrote a book originally printed in 1977 called Where is God When It Hurts?  In it he examined human suffering and interviewed many people who had experienced horrific trauma. What I learned from these precious souls is that life hurts…a lot, but they insisted suffering is bearable when it has meaning. Those who have suffered the most understand this truth to an extent that most of us can never appreciate.

Is suffering necessary? I don’t think so, I don’t think that we were designed for suffering, we were designed to love and to be loved. Much of human suffering seems to be caused by other humans, and sometimes it is self-inflicted. And what about all those innocent children suffering form disease, poverty and crime? In many dark corners of this world, love seems to be absent. So how can suffering have meaning?

I want to share a story with you.

One sunny afternoon, I was pushing my precious, brown-eyed baby boy in his swing in the courtyard. It was one of those days when I woke up and thought, “Life is good! God is good!” The sky was such a bright clear blue that the purity of it caused me to immediately take in a deep thankful breath. Joshua giggled at some playful squirrels near the oak. It was one of those moments when my heart could not contain the emotions swelling inside, and I spontaneously laughed out loud.

And then a still small voice whispered in my ear.

“Nancy, will you give your son up for suffering?”

Startled at the cruel intrusion, I froze. What mother in her right mind would agree to such a request? “Absolutely not! And I’ll fight anyone who tries to hurt my baby! I’ll make them wish they were dead!”  I trembled as a mixture of fear and anger bubbled in my gut. I felt nauseous, my head pounded with a whirlwind of thoughts–horrific terrifying thoughts. My eyes graced my son’s trusting cherub face and in desperation disguised as defiance I shouted, “God, you cannot have my son!”

What was I saying? Didn’t I trust God? He created my baby, He knew better than anyone what would be best for him, right? That is what the preacher said on Sunday. And defying God is not a very “Christian” thing to do. Where was my belief? But how could a good God allow my child to suffer? How can Joshua’s suffering be good? No, I didn’t trust Him. God wanted to hurt my beautiful perfect son.

Every mother wants a better life for her child. I had to protect him from the prowling lion seeking to devour him, to shield him from torrential storm threatening to snatch him out of my loving arms. Like most women, I have known loss, sickness, loneliness and rejection. I pride myself on being a survivor, an overcomer, a fighter. As I contemplated all of the life lessons I planned to endow upon my son, I suddenly realized that it wasn’t the tranquil times in my life that created my strength of character. 

Was I the strong woman I am today inspite of the suffering I have endured? No, because of it. The abundance of priceless life lessons that I impart to Josh, I only have to give because I have known suffering. His inheritance is a string of pearls cultured with my pain.

“I will never leave Joshua nor forsake him. He will trust Me because he will know Me and recognize my voice. My words will encourage him daily. He will walk with Me and I will comfort him. When he is weary from the journey, I will carry him. He will lean on My promises and live in My grace.  Many will be encouraged by the strength of his character and the depth of his faith.  He will become a conduit of My love and His life will bring hope to many hurting people. Nancy, I have begun a good work in Joshua and I promise to carry it on to completion. Do you trust me?”

I felt an overwhelming peace that I could not explain as I sensed the loving arms of my Creator embrace me. I swept up my little gift from God and with grateful tears flowing from my healed heart I surrendered all.

Romans 5:1-5  “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”

1 Cor. 13:13 “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

  1. cornishevangelist says:

    We read this in Hebrews 11 v 13, Abraham desired a better country that is heavenly, that is what is written in God’s Holy Bible,
    So let us also set our hearts and minds, not on this world, but upon a heavenly kingdom where Jesus shall wipe away all tears from our eyes and there shall be no more death,
    neither shall there be any more crying, neither shall there be any more pain. Praise God.

  2. cecebenningfield says:

    I remember saying the exact same words when there was the first BIG court date to decide my then 10 day old foster son’s placement. It was a huge decision. He was the 5th of five children who were in the system and it was supposed to be a “given” that he would be in foster care (with us) and then placed for adoption (with us) but the thought that someone else had Ike’s future in his hands scared me. I hypervenilated at the park in the middle of the night and started to pray. Satan whispered, “He is not your son, really, they will take him from you.” God answered STRONG and BOLD in my heart, “Ike is MY son, my precious darling and YOU (Satan) can not have him. CeCe, take heart, trust I have a plan.” Through tears and a paperbag:) I gulped down my growing fears. The next day the judge ruled in Ike’s favor and he was placed with us (eventually adopted by us). The problem is that all children are ours for just a season. Some for hours, minutes or days. Others for years and decades. They ultimately belong to our Heavenly Father. That is very hard for any mother to truly grasp. Ike was not mine. I love him like he is mine. But he belongs to Jesus.

    Texas CC

  3. Nance says:

    Thanks for your thoughts CC and Billy. It through grace we can say during painful times, “Even in this, I will praise you, Lord!”

  4. zorba says:

    I think that is a parent’s biggest fear. My brother dies when he was eleven and I fourteen. I saw what it did to my parents.

    My father could not and would not speak of it till he died, having blamed himself, but I witnessed Paul’s death and my father did not contribute in the slightest way.

    He became a Christian about ten years before his death.

    I did not see a change in him although dementia was a factor near the end.

    We all experience times like this although no one looks forward to them. It is life and we are living it. How we live it is the key.

  5. cornishevangelist says:

    God bless you Nance in JESUS

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