I have spent the last three years studying, writing about, and living through a season of lament (crying out to God.) It’s been a season of ill health, grief, emotional and physical pain and more. But I have come out on the other side knowing that God is good, that God does good, and that God wants good for his beloved daughters.
The difficulty with seasons of lament is that there are no easy or quick answers for real pain, suffering, spiritual attack, or evil. That said, in considering some of these things myself over the past three years, I wanted to share some insights that have given me courage. I hope they encourage you as well.
• God is not the creator of evil and suffering. He is the creator of very good. Genesis reminds us that, although we were never promised an uncomplicated world, everything God created was originally good and blessed by him.
• Where did suffering come from? Let’s call it what it is: idolatry and sin. Romans 5:12 says, “Just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.”
But now, you might think of an important follow-up question:
• What of tragedies or suffering we didn’t cause? For these instances, perhaps we need to embrace a broader definition of sin. Because sin is not just “doing bad things”; sin impacts the globe. This is what makes the gospel so powerful: The cross destroys the stronghold of sin and evil—not just personally—but also cosmically—and will one day make all things right for those who call upon the name of Jesus.
• We have a spiritual enemy, but more powerfully still, we have the tools to fight back. God did not bring evil into the world, or into our lives. The enemy did. Ephesians 6:12 reminds us that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” We can have courage because we don’t fight our spiritual enemy alone. We fight under the banner of the King of kings, who has already claimed the victory.
• God doesn’t always prevent suffering, but he always transforms it. James tells us that we can count all of our trials and struggles as joy, because our pain produces faithful perseverance and maturity (1:2-4). In other words, God makes all things beautiful.
• Jesus heals people. In Jesus, there is healing for emotional, spiritual, and physical suffering. We are not stuck in our suffering forever.
God has the final word. One day, suffering will cease. Evil will be shut down forever. In Revelation 21, Jesus himself declares from his throne, “I am making everything new!”
In your suffering, and in life’s inexplicable mysteries, you can take courage. Whenever you face trouble, you can rest in the fact that God hears. God speaks. God sees. God opens your eyes to see him. God calls you by name. God invites you into his purposes for the world. And above it all—God loves you tremendously, unendingly, and forever.
Even when you are facing the worst—God is singing a louder song than your pain or suffering ever could.
Excerpts taken from The Louder Song: Listening for Hope in the Midst of Lament. Used with permission from Tyndale House Publishers and NavPress, 2019. You can order the Louder Song at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christianbooks.com, and wherever Christian books are sold.
Aubrey Sampson is the author of The Louder Song: Listening for Hope in the Midst of Lament (NavPress/Tyndale, 2015) and Overcomer: Breaking Down the Walls of Shame and Rebuilding Your Soul (Zondervan, 2015). She and her husband and three sons are church planters in the Chicago area, where Aubrey serves on the preaching team and leads discipleship and equipping. As a writer and speaker, Aubrey offers incredible perspective in the midst of trying experiences. She is also a regular contributor to Propel Women and is part of the Propel Cohort at Wheaton College. Find and follow Aubrey @aubsamp and www.aubreysampson.com.