I prefer to avoid it.
And who would blame me? We live in a culture that values ease, peace, and prosperity above all else. Our own Declaration of Independence declares that we are endowed by our Creator with the right to the pursuit of happiness.
Now I’m a big fan of the Founding Fathers, but I’m not sure there’s a Biblical foundation for the right to pursue happiness.
Why would I say that? Well, I hate to have to point this out, but the Bible doesn't promise us happiness on earth. Joy is ours, but happiness? I guess we can chase after it, and we'll experience it from time to time.
But according to the Bible the one thing we can be sure of is that we will suffer.
Did I mention that I’m not a big fan of suffering?
So what’s a good Christian girl to do when life throws a curve ball? When parents die too young? When babies are born too soon?
When life hurts?
When suffering moves from the theoretical to the “I don’t think I’ll survive this” phase, how do we respond? How do we make sense of the sovereignty of God when that same God doesn’t fix all our problems?
Wouldn’t a loving God make life easier for us?
How can He be sovereign and tolerate the Holocaust? How can He sit back while millions of babies are aborted?
Doesn’t He care?
These questions, and many others, are asked and answered in When God Weeps: Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty by Joni Eareckson Tada and Steven Estes.
My Bible study group wrestled our way through this book a few months ago. It’s not an easy read. Not because the text is difficult or poorly written. On the contrary, some of the writing is quite beautiful and almost poetic in its description.
It’s challenging because when we start talking about suffering, we are forced to take a hard look at who God is and how God works.
As Joni says in the introduction, “When God Weeps is not so much about affliction as it is about the only One who can unlock sense out of suffering. It’s not why our afflictions matter to us (although they do), but why they matter to the Almighty.”
When God Weeps presents God as God. Not as a safe deity that never does things we don’t understand.
I asked a friend who read this book during a time of intense suffering if she would recommend it. She said yes. She also said there were times she wanted to throw it against a wall.
It’s that kind of book.
With real world examples and serious theology, Tada and Estes tackle the questions we ask when our world disintegrates and we’re left sitting in the ashes of our dreams.
If you really want to know why—as much as any of us can know this side of eternity—I would recommend When God Weeps.