God Does Not Always Resolve Our Problems
The person sitting before me is distraught. He has been faithfully serving in a very difficult region of the world. Time and again He has faced a medical crisis. The medical costs have been high. The emotional cost has been wearing. What is God up to? Why will he not do something?
How Do We Respond?
We have all found ourselves in these types of situations. What do we say and not say? Those of us from the west, and increasingly globally, come from cultures that like results. We do not like unresolved tensions. We like to diagnose and prescribe and move on.
But God does not work this way. Yes, he does heal and deliver and provide. But often, maybe more times than not, he seems to do nothing.
How is the shepherd to respond? Well, there is no answer as the variables are too expansive. Yet, the Bible is not silent on the topic. Let’s ponder just one passage:
2 Corinthians 1:3-5
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.
The word translated “comfort” (sometimes translated “mercies”) is an interesting word. It is the same Greek word used to describe the “helper” (i.e. Holy Spirit) that was to be sent to us referred to in John 14-16. It means “to come alongside.” The Greek root is paraklete.
When I think of God’s help, I think of him fixing my life problems. Sometimes he does. Mostly he doesn’t. So I am missing something in my expectations. Though God does not always resolve, God is not passive. In fact, he is present. He is the come-alongside-God.
Paradoxical Parallel Realties in Life
There can be two seemingly paradoxical realities in my life at the same time. One reality is called suffering. It can come in the form of various trials, temptations, losses, and pains.
The other concurrent reality is called “paraklete.” God’s presence. God does not promise I will live a suffering-free existence. In fact, he assures the opposite (see John 16:33 for example). But he does promise his presence. And his presence always means redemption, his word, and his provision. Our God redeems the painful realties of life. Our God speaks truth and love to us. Our God provides for our needs.
Beauty Amidst Potential Pain. Photo © Scott E. Shaum
Mimic the Chief Shepherd
This is a cue for me in how to respond to the one with tough questions and life pains. I need not have the answers. I need not diagnose his weak faith and challenge him to read the bible more or pray more or do some other moralistic acts. I can be the presence of God to him though, and be “with him” in his pain and confusion. I can extend care in the form of compassion, lament, and hope. But I cannot and need not try to fix anything.
Here is a principle to ponder: If God has not fixed the problem, why should I try to? Biblically we have a long theme that God uses hardships as a redemptive element in our lives. If I try to help people out of their problems, could I be working against God’s redemptive activity? Maybe. Maybe not. The key is to be slow to speak with advise and long to listen to God and wait on him.
Above all else shepherds have the privilege of being journey-mates with sheep. Offer them your presence.