Almost a week ago I read a blog entry by a missionary in Africa that I have been pondering ever since. Of an elderly African woman who has endured far more than her fair share of suffering, she wrote:
I live with these human eyes, and with these human eyes of mine I label. I label one thing as good and one thing as bad. I label moments as blessing or burden. And I forget that all this labeling, it is not my right, not my place, not mine to do. To declare what is a gift in my life and what is a curse is to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, to sit in the garden full of abundance and beauty and choose the forbidden. The knowledge of good and evil, that was never intended for me.... Suffering, pain, loss, shame – all these things I have blamed on a broken world, Satan even. But can’t a broken world and even Satan only give what God allows? Suffering, pain loss and shame are only these things because I label them as such. Because I, a sinner, choose to eat from the tree, choose to turn away from nail-scarred hands and ignore the grace and miss the gift. He is beautiful and everything He creates is beautiful and if I choose to label it suffering I am choosing to miss the beauty that is freely offered me."
This shocked me and sobered me and disturbed me. The things this African woman has faced in her life - all of her children, dead due to war and corruption - surely I am not to hesitate to label this as "bad" simply because I am not God and do not possess the entirety of His wisdom. I have enough of His wisdom in the scriptures to know what God called "good." The opening chapters of Genesis, God created everything pertaining to the Earth and called it good. He created man and then surveyed everything He had made and called it "very good." This is before sin entered the picture. God's creation in its purest form = good. Why would I ever label the effects of war, corruption, disease, or disaster as good? God can bring beauty from ashes, but that doesn't make the ashes themselves beautiful.
When I hear the woman laughing through pain and saying, "whatever He wants," I do not hear joy over her situation, for it is not a good one or a joyful one. Rather, I hear a woman who is willing to endure unjust suffering without rebelling or blaming. A woman who knows that God is in control and she is not.
There is a difference between suffering for the cause of Christ and suffering due to the fallen state of the world. Christ showed Paul, "all that he would have to suffer for his Name," (Acts 9:16). This type of suffering happens because we are going against the grain of the world in obedience to God and it is good - it is very good. If we do not experience this kind of suffering, we aren't following very hard after Him. But watching a loved one waste away from cancer, seeing children sold as slaves, witnessing or living in extreme poverty due to injustice - God never called this good, and I think I have every right to call it evil, awful, horrible!
God is allowing (not condoning) the corruption of His creation - FOR A SEASON - and during that season He is preserving His church by promising to work all things together for our good and His glory - even the evil, awful, horrible stuff. We are not to despair or mourn as those who are without hope and we are not to whine or complain because He that is in us is greater than he that is in the world, but we gotta call a spade a spade!
Carla Ritz. Proof positive that God uses cracked pots!