I went camping with my family last weekend. We canoed in a lake littered with tree trunks…still standing in water but dead. What was it about them that drew me to take many pictures? Time and time again I carefully brought my camera out, risking the safety of it in a canoe of four to get just one more haunting angle. One more picture of the sun shining down on them.
How can I approach suffering without thinking of death? Of people who have endured or are enduring…death. And aren’t we all dying? Maybe that is why the trees in the water haunt me. Are they a picture of all that is dying around me?
There seems to be hope coming from the sun shining down and perhaps these pictures being snapped do just that…give me hope. When I feel all of this suffering and death around me. When I feel the weight of the fall closing in. Death of dreams. Death of loved ones. Death of marriages. Death of jobs. Death of relationships. Is there yet a ray of hope shining on all of this heartache?
In the Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Frodo is tempted to give up the ring to the forces of evil because his suffering is so great.
Sam: “I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are, it’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. Because they were holding on to something.
Frodo: What are we holding on to Sam?
Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo and it’s worth fighting for.”
That there is some good in this world…is it really that simple? Is that what you hold onto in hard times? The video clip from this part of the movie is moving and I must say…yes! Yes…that is it. That IS what I hold onto in suffering. But it DOES sound simplistic.
It must have been eight years ago now. The girl in the factory got her hair wound up in the machine. All of the pat answers seemed too simplistic and I questioned again as we all do. “How…why?” As I squeezed her hand and she layed in the blood and I prayed and told her things that I myself was not quite sure of at that moment. After hours of struggling with this horror my pastor gave me the answer again. The hope. “He is saving us from all of this.”
His answer was simple but it was true. That “some good is in the world” is just that. He IS saving us from all of this. We will not always be here. This is not the end of the story. The darkness really is passing. It is but a cloud moving over us. Slowly sometimes. Do you have Him? Does He have you? Because if you do. If He does. Then He is saving you from all of this. There is a hope.
The answer came again just four years ago or so when I layed in my own blood. “He is saving us from all of this.”
Maybe it isn’t such a simple answer. Because maybe holding onto that hope is one of the hardest things we’ll ever do. To believe. To have faith that He has come, He is coming and He is saving. The great writer, John Bunyan, once said that the way not to faint is to “look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.” He also said that he was made to see that if he was ever to suffer rightly, one of the things he must do was to “live upon the God that is invisble”. A man who spent 12 years in jail for preaching while his family suffered immensely was able to say this.
It all comes back to holding onto one’s faith in and living upon an invisible God. A God who is saving us from all of this. A good God. In The Mystery of the Cross, Alister McGrath writes, “One of the most powerful insights Christianity has bestowed to the world is that, in His tender mercy, God entered into human suffering and breathed into it the fragrance of divinity. God has been there before us.”
God has been there before us and He did it in order to save us from all of this and to bring us to Him.
I’m holding onto this.
Do you have any thoughts on holding onto your faith in times of suffering? Please share…
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