I don’t remember the day I was diagnosed with a physical disability. I was only three years old. Disability is something that has always been a part of my life, and it probably always will.
Growing up, there was no doubt in my mind God created me the way he had for a reason. This disability would be present in my life for as long as he had chosen, to fulfill his mysterious, but good purposes.
Still, as I’ve grown up, I also have come to see that sickness is not what God originally intended for our bodies. Sickness is confined to this sinful world where we live for a brief time. Suffering is a sign that we’re broken, and in need of a Savior. It also points to God’s power and sovereignty. I know God can heal people, but I also know he may choose not to, for our good.
Those two things can be difficult to reconcile. If God can end our suffering on earth, why doesn’t he? Why does he allow sickness to afflict us if sickness is not what he ultimately and eternally wants for us?
There are no easy answers. But it is okay, even good, to wrestle with questions like these. The grieving and wrestling brings us back to precious truths for the suffering.
God Is Good, Not Cruel
When I see circumstances of suffering in my own life or in the lives of others, my mind immediately turns to why questions. God declares that he works all things together for the good of those who love him, “those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
But how are we supposed to interpret suffering as something good? It seems unfair that he would prolong our pain, allowing it to rob some of the quality or length of our life.
God does desire for our bodies to be whole one day. He also desires for our hearts to be drawn to him with a profound understanding of his grace and love.
C.S. Lewis summarized it well in The Problem of Pain: “On the one hand, if God is wiser than we, his judgement must differ from ours on many things, and not least on good and evil. What seems to us good may therefore not be good in his eyes, and what seems to us evil may not be evil.”
When it does seem as if God is withholding healing from us, it is not because he is cruel. Our understanding is limited, and we will never fully see things from his perspective. We may have trouble comprehending how God can use suffering for good, but we also do not have the wisdom or authority to say it cannot be true.
Desiring Healing and Embracing Suffering
When suffering enters our lives, we often feel like there are only two choices: 1) accept our circumstances will never improve, or 2) constantly wish for something to change.
But we are not limited to those choices. God has given us a unique freedom through Christ that enables us to simultaneously hope for future healing and restoration, while also embracing peace in the midst of our suffering today. This freedom allows us to engage our doubts and questions, and still cultivate the contentment to which we’ve been called. It shows us that struggling does not prove our lack of faith; it strengthens our faith as we look to God’s word for answers and apply the hope of his promises to our immediate and difficult circumstances.
It is okay to want things to be different. When we bring our requests before God, we have the opportunity to model the example Christ himself gave us in his prayer before the crucifixion (Luke 22:42). He exemplified both a genuine hope for something different as well as an acceptance of God-ordained suffering.
Jesus did not hesitate to ask the Father for another way to accomplish his plan, but his requests were ultimately presented with a heart of surrender.
Everything We Need
Feelings of insufficiency and envy are some of the hardest to fight in the midst of suffering, walking through all the overwhelming questions. But in humility, and carried along by grace, we wrestle both to rejoice with others in their healing and to walk alongside others through their pain, knowing our suffering cannot and should not be compared.
We need to remember that God’s care for us is deep, and he will always provide everything we need. He already has.
Perfect health is something I have never known in this life. But if I don’t have it, I do not need it to accomplish what God has planned for me. He didn’t make a mistake when he made me. Nothing in my life has ever happened outside of his will. My physical limitations do not disqualify me from the tasks that have been and will be assigned to me. In fact, I believe they have strangely and beautifully prepared me for those tasks. The circumstances and inconveniences have been given to me, and I trust they are part of God providing what I need for his calling on my life.
Healing in this life may come. Or we may be called to a deeper and more rewarding journey of faith through our suffering. There’s no denying that the road is hard, but God is here to walk beside us and remind us that he is working in all our circumstances.
Eventually our suffering will come to an end. If we are in Christ, it is only temporary. On that day, when faith becomes sight, we will experience glory that will not be worth comparing to every hard thing we have experienced on this earth.