"There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage."
--Martin Luther

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Waiting, part II: Suffering through the Wait

Greetings from snowy Toronto!  After a warm and foggy day earlier this week, it seems winter has come back with a vengeance.  I actually love winter, but am taking advantage of the colder weather to cozy up inside writing and drinking tea.  Stay tuned tomorrow for a BIG announcement... but first here is part II of my waiting series:

I've recently been reading a book by Randy Alcorn called If God Is Good. Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil. It is quite interesting reading and I may post more on it in the future. One of the things that came to mind as I began to read it was the connection between suffering and waiting, and how that fits into my particular life story.

Towards the start of the book, Alcorn makes the distinction between evil and suffering. I won't go into this in too much detail, but it's a critical distinction. He refers to suffering as a secondary evil, the result of sin. This means that while suffering occurs because there is evil in the world, suffering in any given case is not necessarily the direct result of a specific sin. An example would be in John 9, when Jesus's disciples asked whether a man's blindness was the result of his parents' sin or his own sin, but Jesus contracted them, saying “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:3)

Thinking about suffering as the result of sin and evil in our world makes one wonder what life would be like without the fall. Obviously, that's impossible to really conceptualize because our world has been built by generations upon generations of fallen people, but it's still an interesting thought. I started thinking more specifically about waiting and suffering. Now, as I mentioned in my last post, I'm a pretty impatient person sometimes, but I think that in this part of the world, it's common to consider waiting akin to suffering. We complain when the line is too long at Starbucks, or when our bus comes two minutes late, forgetting that the convenience of a fairly reliable transport system and a disposable income is something that many people in this world do not have. So it would seem that in some cases, when we perceive waiting as suffering, it is the result of our own sinful, self-centred attitudes. Alcorn touches on this when he says on page 60: “If we accept the argument that the highest value of the universe is short-term human happiness in the form of immediate fulfullment of desires, then we cannot defend the Christian worldview, because we ourselves have departed from it.” (Italics his.)

On the other hand, sometimes the wait can be agonizing. There are people who are waiting for organ transplants to become available, or for rain to come in a time of drought. That someone would suffer in these occasions, not knowing if or when a respite will come, is the result of evil in the world that causes our bodies and the earth itself to be under the curse.

This makes me wonder: In an perfect, sinless world, would we never have to wait for anything? To a North American mindset, that seems to make sense. To a biblical worldview, not so much. The Bible talks about waiting on God and about their being a time for everything. Even if I were sinless, I still would not be omniscient, so I could still desire something that is long in coming. This specifically plays into my story because – from my human point of view – I waited a long time for Gil. I was single for many loooooong years. I watched a lot of friends pair up, get married, and have babies, and there were times when I thought my own wedding day would never come. There were certainly times when my suffering was self-imposed and sinful, brought on by jealousy and feeling sorry for myself, but there were other times throughout this period when I genuinely suffered from loneliness and confusion about my own purpose and path. Nevertheless, I can't help but think that even in a perfect world, we still would not get everything at the exact moment we wanted it. After all, God is so much more than a wish-granting Genie. No, I believe that in that perfect world, I would trust God enough to know that when things didn't go according to what I anticipated, He was going to do something better.

In the end, that is where the “rubber hits the road”, so to speak. If I have to live in this world, how can I do my best not to sin when I am in the waiting period? While I did meet my husband in the end, I'm certain there will be many more waits in the future. The biblical answer would seem to be to continue trusting in God, and, as David said, “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD”. (Ps. 27:14)  Easy to say; not so easy to do sometimes...

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