All of us have felt pain. Pain not only exists, but pleases itself as it comes upon us.
I know without a doubt that God hates to see people in pain. His will is NEVER that His people suffer. And yet, we experience pain, we see pain, and sometimes pain even makes us doubt God. In the moment, in the reality of pain, contemplating our future or God's goodness, is almost impossible.
I haven't blogged much in the past two years because of the pain and struggle in my life. I didn't feel I was "worthy" of it. Although some of you reading this will know of the struggles I have gone through, some don't. Just over two years ago now, my family was living in Liberia as missionaries. I was coming back and forth to the States helping to fund our ministry as we were self-supporting missionaries. Everything for the most part seemed in good shape. The ministry was doing well, my kids were happy, and I felt as though we were doing something positive in this world...helping others. But in December of 2010, my world was turned upside down. I found out my wife had been in a fairly long affair and was pregnant with another mans child. And in what seemed like only a moment, my entire life crumbled before my very eyes. My wife left me for another man, my ministry crumbled, and everything I had worked toward for the past fifteen years of my life was gone. I assumed I would never be able to be in ministry again and was going to be a single father of 10 children the rest of my life.
I would love to say that I was man enough to come to the immediate reality that God was going to use this for my good. I wish I could have understood at that moment the wonderful news that I was going to one day comprehend the magnitude of God's love, grace, forgiveness, and mercy. I would do anything to go back in time and know that anger, bitterness, and self-pitty would only bring more hurt, pain, and suffering upon myself. But the story didn't go that way. When the affair came out, I moved my kids back to the States and spiritually became a mess. On the outside I was doing wonderful. People would come up to me regularly and ask how I was doing it...they wondered how I could go through such a disaster and yet be doing so well? And funny enough, I had even convinced myself that I was doing fine. But on the inside I was not only doubting God and his word, but I was at times even doubting His existence. I played the Christian card of "faith by all means necessary". I was not willing to show doubt to anyone around me; I didn't even want to admit I was feeling it. I didn't want to look spiritually weak because after all, I was a good, solid, faith-filled Christian.
The truth was I was dying on the inside. I was struggling to understand how God could let this happen. I didn't understand how God could let my children hurt, let the ministry die, and if His word was true, then how was this all working out for my good? Was God real? Or had I believed a little fairy tale from a young age? I believed I wasn't fit for ministry and didn't think God would ever be able to use me again in any significant way because of my disasterous life.
But...but...but...God knew my pain, he understood my grief, and through the entire time was standing with me in my sorrow. Even when I doubted Him, he stood there waiting. He did not leave me because I questioned Him and even at times dispised Him. He was the God he said he was and always will be...a God of love, compassion, forgiveness, mercy, and understanding. The change in my attitude towards Him did not change who He was. I think as a body of believers, we have been taught that faith equates to "no doubt". When we believe in faith even when we don't understand, then everything is somehow alright and God is glorified by our lack of questioning. But this simply is not true. When we doubt, we need to be real with ourselves, and with God. Question God...and allow Him to give you the answer.
Two-years later as I look back on all that has happened, I praise God for His goodness. I see now the hand of God through every moment of my pain. I can see His compassion through my struggles. I can see His forgiveness for the times I screamed at Him, hated Him, and turned my face from Him. And most of all, I see His restorative power to bring our lives back into order. I have a greater awareness of His goodness and righteousness than I ever had before. Today, God has restored me and given me a new focus. I am happily remarried to a wonderful, compassionate, loving wife that I don't even come close to deserving. I have my children with me, who I love dearly and could not have gone through all of this without. And recently, I was given the opportunity to be back in full-time ministry. God is not only a good God, He is capable of the impossible. He is able to do more than we could ever imagine.
I know that God will use my pain for His glory. And now that I am on the other side, I thank God continually for allowing me to go through the darkness I went through, to come back out into a newness in Him that is greater than I could have ever imagined.
If you are struggling, know that God cares, He sees, and He understands. Admit your doubt to Him and give Him the ability to fill your heart with understanding. Only He can comfort you the way you need and only He can restore you.
James 8:8 "Draw near to God, and He will draw near to You."