Suffering in the Presence of God

Isaiah 26:16-17: Lord, in distress we searched for you. We prayed beneath the burden of your discipline. Just as a pregnant woman writhes and cries out in pain as she gives birth, so were we in your presence, Lord.

Though harsh, these words offer comfort and clarity in a place of sorrow. I hear often that God is present in our suffering, but this speaks something slightly different: that sometimes our suffering occurs in the very presence of God, perhaps at God’s own initiative, and that that is okay. The former speaks of God entering into our reality and bringing grace; the latter speaks of us entering into God’s reality and encountering pain and distress.

It’s difficult to wrap my mind around; it feels almost heretical to say that we could suffer in the presence of God and he would sit by and do nothing, refuse to ease the suffering. But what I am coming to understand is that something beautiful and necessary is developing within me and he refuses to abort the process. Yes, he is with me–my hand is in his hand, his voice reassures me–but his goodness and his wisdom prevent his intervention.

And within me, I feel something new emerging: a strength I have not known, a boldness, the quiet purring of a lioness learning to roar; the capacity to carry unshakeable joy in deep sorrow; an audacious, impossible hope.

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