Where's God When You Suffer?

Upon debate Katie and I decided to take our not yet one-year-old to the emergency room; Abram labored more and more with each breath. We had even administered two breathing treatments to him earlier in the day, but they weren’t enough. He needed more help.

Allan Foster (CC)

Furthermore, he refused to eat or drink, and the resultant dehydration compounded the problems. In retrospect, Abram’s pediatrician theorized that even though the x-ray that night showed negative for pneumonia, it was probably a false negative; the lack of fluids masked the condition.

I bring up the dehydration to set the stage for the hell Katie, I, and especially Abram endured that late afternoon. It’s hard even to write about it because it requires me mentally to revisit that hospital room when I’d just as soon forget about it.

It was the classic catch-22. Our son was severely dehydrated so they needed to start fluids as soon as possible. But in order to push fluids, they had to start an IV. But starting an IV on a dehydrated patient (whether or not that patient is a baby) is a difficult task.

On Abram it proved nearly impossible.

The first stick failed; the vein collapsed. The second too. And the third. They brought in ER nurses, NICU nurses, pediatric nurses, charge nurses. Two by two they showed up, gave it their best shot, and then left. A combination of nurses, aides, Katie and me restrained the child. Meanwhile he howled at the impossible pain, and our hearts broke.

The tenth stab did the job. After trying his inner elbows, hands, and even his head—yes you read that right—an ER nurse finally succeeded in threading a vein in my son’s foot. But not without leaving him bruised and scabbed all over. Pain no one—especially a baby—should have to endure.

When You Suffer, You're Not Alone

A few weeks ago I wrote an article at SarahSiders.com on the relationship between passion and patience. Both come from the same Latin root, pati, meaning to suffer. (Which is why the KJV uses “long-suffering” in place of the word patience.)

But there's another word that comes from patipatient, as in, Abram was a patient of the hospital that night. In this sense patient means, “one who suffers."

In the face of affliction we commonly ask, “Where’s God? How could He let this happen?”

One place to find the answer is 2 Peter 3:9:

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

The answer? He is patient with you. He suffers when you suffer.

God was a patient with Abram, lying on that table with the blood-stained sheets and the cries for help.

And on the cross 2000 years ago Jesus was the ultimate patient, suffering unspeakable atrocity as the Romans ripped the flesh off his backside, drove spikes through his wrists and ankles, and pierced his side with a spear.

This is what Peter is talking about in the above passage. Suffering is the result of sin. Not that poor little Abram sinned, or that Katie or I sinned to bring about this particular suffering. But sin ushered suffering into the world. Were there no sin, there would be no pain.

And God will make things right one day. He will provide justice for victims. He will heal the afflicted. But for now, he is patiently waiting. Painfully watching his children suffer. He doesn’t want anyone to perish so He’s giving us every opportunity to turn to Him and repent.

As bad as suffering is on earth, the omnipotent God has the power to restore us. And what lies ahead for those who turn to Him will completely erase even the memory of pain.

But for now, even though it hurts, be patient.

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