Why is there pain in the world if God is good? If God could part the Red Sea, raise the dead, and stop the lion’s mouths, why did He let this happen to me? Does God really care about me? Why should I serve, let alone love Someone who, by all appearances, stands by and watches and maybe even plans the death, suffering, abandonment, and abuses in my life and all around me in the world?
Every person has wrestled with these kinds of questions. For some, it is from very personal experiences and for others, it is what they see around them that eats at their faith or puts the damper on their enthusiasm for loving and serving God.
- In “The Problem of Pain – part 1” I addressed some truths about God and the world that radically alters the way the situation is often made to appear.
- In this Part 2, I addressed truths that have helped me cope with the pain in my life and open myself to God’s love when it hurts.
Bryant Martin (host) begins:
Lord, Thank you for that song that He is worthy. Does the Father truly love us? He does! Does our God intend to dwell with us? He does. And we have the privilege of knowing that because of Jesus, and we can look back. It’s been given to us through Your Holy Scripture. It’s been told down through the millenniums of Your Son coming, and we believe that, that that happened. And because of that, we know that You do intend to dwell with us. You’re dwelling with us now by Your Holy Spirit, and someday in that new heaven and that new earth, we can dwell together, and that will become a tangible reality. We look forward to that time.
So Father, I pray a special blessing on our brother as he launches in to maybe more of a deep hard talk this evening. Father, I pray that you would pour Your Holy Spirit upon him and give him wisdom, and a clear mind. Give him boldness, Lord. Boldness because he knows that he is a mouth piece for you, Father. And also knowing that Your heart is so close to those who have pain and are suffering. So give him Your heart and Your words tonight. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
So Bill, thank you for your topic last evening. That was a blessing. And for those of you who are listening in, we do have a handout that he’ll be kind of working through. It’s on our website at Kingdom Fellowship. You can pop over there if you are on internet and get that, and you can follow along with him on that. So blessings, Bill. All yours.
Bill Shiley begins:
Good evening! My name’s Bill Shiley, and we’ve been talking here about the issue of suffering and evil in the world, and some things to help us cope. Last night, we went through some truths, and how we think about the world, and how we think about God. We went through what the story of the Bible actually is. While there is truth to things like God is all-powerful, God is all-knowing, and things like that, that seems to contradict evil in the world. We looked at some truths that are left out, I think intentionally, by Satan and his team to put a really bad slant on God. So we looked at more facts in the story, and informed our minds last night. Some of our basic journey, summing it up here, is that we see God making a good world, but integrated into the whole thing was free will, and because of love, love of necessity requires free will. We have to be able to choose. It has to be something voluntary, something given, and that God delegated part of His power to humans, and so as humans made a choice, God will not mess with that because He values their free will, and he respects the autonomy that He gave them.
And so man’s choice to be other than good and to partner with God, to follow God’s method of reigning and creating has produced a world that is other than good, which we call evil. And we also notice, though, that God has entered our brokenness. He came and became flesh and lived among us, experienced our evil, and He did that in order to be able to redeem us. He has redeemed evil by defeating Satan and breaking the bondage that we brought ourselves into the ownership that we gave Satan of our world through obedience to him. And he has set up a revolution, a group of people who are now following His way to bring health and to bring healing to the world. And ultimately, God is going to redeem all evil. He is going to judge evil. Evil is temporary. It will one day be judged and ended.
So that’s some of the facets we looked at last night. Tonight I want to look more of some helps for us emotionally. As Lamentations says, “This I recall to mind; therefore I have hope.” That verse is in the middle of chapter 3, in the middle of a lament – actually, a lament because of the effects of sin. He begins to turn his mind to recall truths about God to help him to have hope, and that’s what we want to do this evening here.
It’s been mentioned about me sharing my story. What I want to say off the bat is that the only reason I have anything to share is because it’s actually God’s story, not my story. It’s as I have given my story to God that it’s become a good thing in my life personally and in the world around me. So I love this verse, this quote from Jesus in John 8:33 “He that receives His testimony,” (speaking of the Messiah, the human one, Himself) – “He that receives [Jesus’ testimony] has set to his seal that God is true.” The picture there is of a king or ruler stamping his signet in the wax, putting His own reputation under what God has said. So that’s what I want to do tonight. There are lots of things we still don’t understand, but I want to personally share from my own journey some truths and things I’ve learned about God, and my commitment, my wholehearted enthusiastic witness is that God is trustworthy; He can be trusted, and He is good.
Some of the things we talk about tonight – there’s lots we don’t understand about God, but I like this little scene from The Chronicles of Narnea, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” where the children are introduced to Aslan who is a picture of Christ. Here in the story when the subject comes up that they find out he is a lion, they ask, “Is He safe?” Well, Mr. Beaver says, “No. Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? Of course, he isn’t safe. But he is good.”
And I love that. So while there’s a lot that we don’t understand, tonight I want to look at some things to help us to have reasons to trust God and to choose to inform our minds and believe, and orient ourselves, quiet our hearts with the fact that He is safe, even though there’s much we don’t understand.
So the first question I want to deal with is, “Does God care?” as we are going through suffering, as we’re experiencing pain in our lives. Last night we talked about some different kinds of pain, and each of us, as you came and logged into this session, have in your own mind pain in your own life or things that you see in the world around you that are difficult. So that’s a very important question: “Does God care?” We’re supposed to trust this guy. We’re supposed to give our lives to Him. We’re supposed to recklessly follow His directions. Is this a sensible thing to do? Does He care about me or am I expendable to Him? This is something I’ve struggled with deeply. Each of us has our own perspective as we look at suffering, and mine has been from one of fear. I was raised being taught that God was irritated at me, that I was a pain to Him. I was a reprobate, I was a person that just wouldn’t respond to Him, and was bullheaded and made mistakes, and was just going to end up getting cast out. So this has been a question I have wrestled with deeply, as I’ve stumbled through life.
There’s a passage in Psalm 50 that encapsules how we often tend to feel when we look at the world. We look at things happening, and it seems like God is not doing anything about it. Here he says, (paraphrasing from Psalm 50: 18-21) When you saw a thief, you consented to him; you’ve been a partaker with adulterers; you joined in; you sat and spoke evil against thy brother. Thou slanderest thine own mother’s son. And you did these things, and I kept silence, and so you thought that I was just like you. It didn’t really matter.
And that’s the message that comes to us as our tendency to feel in life as we see evil just going on, oppression, and suffering, and wickedness, going on around us. We feel that because God’s not doing something about it, that therefore He is unaware or it doesn’t bother Him. He’s disinterested, dispassionate about it. And that is anything from the truth! So that’s why it’s important tonight that we’re digging into God’s Word, and highlighting some things that help us to realize that it’s actually quite the opposite.
Yesterday, we talked about the Incarnation and how important that is in this whole thing, the fact that God came and lived among us. We see that so clearly in the Incarnation that God does care about us, enough that He was willing to come and live in it with us, experience it with us in order to redeem, and I think also to show us that He cares. Brother Bryant mentioned this evening in his opening comments about him being [Jesus is] able to be a High Priest who understands because He has experienced it. As the Messiah, this Hero was going to render evil, the snake, the serpent, powerless. As He is developed through prophecies through the Old Testament, we start to get this idea that’s really different than a king or a conqueror. In Isaiah 9, “He is Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of His kingdom and His government there will be no end.” When we get into Isaiah 52. (Psalm 22 brings this out, too.) But Isaiah 52 starts talking about Him as this person Who is not going to be very popular; He is not going to be attractive. Then Isaiah 53 talks about Him bearing our griefs and carrying our sorrows, and it says His identity was a “Man of sorrows and He was acquainted with grief.” It was a major part of his life. I think that’s interesting as we think about, “Does God care?” We ask that question and we look at Jesus and the Incarnation, and the fact that God became human and lived among us shouts that God does care about it. Not only does He care, but He knows how it feels!
We see God’s care as He weeps over Jerusalem, and symbolically weeps over mankind. It’s not that He’s dispassionate, and says, “All right, guys. If you want to be that way, knock yourselves out.” But our choices to run from Him, to resist His goodness, breaks His heart! It hurts Him because He desires good for us. He cares enough about what we’re doing to come and bear the brunt of it, to offer Himself as a hostage in our place so that we would be set free. Jesus uses a metaphor there as He weeps over Jerusalem and says, How often would I have gathered thy children together like a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you wouldn’t let me. And that’s such a powerful picture.
There’s a story that took place during the pioneer movement west. There was a young couple who went out and started a farm and cleared the land and planted their sod, potatoes, and everything. And one day there was a smudge of smoke on the horizon, and they realized there was a prairie fire coming, and it was coming too fast to do anything. All they could do was gather a few possessions and run down in the well, and barely survived long enough for the smoke to blow over. So they came out, and everything they had put their life into was just ashes all around them. As the young farmer was walking around dejectedly looking at the charred remains of their lives, there was a pile of char there in front of him, and he just kind of kicked it with his foot in dejection, and as the charred remains flew, out ran all these fluffy little yellow chicks safe. Because the hen had called them to her, and she bore – as the song writer says about Christ, “The powers of hell have done their worst.” He gave Himself for evil to bring its ultimate destruction on rather than us. And in that, “disbursed their legions” as the song writer says. So we sing, “Hallelujah!” But it’s not just because You brought us victory, but we see God’s love and His care for us that He was willing to commit Himself and provide freedom from the slavery we sold ourselves into. The Incarnation is tremendously precious to me. As we go through Christmases the last couple years, and there are all the family celebrations and holiday shopping and decorations and all the Christmas cheer and everything, I’m a little detached from that world. I don’t have some of those things in my life very much. But one thing I like to sit and just be still and think about is this fact, that amid all that, the real story is a God Who came. He came in a sheep’s stable that smelled like sheep manure, and there He was born and lived a lowly life, a life of suffering, a life of rejection, in order to associate with us and redeem us. So that’s one thing – the Incarnation. The whole thing just shouts that God really does care about us – very deeply.
I want to turn back to Lamentation and look at another characteristic of God that often is brushed aside, or probably just becomes cliché to us. It gets used so much that it loses its meaning to us. But Lamentations 3:22 is often quoted. It’s the famous song, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” based on this verse. “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning. Great is Thy faithfulness!” And I love that song, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” but the song talks about God’s mercies that are new every morning, and we’ll talk about that in a minute. But it says, “His compassions fail not.” It says, “They” His mercy and His compassion are new every morning. So every day God feels deeply for us in a new way. And that is touching to me, that God isn’t just a big tough guy that is merciful, but He has compassion. He feels with us.
Those are truths we have to hold on to by faith. There are times when it doesn’t seem that way, and we have to take things that we do see of His goodness in the world, the truth of His Incarnation, and realize that God does feel for us.
Another thing then is God’s mercy, that God is rich in mercy! God is not just merciful, which means He doesn’t want to give us what we deserve, but He is rich in mercy. What is interesting to me is that the part of the Bible that people tend to look at and say God is mean and ugly and nasty – the Old Testament – that actually if you want to read about God’s mercy, read the Old Testament, and notice the conclusions that are given in the Psalms and different times gives the picture that yes, there are times when God brings judgment and allows them to reap what they have sowed, a small part to try to get them to repent, but it’s about God putting up with these people and letting them go, and giving them a little bit to try to wake them up. God doesn’t want them to reap the destruction that they’re asking for.
So we ask, “Is God fair?” Well, no, God isn’t fair. God is merciful. And we’ll talk about that more a little bit later. God is rich in mercy. He really doesn’t want to give us what we deserve. Thinking of when we are suffering because of our own sin, our own failure.
I want to look at some more things from that passage, and again, I want to highlight that Lamentation is a book written in lament of the suffering Israel was experiencing because of their rejection of God, and their continually turning to the gods of this world. I already looked at verse 21, and now verse 25, “The Lord is good unto them that wait for Him, to the soul that seeketh Him.” So this is something that takes time. We have to endure in seeking after God and trusting Him.
Verse 26-28, “It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. He sitteth alone and keepeth silence, because he hath borne it upon him.” So the man in his lament is also saying that this does some good things to us.
Verse 31-36 “For the Lord will not cast off for ever: But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies. For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men. To crush under his feet all the prisoners of the earth. To turn aside the right of a man before the face of the most High. To subvert a man in his cause, the Lord approveth not.” God’s point isn’t to crush us and smear us in the dirt and beat us down. It’s His mercy – the things that we do experience is a result of evil in our lives, whether it is our own or others. One thing that’s true here all over is God’s compassion. God feels for us, even when it’s something because of our choices in reaping a portion of that.
Does it matter? Does it matter if God cares? There are some people who deal with pain or encourage others to deal with pain – “You just need to grow up. You just need to buck up. You just get over it and move on. It’s a tough world and you just got to handle it.” I’m going to push back really strongly against that, because stuffing things, just bottling it up, just shoving it down, trying to deny it, trying to push it out of the way, just leave it go, and toughening up – For one, it bottles up things that will explode later. You’re not dealing with it. It’s still there. It’s unresolved. Eventually, it comes out. Also, (this has become really important to me) it kills a part of you that senses another’s pain. When we don’t grieve and lament and find healing for things in our lives, and find comfort in God’s care for us, we then are going to become stiff and hard toward others’ pain, and often end up creating more suffering in their lives.
On the other hand, learning to cry on our heavenly Father’s shoulder leaves nothing in the closet you can’t face, and it also brings you a comfort to radiate to others. So people who have faced their suffering by crying and grieving, not as an orphan, but on their heavenly Father’s shoulder, and learning to live in the reality of His love and His compassion, and His security for them, as Jesus tells His disciples in John 14:18, He does not leave us as orphans, (NKJV), or comfortless (KJV). But we have a Father Who is with us and watching over us. He cares about what we are going through and is bringing good through it. That gives us something then to offer others to help them to heal. So I think it is a big deal that we come to the point where we allow God’s care, His compassion, His tenderness toward us in our suffering to become reality to us. I know this has been a journey for me, but you know, that has transformed my own leadership tremendously.
So if God cares, what is God doing about evil? Is God doing anything about evil? Last night we talked about that if God is good and He cares, maybe the problem is He can’t do anything about it. And how is it that He cares, but He’s not doing anything about it? That doesn’t make sense. Well, the fact is, God is! Romans 1:18 says, “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” And that’s talking about things that happen now. The passage goes on to talk about how people who pursue worshipping the creature instead of the Creator begin in their own flesh their physical life now to reap consequences for that choice. They don’t get off scot free.
I like this quote from Charles Dickens’ book, Oliver Twist. For those of you who know the story, Bill Sikes murders his wife Nancy and then runs off and tries to evade the police and justice. But everywhere he turns he’s being haunted by this apparition of his wife coming after him and calling him and saying, “I love you. I was faithful to you.” Dickens turns to his reader then as a narrator and says, “Let no man talk of murderers escaping justice and hint that Providence must sleep. There were 20 score of violent deaths in one long minute of that agony of fear.” A very wise observation about reality in the world – that all is not as it seems. People that do evil, who use others and seem to reign and they get what they want in the world, it’s not that way! That takes faith to believe, but there’s a rottenness that begins to eat at them, and they begin to live hell now, just like those who choose to follow Jesus begin to live heaven’s way now.
This has been a source of sad comfort to me, and also it’s been a tool for me to be able to comfort others who look and say, ‘That man did that to my little girl’ – or whatever it is – ‘and he’s getting away with it.’ It’s a sad comfort to realize with a horror that he’s not getting away with it. Even now in his life he is sowing an acid that is eating away at him. So God is not doing nothing about it. It’s not that evil gets away. God is merciful to all, but all begin to reap what they sow.
And then also, God in the end is going to defeat evil. Paul writes to the Thessalonian church that was under a lot of distress because of persecution, 2 Thes. 1:7 “To you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” I don’t understand how all that’s going to work with the Judgment and eternal destinies, but we know that there is coming a time where God will mete out justice and vengeance on evil and evil beings. So evil is a temporary thing. There is coming a time where everything is going to be set to rights – this idea of justice.
Another question that many people struggle with, and I struggled with deeply, is “Is God punishing me?” So when bad things happen in my life, unfortunate things or disappointments or wrongs happen to me, is God punishing me. This was what I was brought up being taught to believe, that everything that happens is God kicking me in the rear. It’s retribution for this supposed awful choices and hard heartedness that I was told I had growing up.
The reality is, as Psalm 130 says, “If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?” If God had an agenda to get even with us or pay us back in full, what we have sowed by our passions, we would all be vaporized, or I don’t know how all that would work, but we would experience the fulness of eternal damnation immediately. So even if it is that we are being chastened or disciplined, we’re reaping something that we have sowed, it’s not about God getting even with us.
More verses from Psalm 103, ”The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. . .He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” (verses 8, 10-14).
So again, even if it is that what we are experiencing in life is reaping for what we’ve sowed, it’s always in mercy. It’s actually God limiting His heart toward us in that He doesn’t want us to experience what comes to us. “He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” That verse right there marked a turning point in my life. I think it was around age 16 that I remember reading that verse, “As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities them that fear Him.” That was just not what I saw in my world – pity and understanding that we are children and we’re teenagers. We didn’t choose to come into the world and go through this stage in life. And so I thought, “Either God is full of bologna when He says that, or else there’s something real out there. God is something that is not what I am seeing. It wasn’t out of my goodness, necessarily, but I chose to seek after that. I chose to believe there was something real that there was a God out there that was not what I was being shown and what I was being taught. I began to reach out to Him to find that true reality. And that has characterized my life in a lot of ways, as I see things that the Bible says this is what it’s supposed to be like, and I don’t see that even in the Christian world, to choose rather than to give up and to turn aside and throw it all out because of that, I choose to believe that there is something real. There’s a third way and I want to find it. I’m not professing to do any better than anybody else, but I’ll die trying, rather than throw it out because I believe there is something real there. There is a God Who is a Father who does pity and understands and feels for us. And a I’ve come to realize that about God, it has also changed my leadership then as I relate to those who are weaker or younger than I am.
But God is not punishing us as in, getting even with us. In Revelation, He says this to one of the churches, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore and repent” (Rev. 3:19). So whatever God does allow in our life, if it is something that is because we are reaping something that we have sowed, it’s never to crush us, as Lamentations said, to just grind us down, and push us into the dirt. It’s always to wake us up and give us an opportunity to turn back to Him. There’s always and exit that goes up, in any situation where we are in life.
So, summing up the lessons from it: God has no interest in making us pay for what we have done or getting even with us. That’s just not God’s agenda in life at all, and if He would, it would be over instantly. But, at the same time, God does correct us and train us through all of life. Sometimes His correction is because of a mistake we’ve made. Sometimes it’s not. There’s nothing we’ve done wrong; it’s simply that we live in a world, where, because of free will, people can choose to be good or they can choose to be evil, and we suffer the effects of that. And yet God has redeemed that. And we want to talk about that in a little bit. So God uses those things as training in our lives – things to shape us, to soften us, to break us, to help us to learn. You don’t make a navy seal by having him sit on a couch and eat potato chips. So, in the same way, if we want to become warriors for God, if we want to become people who own God’s story and own God’s truth, it’s through suffering that we are trained. God’s chastening is not just correction or just spanking, but instruction and quality time and tough lessons to develop and grow us. So God corrects us and trains us through all of life. Whatever is happening to us, whether it is reaping a little bit of what we’ve sown, or whether it’s not, but just something that’s happening to us because of evil in the world we live in, the point and purpose of it always is to draw us up to make us something better.
Well, a question that comes with that is, “What about people who don’t know better?” Or on a personal level, maybe there’s something I don’t know that I’m doing wrong, and God’s just sitting there saying, “No, you keep getting this one wrong.” Maybe you have a struggle with that picture of God. I’m sure some of you have. That’s something I deeply battled with, like somehow I was supposed to study for something on a test and I didn’t know about it, and I just kept getting it wrong. This verse is very simple, but it brought a lot of peace to me about that on a personal level as well as on a global level as we think about primitive peoples that never heard of the Gospel. When Peter visits Cornelius and he hears his story about how God sent the angel and reached out to Cornelius in a unique way, Peter says this: (I’m paraphrasing here) “Now I realize that God doesn’t have favorites, but in every nation the one who respects God and does what He knows what is right is accepted by Him.” And that’s the Father we have. He’s somebody Who – that’s what He’s looking for. Isaiah 66:2 “To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at My Word.” So God is a rewarder of those who are seeking Him, and if we have a heart where we want to do what is right, and we want to honor Him, we are acceptable to Him, and God will lead us, just like He did Cornelius on the journey of growing.
God is a Redeemer! This is one of the most precious characteristics of God, partly because this is what brought me to a turning point in my own life. Basically summing that up, to redeem something is to take something that should be destroyed – it was on a path for destruction, and to save it from that and turn it into something beautiful, something good. And God in His character is so good that even evil people when it touches Him, it becomes good.
So I’ve shared a little bit about the perspective I had on God as I was growing up. I was raised in a very religious setting, but in many ways, not Christlike on different scores. I grew up in a home. My parents were from non-Mennonite background. I was almost 8 when we moved to the first Mennonite church. There were a lot of issues in my family. My father especially had a horrendous anger problem. Along with that, there was a lot of perversion that went on, molestation, and things like that, as well as physical and verbal abuse. It was just like the bath that our family was steeped in. I already shared a little about the perspective of God that was hammered into me along with a lot of Scripture. So through the things that were taught to me about God and about myself and the voice coming from the circumstances of things that were done to me, the way things happened in my life, I developed a deep depression and a self-hate, a self-loathing. By the time I was 13 I began struggling with suicide. I would take a knife and push it against my chest until it made a mark. I didn’t have quite the guts to go all the way through it, but that was something that just lurked all the time, just a self-loathing, a self-hate. I’m a very sensitive person by nature from the inside, and so I tend to be rather pensive. I take things seriously. I had a very sensitive conscience. So I just struggled tremendously with fear to the point of being a nervous wreck at times, even though probably most people, even up until the last several years probably most people don’t know it, because I’m the type that I’ll steel myself when I’m in public. I just can’t let it get the best of me. But it eats at you from underneath.
The church situations we were in were very difficult. The church got involved with my family and for whatever reasons did not see through things, and us children got blamed. We were told we were all the problem, and if we would just submit, then all our family’s problems would end. I grew up with my parents fighting and arguing and that kind of thing all the time. So as I grew up, I began to aspire to a different God and a different life. I left home, and I hoped to change some of those things. I hoped church would be different. I hoped that I could get married and experience a warmth and blessing and closeness in relationships. And those things didn’t materialize. I left home, and I lived and worked with a man that was abusive and angry, and come to find out later, was into some of the same things as one of my own family. And some of the things that went on in my own family I didn’t know about till after I left home, and that was just devastating to find out that that kind of perversion had gone on. And all those voices just told me, “You’re junk. There’s something wrong with you. You fell off the conveyor line, and God doesn’t pay any attention to you. Or else you’re doing something wrong and you’re just not good enough for Him. I struggled deeply with depression and suicide. Finally, one time after I got bawled out by my boss and the guy I was living with. Till about 12:30 I just sat there and cried. I slept for a few hours, and then got up in the morning about 5:00 to go help a farmer I was working for, and —- I had never felt Satan so close to me as in the truck that morning driving through the early morning hours. I was just done. I was sick of being a boxing bag. And just the frustration and hate for myself and for life just grew and grew. Finally, I got out on more open road, and I intended to end it. I just hit the pedal and held it to the floor. The last time I looked at the speedometer it was on the high side of 90, and there was 90 degree turn coming up, and it was lined with oak trees, and I was just going to smash into it and just, as they say, “end everything.”
Somewhere through the fog of my insanity – I would be ashamed to tell you of what was going on in that truck. I mean I was done. I was frustrated. I was angry. I was yelling and pounding the steering wheel, and I was sick of it all. Somewhere through that insanity I was in, God shown enough light into my mind and helped me remember that it wasn’t going to be the end. I’m not sure how, but somehow I made it around that curve, and went on to struggle, and broke through with life.
Through the next couple years, there were some courtship difficulties and disappointments. The church had massive eruption of problems. We didn’t have Communion for 2½ years, and there were just simple clear things that were right and wrong were being shoved under the rug, and dishonesty about it because of political connections, and just – Where is God in that kind of stuff? When the church, “the pillar and ground of the truth” is full of corruption? When the leaders who are to give life and nurture are the ones showering criticism, and not being honest about what’s going on, how are we supposed to see God?
And so I walked into Bible School in 2007, was encouraged by so many that meant a lot to me, that cared about me, and so I went. I still wanted to do what was right, but I was just dry. I just felt like all God ever did was kicked me in the face; it didn’t matter how hard I tried to be good enough for Him. With church, I was just fed up. If I would have had a clue where there was some place decent that didn’t have church problems, I would have been out of there with a shower of gravel, and shouting and praising the Lord.
So that was Wednesday evening the Bible School started. It was a good environment. Saturday evening there was a family there. I think they are listening to this talk here tonight that sang, and then another brother shared the devotional from Ephesians 2:10. Ephesians 2 talks about when we were dead in trespasses and sin, we walked according to the course of this world; we were enemies in our mind by wicked works, and children of wrath. Then God who was rich in mercy, quickened us, made us alive, and has cleansed us and lifted us up and made us to be children of God. Then it says in verse 10, “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God before ordained that we should walk in them.” The highlight of the devotional was that we are His workmanship. That word workmanship is the Greek word poiema, which is where we get our word poem from, and it means, a product, something produced, in essence a fabric.” I like that picture – something woven together and created. It’s simply his artwork, basically. It’s the expression of a craftsman. It’s the same term used in Roman 1:20 when it says, “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the poiema, (things that are made), even his eternal power and Godhead.” The truth that was brought out there from that passage is that when we surrender to God, we become His artwork. We become a demonstration, not of the abuse and the corrosion of the world in our environment, or even our own mistakes, but we become a demonstration of His skill, His passion, His purpose, His goodness and beauty.
And for some reason, I was at a point where I was ready for that. It was like a little beam of light came down from heaven, and I realized that God had been wanting to write a story in my life, and I had been fighting it. And that’s where really for the first time, I latched a hold of that truth and I bowed before God and said, “God, I surrender. I give up. I’m ok with You writing a story in my life through some very difficult things, and I want to surrender to that. My job from here out is to surrender, to accept what You allow. And it’s Your job to bring good through it, and I don’t have to understand and all that.
That was the beginning of a turning point in my life. My perspective about the happenings in my life began to change. That’s when the suicide left me. Working through depression has been a long journey since. It’s something I still get tempted with. Honestly, this morning I woke up, and the first impression was just a kick in the gut, like “You just did something really stupid last night.” But I’ve learned how to fight that. I know where that voice comes from, and I begin to reach out to God, and begin to give thanks, and just tell myself the truth, what I know the truth is about what God’s been doing in my life.
So that’s been a very exciting journey to move out of that darkness and to grow and overcome that despair and that cloud of depression and condemnation, and be able to grow in my security in God and my Heavenly Father’s love, and to be able to things – there are tests that have happened in the last six months, that I never would have been able to go through before, but God has been growing me, and with His help, I’m actually able to grow through them. So that’s tremendously encouraging. Probably most people when they look at those things and they blink, because I don’t appear as being a shaky scared person. But God knows those deep struggles, and we can share the joy of the journey and the growth that He is doing in my life through that.
So that passage is incredibly precious to me. That’s why I can share my story, because I’ve given it to God and allowed it to be His story. It’s as we step out in faith and we trust His goodness, and we let Him take control instead of fighting Him and running from Him about things in our lives – whether it’s the shape of our nose, or whether it’s our family, or whatever it is that we look at and we wish it wasn’t that way – when we give that stuff to God, it becomes something that He uses, and he creates something beautiful from it.
So with that, is the passage Romans 8:28 that’s often quoted. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God.” And we shouldn’t just stop there with that first part of that verse. We should read that verse emphasizing the word, “know.” “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to His purpose.” Most of the time when this verse is quoted, we stop with the first part, “All things work together for good to them that love God.” Well, when people look at their life, then they say, “How in the world is this working together for good?” Well, we need to read the whole passage. We need to read the context, and if we keep going, we find out that it’s to those who surrender to His purposes. And we don’t even want to stop there. Let’s go to the next verse. So whatever He allows is because He has good design through it for those who yield to His purposes. But in the next verse, we find out – the King James Version says, “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son.” So God knew ahead of time the choices people are going to make, and He has worked everything together, so that those who yield to His purposes can become like Jesus. And see, that adjusts a lot of things in my life because that was my problem – I had purposes for my life. I just wanted to be normal. I wanted to get away from this cloud of family reputation that surrounded the name Shiley, and just settle down and go to a nice Mennonite church and have a nice little business, and nice piece of property, and marry a nice woman and have a nice family. I just wanted to be normal. And God had other things in mind. And God wanted to use some very difficult experiences to shape me, and to trim things off of me so that I would become more like Jesus. And it’s as I give up my agenda for my life, and I let Him do whatever He wants, because I know that He’s going to make me more like Jesus, THEN I can see the good that comes through those difficult things.
One thing that needs to get talked about with this whole thing about God working things out for good, is what do we believe about determinism or fore-knowledge, sovereignty, predestination, and all that stuff. I’m not going to go into a long theological debate on that, but I’m just going to tell you basically what I do believe. If you want to learn more about that, listen to David Bercot’s message on “What the Early Church Believed about Predestination,” and you’ll learn there some concepts about determinism. In other words, that God has a plan for your life and you’re supposed to marry that person and live at that house, and that God has the script written.
God does not write ours or others’ script. He does allow us free choice. He invites us to the stage, and shows us what’s going on and lets us choose to become partners with Him as the protagonist, or to be partners with the antagonist, as we interact with others on the stage of His world. He does know the choices we and others will make, and through our choices, He weaves things together through it to bring good to those who choose to humble themselves and follow Him.
God is a Redeemer. I love the story of Job in this whole thing. In Job’s journey, there are couple people – I’m being sentimental here; don’t take theology out of this – but when I get to heaven, I would love to just give them a big hug and a slap on the back and say, “Thanks for sticking it out!” Two of them are Job and Joseph. (We’ll run into Joseph later.)
In the book of Job, we have sort of played out in one man’s life the big picture of what’s going on. And we’re introduced to Job as someone perfect and upright. He’s not the kind of guy that there’s any reason for God to bring any sort of punishment, if you please, into his life. There’s apparently nothing to be corrected, and yet Job loses everything. Job screams out in some of the most gut wrenching and yet beautiful laments. He pours out his heart to God. He says, (I’m paraphrasing) “God, I’m almost losing my sanity. You bother me in the night, and during the day time I can’t think straight. Can’t you leave me along long enough to swallow my spit?” I love the way he’s honest and point blank about his feelings with God, and yet turns in respect and trust. Job asks, “Why?”
Finally, God shows up in a whirlwind and takes Job on a virtual nature walk. I think that’s significant. We’ll talk about that in a minute. Job finally has a chance. God stops and says, “By the way, you had some questions.” And Job just says, “No, I’m good. I’m realizing that You operate in a world that I don’t even know how to start relating to, trying to figure out when all the deer are going to have their fawns, and how snow gets made, and how to handle a herd of T-rexes or brontosauruses, (or whatever you want to say Leviathan and Behemoth are). And Job finally has a chance to ask his questions, but Job doesn’t have any questions anymore. They’re not important enough to ask. In the end, Job never asks his questions, but he doesn’t need to. I think it’s because he has learned that he can trust God. He has come to realize that God has things going on, God has wisdom, God has a way of carrying out His designs that Job can’t even scratch the surface of. So he says, “With the hearing of the ear, I heard of You, but now my eye sees You.” He has now come to know God in a whole new way and trusted that God is good, and God is going to bring good through this. The Book of Job closes where we see a healing and a restoration coming in Job’s world in the end.
So this is an important truth to understand about evil, pain, suffering that happens to us, is that when Satan tries to do evil, he unwittingly does God’s work in those whose hearts are turned towards Him. So evil turns to good when a person chooses to listen to God and follow God and surrender to His goodness, believe and trust in His goodness. Evil actually ends up doing good.
Another thing from the Book of Job about this is that we really don’t want answers; we want a Person. Just knowing why – we say, “Why is this happening?” But if God would tell us why, we probably wouldn’t understand and number 2, it still wouldn’t help, because this is an emotional issue. This is not an issue about intellect, and we say, “Oh, ok, I know that if You cut my hand off, it’s going to be better for me, so now it doesn’t hurt.” No, that’s not the way it is. We want a Person. The answer to pain and suffering is that God shows us Himself, and we come to realize that we have a good Father who is with us, and is going to redeem what is happening. It’s going to be ok in the end. Things are not out of control.
Psalm 48:11 says, “For the Lord God is a sun and shield. The Lord will give grace and glory. No good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly.” My life journey did not end in 2007 with Bible School, and there have been a lot of heartaches and disappointments since. This is something I’ve had to learn to grapple with in a reality I have had to choose to believe and act upon. The antithesis of this that God will not withhold good from those who walk uprightly, is that if God is withholding something from us, then it must be that He knows it is not good for us at this time. There’s something better.
I have a picture here of a little girl standing there holding a little teddy bear in front of her, and the traditional Jesus is kneeling in front of her reaching out, asking for her to give up the teddy bear, and He has almost this life size teddy bear behind Him, and He’s saying, “Trust Me. I have something better for you.” And the little girl is saying, “But I like this one.” And I love that picture, because part of what we have to do in this whole thing is, we have to become a child, recognize we are a child and humble ourselves before God and trust Him. I see myself in that picture, that as an adult, I’m the same way. I say, “God, why can’t I have this? I want this. It would be so good.” And I don’t realize that God has something better for me. Not necessarily the thing I wanted maybe, but He has the better thing to work in my life through it. He’s asking me to give up my hold on what I want in order to give me something better. But that takes trust to be able to realize that.
I love this outburst in the beginning of Isaiah 64, “Oh, that He would rend the heavens and come down . . .” And he goes on and talks about how God used to come down and make the mountains smoke and straighten everything out. He came riding in and fixed all our problems. But then he says, “For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for those that wait for Him.” That’s the challenge that I’ve had to accept in my life. It’s really my choice. Am I going to get disillusioned with God and give up on Him? Or stumble through life, holding Him at a distance because I don’t think He’s being fair with me? Or am I going to surrender to Him and allow Him to love me through the things that have happened and the things that continue to happen, and live to walk with Him, to follow Him, to obey Him, and see the good that will come in the end. Or am I going to flip the switch and clock out and live with the devastation that I’m seeing around me?
The question is, “Can we trust God?” So God’s Word says God is good, and we can read Bible verses, but when we look at the world around us, and the things that we are feeling and experiencing when we are in pain, and we’re suffering, and there’s evil going on around us, it doesn’t look good. It doesn’t look like someone we can trust. Is there something tangible that we can cantilever our faith on? Some evidence that shows us something good that we can build our faith on? Because faith is not blind, but it calculates from what it can see and what it can know into what it cannot.
Well, God says, “What may be known of God is manifest in them (humans in their consciences) for since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things which are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (paraphrased from Romans 1:20).
So God tells us, “Look at what I have made and you will see Who I am.” The things He has made are His artwork. That’s what artwork is – it’s the expression of His character, His values, His vision, His dreams. So I have found this an incredible blessing in my own life as part of my forays into science apologetics, evidence for God, and those kinds of things. My venturing into the world of photography was part of this journey of looking at the world, the creation of God, and being able to get a tangible picture of my heavenly Father and His goodness.
I want to share one that is of particular interest to me and that is a picture of God as a Redeemer in the Hubble Ultra–Deep Field Project. The Hubble telescope is a satellite telescope. It’s the biggest and “bestest” that man has developed to date. So they did this project where they pointed out a spot in the night sky close to the Big Dipper. It’ about the amount of sky that would hide behind a grain of sand between your fingers. If you hold a grain of sand there and put it out at arm’s length, it would be about the amount of sky that would hide behind that. And there was nothing there. Through the naked eye and through lesser telescopes, they couldn’t see anything. Then they decided to put the Hubble telescope there for a few days with some really filters and processing, and see if there was anything out there. Well, this is what they saw in that dark spot. For those of you who can’t see it on the screen, it is a picture that is full of not just stars, but mostly galaxies – spiral galaxies that have a minimum of tens of thousands of stars each. They have done computer calculations on that picture, and the estimation is that there is approximately 10,000 galaxies – in that dark spot – that little bit of dark sky that we can’t see anything in – that would hide behind that grain of sand between your fingers at arm’s length. In that dark spot, that’s what God has going on. They say it’s approximately enough stars for everyone on planet earth to own give or take around 3 trillion each.
I love that picture, because if God’s showing in His creation things that He has going on that we have no idea about, where we see blackness and nothing, God has more going on than what we can see. And that has been a comfort to me. I’ve often prayed to God – the God of the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field Project, as I look at the blackness in my life, where I can’t see anything good coming out of it, in trust that He is good; I’m not an orphan, left to grope for myself, but He does have purpose and intent in my life, and is going to bring good out of it. And I’ve lived long enough – I’m thankful to be able to say – I’ve lived long enough to begin to trust God, and I’ve seen these things long enough that I’m beginning to experience the good out of it. And that strengthens my faith as I look back and I see things. One of the ways my seven years teaching school was a little bit of a microcosm of life. I’m able to look back and see some extremely difficult things I went through, some students that were incredibly difficult, and the good, the things if I would have given up, or got mad and thrown things to the wind in the middle of it, I would have missed out on so much. I want to allow that to continue to bolster my faith and help me to learn to keep surrendering to God, to rest in Him when I face difficult things, when I face those fears that I’m going to be a failure, a disaster, to trust that I will have things to learn. There will be things that come in life to bring me to brokenness, but God is going to do good in my life as I continue to reach out to Him, and He is reaching out to me.
Another one – these are just some top favorites of mine. There are lots of other fingerprints of God in creation that I love is the Mandelbrot Set. If you search online for “The Secret Code of Creation” by Jason Lisle, you can learn about that. It’s a set of numbers. When I saw these images, I cried. It just literally blew my mind what God has packed into this obscure set of numbers that we didn’t even run into until the 80’s. Check that out some time if you want to spend some time worshipping God as you view His handiwork in the abstract world of numbers.
So the important thing is that we need to realize that part of our problem as we look at suffering and pain in the world is our context. Our context is so small. So just simple things like a rainy day. Is a rainy day good or bad? Well, it depends who it is. Are we the farmer who is praying for our crops so that we can make ends meet, or like in some part of the world, so we can survive and have food to eat? Or are we the vacationer who is having to sit under the tent instead of fishing out on the lake or whatever. It depends on our perspective. What may be less than ideal for us is actually a blessing for somebody else, or vice versa. Our context tends to be me, my lifetime, and the people that I care about. And that is not a good reflection on me because I’m upset because the people close to me in my life it’s not ideal for, but maybe it is actually being salvation to somebody else.
The life of Joseph is an example of this. Joseph transformed evil into good by his choice to follow God and be soft. He is such a beautiful and such a healing person in his relationship with his brothers and providing sustenance for the known world at the time basically, by choosing to surrender to God and remain soft through the devastation. If there was somebody in the Bible story that it didn’t pay – it didn’t appear to pay – to honor God and be a man of integrity, it was Joseph. He got punished for it every step of the way. I’m thankful for his example there. He waited and kept on faithfully trusting God, and just tremendous beauty and good came out of his life.
So our context is often the problem. We look at right now, and we get distressed and disillusioned and frustrated and upset, rather than being willing to be a child, and say, “Look, God has more in mind than right now.” And as we listen to His Word, things are going to all turn to good if we choose to embrace HIS purpose of us becoming more like Jesus and being able to be part of Jesus’ revolution.
Satan wants us to look at the casket and think, “This is it.” Last weekend, I stood with my brother and his wife’s family as they buried their father, a man who was a tremendous blessing and nurture in his family and in the community in the broader context of his life. When we look at the casket of a man who died, bled to death, and his features were not normal – just such an ugly ending to such a beautiful person. Satan wants us to look at those things in our life – our dashed hopes, the pain and wrong done to us, and say, “This is where it gets you following God.” We need eyes of faith to look beyond that and trust and follow God into the good that He has designed.
The question is, “When do we clock out on God?” When we say, “All right, God, I’m going to give You one more try, and if You don’t this time, sorry, I’m just going to have to quit.” We can’t do that. We follow along. We have to stick with Him and surrender ourselves to Him, and follow to see what the end is going to be of His goodness.
Pain also has blessings, if we are exercised by it. C.S. Lewis said that God whispers to us in our pleasure, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts to us in our pain. It’s His megaphone to rouse a deaf world. Pain lets us know we have a problem, that there’s a problem going on in the world, so that we can avoid it ourselves, correct it if it’s something that is indeed in our lives, and so we can be more aware of how to be partners with Jesus in redeeming, and showing God’s love, and bringing God’s healing, and avoiding being part of that [causing pain] by following Jesus and His commandments and living His way in the world.
I like the words of this song. The title of it is, “The Wound is Where the Light Gets In,” by Jason Gray.
I was halfway up the mountain
When the rocks I held gave way
I came tumbling like an avalanche
To the bottom where I lay
And with the taste of blood
And the twist of bone
My healing could begin
‘Cause the wound is where the light gets in
I have stood there like a hostage
With a knife held to my vein
Captive to the poison
That I took to numb the pain
Cause everybody wishes
They were born with thicker skin.
But the wound is where the light gets in.
I love that verse – it’s such a picture of what happens when we pull away from God and we look to other things to suave our pain. We end up being held hostage to something that is sapping the very life from us, often as we look for something to suave our pain, because we pull away from God.
It’s tricky how the heart works
When the break ups
And the big jerks
Make us never wanna hurt that way again
Maybe I’m naive
But in every scar I see
The place where love
Is trying to break in
Cause the wound is where the light gets in
You can recognize a saint
By the scars they don’t disguise
You can pick a real sinner
By the kindness in their eyes
I think that means someone who has accepted and seen the fact that they have contributed to the evil in the world.
So if you’re stumbling in the dark
And bleeding at the shin
Remember the wound is where the light gets in.
I probably listened to that song about 40 times when I first discovered it, and did some real crying and repenting, and just opening my life up to God as I just recognized again that the pain, the suffering that I’ve experienced, the difficult things in my life – it’s God knocking and wanting me to give up, to allow Him to come in, and be part of my life and bring healing and bring change to me through it.
Pain limits evil, the curse. We refer to thorns and all that kind of stuff as the curse, and yes it was a curse, but in a lot of ways, it simply limited man’s ability to sit around and create evil. If we didn’t have to spend so much of our life just trying to survive, imagine the evil and the clever perversions and tortures for each other that we would cook up. Just think about boys that sit around and think of ways to tease their sisters. If they didn’t have anything to do – and then put that on a global scale for all of us. In so many ways, even the curse of work and things, was a mercy to limit evil. People could only do so much evil because in the end, it’s going to come back and bite them.
Pain reminds our hearts that this is not our home. Pain, if we let it, wakes us up to the reality that there is more to this. This is not the end. Things are not ok here, and God wants us to live here in a way that we can be part of something better and greater, a redemption of it that’s coming.
Pain is the anvil on which character is formed. There are books written, there are life stories besides my own. Many of you could probably share stories. But even Jesus, it says He became complete or perfect through suffering. Pain is the anvil on which character is formed.
Pain is eclipsed in the good it produces. The Bible refers to a mother bringing forth child with labor pains, and she forgets it the moment the baby is born, and she has the delight of being able to meet the new life she has been carrying (John 16:21). In so many ways, in the end, if we wait this out and we follow God and trust Him and obey Him through this life, the same will happen for us.
The solution to evil. We talked about this in the first session, but I think this is incredibly important. We say, “Is God doing anything about this? What is the solution to evil?” Christianity has reduced it down to that God wants to get us out of here because this whole thing is flawed, and that is NOT what Jesus says, and that’s not the picture of either the Old Testament or the New Testament. When Jesus came, He began to preach and say, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” He came to set up heaven living here on earth again. The solution is a Kingdom, a community of people living God’s way now. It’s a revolution to restore the good reign of God on earth, and the reign of humans with Him. Then in the end, when the fulness of time has come, God is going to give us a new heaven and new earth to live in wherein dwells righteousness. There’s going to be a complete union of heaven and earth. God’s space and man’s realm – again being able to be united together in fellowship and in partnership where there is no evil. So, the project isn’t over yet, and God wants us to join Him in being disciplined by the suffering and the pain in our world, to be partners with Him in setting up something that is going to last forever and be good.
Isaiah 65:17 says, “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.” It’s going to be over, and it’s going to be gone; it’s going to be history in light of the good that will come.
Revelation has several scenes like that where it talks about this, where it says things like in Revelation 7: 15-17: “Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sits on the throne shall dwell among them.” (Again, this union of fellowship and partnership together.) “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters” (and this last part is very precious) “and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” So God in a personal way is going to bring an end to our sorrow and our suffering if we wait for Him, and if we follow Him in trust and obedience.
Evil is redeemed through suffering. This is something that really began to sink into me a couple of years ago in school through Bible memory and study and different discussions we had. It just really began to sink into me. I realized there’s so much need in my life for a change of perspective. But suffering is not a nuisance to be tolerated, but it’s an atomic weapon for the Christian. It’s God’s way of turning evil to good. That’s how Jesus came and ultimately defeated evil and opened the door for redemption. It was through suffering, allowing evil to take itself out on Him, and responding by pouring good back into it, and in that way evil is dissolved.
Peter’s epistles are full of this. I think partly the reason Peter denied Christ was because he wasn’t willing to suffer; he didn’t want to hurt to follow Jesus. So he talks about this a lot in the last part of chapter 2,3,4,5 of 1 Peter. This is a passage that’s very well known. Charles Sheldon wrote the book, In His Steps, based on this, but we need to think carefully and read the whole thing, and see what it is that Christ left us an example that we should follow in His steps. And as we read, we find this, 1 Peter 2:20-21 “But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.” God looks at that and says, “Wow! Now I’m impressed with that. That’s my kind of guy!” “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps.” (of being willing to suffer in order to be part of the redemption of evil in the world. I think that was part of my problem. I was not taught that, and I did not want that. I didn’t have a perspective that following Jesus was a life of embracing suffering. That is a weapon. Not just something to be endured, but that is a weapon of absorbing evil and responding with God’s goodness by allowing God’s presence to live in me. I want to continue allowing God to engrain that in my mind, and also as I lead others toward God, I want that to be a major part of the picture I give them of following Jesus, that suffering is Jesus’ way of defeating evil. It’s part of His upside down Kingdom.
2 Timothy 2:12 says, “If we suffer, we will also reign with Him, but if we deny Him,” (if we deny His way, His method of relating to evil in the world.) “He also will deny us” (we will be left to ourselves.)
I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about examples, but there are many in the Bible, there are many people through history, there are many people in contemporary history of people who have been through a lot of suffering, and have become more beautiful people, and have been able to leave a tremendous witness in their world.
I want to talk a little bit about handling grief. We talked a little at the beginning about this thing about, “Can we trust God?” and “Does God care?” and handling emotions. Some things I have found helpful for myself are basically three steps.
- One is reality. We’ve got to face it. I’m not a fan of this thing of trying to go back and dredge up and create things that aren’t. There are times and places for some of that kind of stuff, but we do need to face the reality of what happens. You don’t need to forgive unless something was wrong. Then there’s the whole thing of bottling things and just burying them, and then they rot, because we’re not ok, but we’re trying to say we are. Living in the truth sets us free in so many senses.
- And lament. This is a thing that western culture runs away from. At funerals, we are embarrassed to cry, and that kind of thing. I think there’s a lack of wholeness in our societies because of some of this. But the Bible is full of lament. In the Psalms and in Lamentations and in Job, people are crying out and turning into a puddle before God about what’s going on. Then from that release, being able to turn to trust in God and express confidence in God’s goodness. Get it out! And as we relate to people who have gone through pain, we need to allow them and encourage them to do that, to get it out of their system. Then move on to the deeper reality. So this is what happened, and it hurt. I need to value what was lost and lament over it, crying on my heavenly Father’s shoulder, not as an orphan, but cry to Him, and allow Him to bring comfort, to sorrow with me.
- Moving on to the deeper reality then, how does Who God is change my response to this? How can God empower me to grow through this, to become better through it? How can He bring healing and wholeness to my life as a good heavenly Father? I found those things a wholistic approach, and cycling through them again as you work through layers, facing the reality – this has affected me. It was not ok, and it hurt. But then moving on to Who is God, and how does that affect how I handle this and my future expectations.
I like the reality in this song. This is by Mark Paul.
Oh, my soul, oh, how you worry
Oh, how you’re weary from fearing you lost control
This was the one thing you didn’t see coming
And no one would blame you though,
If you cried in private, if you tried to hide it away
So no one knows; no one will see if you stop believing.
Oh, my soul, you are not alone.
There’s a place where fear has to face the God you know.
One more day He will make a way.
Let Him show you how you can lay this down.
‘Cause you’re not alone.
Here and now you can be honest.
I won’t try to promise that someday it all works out
‘Cause this is the valley.
And even now He is breathing on your dry bones
And there will be dancing, there will be beauty
Where beauty was ash and stone.
This much I know. . . .
Helping the hurting – I’m just going to run through this quickly. I just want to mention some of this because some well-meaning people have made this journey very difficult for me at times, and God has brought good through that, partly because I know not to do those things myself.
Some things to be careful of – For one, we got to be willing to suffer so that we can be an example of trusting God’s goodness and redemption.
“Weep with those that weep.” That’s what the Bible says to do. Too often we want to get over it. We want to fix the problem. And part of letting the pain work in our lives is weeping and sorrowing and grieving, whether it’s a lost loved one or whether it’s a loss of innocence, or whether it’s a loss of job, or loss of reputation, or whatever it is. Weep with those that weep. Then we can be part of the comfort.
Don’t lob Romans 8:28 grenades. Don’t try to offer quick answers and just say, “Well, we know it will all work together for good.” I had this happen one time with a courtship breakup. The very night after we had officially – I met her and said, “Thank you for the privilege, and I wish you the best in life,” and we parted. The very next night a couple who knew what was going on wanted to make the statement, “Well, there’ll be another one.” Well, ah! I mean, that was dear of them, too, but right now, I’m not interested in that. I loved her. I cared about her. It hurt right now! And it wasn’t — don’t do those kinds of things.
Pain and suffering is messy and we have to be ok with that. Don’t just try to fix it. Weep with them, walk with them, let them see God’s goodness through you. There are times to bring in trust in God, and things like that. The one man who has probably been the biggest influence in the last seven years of life, during that same incident sat there and put his arm around me and cried with me, and just let me talk when I wanted to. He was also the man that I remember one time very distinctly when I was just frustrated and sick of some stuff that was going on, and I just blew up. I think I scared him a little bit. And so finally he looked at me when I got done, and he just kind of blinked and said, “Well, so where is God in all of this?” And because of him sorrowing and weeping with me as I poured out the things I was facing to him as a good friend, he was in a position then to be able to call me to the deeper reality.
Don’t equivocate, or act like you understand when there’s no way you could. Don’t try to say to somebody who has been through deep abuse, “Well, you know, my dad sometimes spanked me too hard, too.” Or, don’t try to make it the same to level it out. You actually ruin credibility by doing that.
Remember, people don’t want answers. They want a person. They want to know that Dad is still here, and He cares, and it’s going to be ok. Let them see that through you. Be an ambassador. Let them see that God loves and cares through your tears and touch. I’m not saying you don’t bring truth, but in my experience, these are the things that people need to be brushed up on, not so much how to give answers.
Listen. Especially when someone has gone through something in private or silence for years. They need to be able to open up and talk. So listen. And walk with then. That’s what Jesus did. That’s Jesus’ way of discipleship – an ongoing relationship of mentoring, walking with someone with fellowship, and then commenting into their life and encouraging them, and showing them ways they can improve, helping them work through difficult things. That will be effective help.
In wrapping up here, the choice that we face is when do we clock out on God? When do we say, “God, I’ve given you enough time. You’re not bringing good out of this. I’m giving up.” Really? When do we do that? Are we somehow going to provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we going to make God feel bad, and God’s going to say, “Oh, no. I don’t want to lose you.” No! We’re the losers. If we clock out on God, if we withdraw from being exercised by His loving training in our lives. Do we think we’re going to make God feel bad? We’re the losers if we quit. This is something in my experience. Many times when I’ve wanted God to change things, and I threw a fit and I’ve gone and tasted sin, and things like that, I’ve become held hostage to the poison I took to numb the pain, because I wasn’t surrendering to God. And ultimately, what God does is, God lets me try that stuff until finally I’m sick of drinking the cup of my own way, and I’m tired enough of it, that I’m ready to accept something else, accept His option and do what it takes to make it happen. Ultimately, that’s what happens, and that’s ultimately where we all have to get to, to where we’re done with our way and we’re ready to give up and accept the good that God wants to bring, the story that God wants to write, wants to weave into our life through our choices and the choices that others have brought to play in our lives.
Hebrews 12 talks about this thing of chastening and training and how it’s a difficult thing, and we need to be careful that we don’t become weary and discouraged and sell out like Esau did. The statement I really like is in verse 9, (I’m paraphrasing) We listened to our fathers, and we found out it was best to go with Dad’s advice and to listen to him. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection unto the Father of Spirits and live? Isn’t it so much better — if it was good to listen to our natural dads to listen to our heavenly Father and submit to His hard lessons in life and experience life because of that? Because He is training us not just to make Himself look good or for His agenda, but for our profit, so that we can become like Him.
So the choice that I have had to face, and I continually need to face, and the choice that each of us faces, is the fact that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. When we resent what God has allowed in His goodness in our life and we resent His redemption of it, and we pull away from Him, we push ourselves away from God. We become something that God repels.
And so Peter says, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” And I think that’s just a wholistic summary of what we’ve been talking about here – is to humble ourselves, to submit and give ourselves to the strange and mysterious ways of God in our lives, because His purpose is to exalt us, to lift us up and make us something better, to make us like Him, partners with Him in His glorious triumph over evil. And in the meantime, cast your care on Him. Don’t cry it alone. Come to Him and pour out your cares and the struggle to Him because He does care about us!
Question and Answer session begins:
Bryant Martin, host: Thank you, Bill for the sharing that you did here tonight. You have talked about how you’ve struggled with suicide, with fear, with depression, courtship disruptions, and different things like that, and we relate to story. People can relate to story so well, and I think for that reason it has and is resonating with many people. You are speaking from a place of real experience and real pain. The pain that you endured and others are facing is not an illusion. It’s real. It’s felt. So you have provided an excellent foundation, excellent presentation on the purpose of pain, giving due respect to the intense struggle of pain.
Joe Kurtz, moderator: So some of the questions that came in – I think this one maybe comes from last night’s discussion. Question:
Isaiah 45:7 says “I form the light and create darkness. I make peace and create evil. I the Lord do all these things.” And I think more than posing a question there was, would you have a comment on Isaiah 45:7?
Bill Shiley: I knew that was going to come up. You can’t talk about all of them. I don’t have a handy answer for that. And that is becoming such a comfortable position for me, just to be able to say, “Hey, I don’t know. I’m learning to quit trying to nail down and understand everything. But at the same time, I’m not at a place of ignorance. That question doesn’t bother me, because there are other things that I feel like I have come to learn, and I know about God, to help me to be ok with not understanding that statement totally. The question there is, “Does God create evil?” Create is the same Hebrew word in Genesis when it says, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” I guess I would like to look at it differently. I think that’s a bad way of depicting things to say that God created evil. But I do know that God has created a world of free will, because He’s a God of love, a God of relationship, a God of community and partnership. So therefore, He has created a world where evil is a possibility, and He is sovereign and He superintends over that. It is by His permission that those things happen, and with His love, His care, His compassion with the happening in His purpose, His steadfast love and purpose to redeem it. That’s the way I choose to look at that. I feel like to say God creates evil is a part of the picture that’s very misleading. I got asked that in school probably a dozen or two dozen times. That’s a troubling passage.
Joe Kurtz: Thank you for that response. Here’s another question:
Does God ever take away the autonomy that He gave us? For example if a thief was stopped from carrying out his intended crime by a miracle, etc.
Bill Shiley: Yeah. So that happened in the Bible a couple of times. Someone was struck with blindness so they couldn’t carry it out. That’s an interesting question. I don’t know that I would say God took away their autonomy, but God stood in the way and chose to bring good, bring people’s attention to His goodness by preventing it. The person could still choose to keep fighting, but they were just hindered. That’s an interesting question. I don’t know that I have a really good answer for that other than God didn’t change their choice. He simply chose to intervene and protect. That’s the way He chose to bring good out of that situation.
Joe Kurtz: supernaturally intervened.
Bill Shiley: Yeah.
Joe Kurtz: Bryant, do you have a comment on that?
Bryant Martin: No, I don’t. You might have seen me sit up a little bit straight, and that’s because there was a comment that came in on Isaiah – this other back discussion, and I actually read it in my Septuagint, and it was a little different. This gentleman is saying that the Septuagint does read a little bit differently. That was a comment that just came in. During the course here, I had picked my Bible up, my Septuagint, and I noticed it wasn’t quite worded the same, but I didn’t connect that, so yeah, that is interesting. So maybe Bill, I don’t know if you’ve read it in the Septuagint before, but check it out. It is different.
Bill Shiley: That’s a good point. I’m starting to transition into that a little bit. But I still – The King James is still my mother tongue. I would say this about it too. It seems like God has created a world where evil self-destructs in the end. If people choose to relate to the world in a way that’s not real, in the end, they bring their own destruction. And in some ways, that type of thing is the same way. Death to an evil person is that – they are relating to the world in a way that brings their destruction. And sometimes people may run into that type of thing sooner, like God just creating an invisible wall so that somebody can’t molest somebody or something like that. But it’s still our choice to interact in a way that we come up against consequences.
Joe Kurtz: Yeah. Ok. Thank you for that. Next question: This is probably a big discussion, maybe one that can’t be covered too well here.
This is a very difficult subject on which you have been speaking, Bill, in apologetics, the problem of excruciating pain extends to the innocent, extends to the unaware. God can intervene, can supernaturally intervene, like we just said a minute ago, but He does not always do so. So how do we reconcile God’s sovereign goodness and moral consistency?
Bill Shiley: So you’re saying the fact that God does not choose to intervene, He lets horrific things happen?
Joe Kurtz: That’s right.
Bill Shiley: That’s a home territory subject, because I’ve wrestled with that deeply for myself – why did God let things happen to me? That’s enough of a struggle, but then why did God let this happen to my siblings? As a big brother to six sisters, that’s something I’ve had to grapple with – why did God let this happen? And why didn’t I know about it to be able to stop it? And there are all kinds of things that I could say about that, that I’m at rest with. But one thing that has helped me to understand is that we tend to look at God in the context of who we are rather than looking at ourselves in the context of Who God is. I wrestled with that deeply the last couple of years with some situations and people I care deeply about. It just seemed like with the situation there was no way out. They were going to be turned aside, out of the way. And I had to come to grips with this fact that if I care about it, and my sense of justice says somebody should stop this, and it burdens and grieves me deeply, that love, that sense of justice, is something that is in me because I am a reflection of God; I’m in God’s image. So therefore, in the heart of the Almighty has got to be exponentially more of pain and a burning and overwhelming urge to do something about it. That has brought rest to me, that the amount I care is just a little picture of God, and so much more God cares! And He is allowing this, not because He doesn’t care and enjoys? it, but because there’s something much greater to happen through it. Lee Strobel, I think it is in his interview with Peter Kreeft, in the book, The Case for Faith. He gives illustrations how as humans in a much smaller way we do that. He gives the illustration of a father watching his daughter learning to thread a needle, and she pokes herself and there’s blood and it hurts. He doesn’t do anything about it, because there’s a greater good of her learning the freedom and the excitement when she says, “Ah, I did it. I got it!” And now she can do it and she can move on into other realms. With my students as we talk about this at school, one picture that’s been helpful to me, and I think helpful to them is riding bicycle. We all know that riding bicycle, almost always there are some pretty big scraped elbows. Maybe even broken bones in the process of learning to ride bicycle, and yet all my students, when I ask them if they become parents, will they allow their children to learn to ride bicycle, and they all raise their hands. I think that’s just in a small way – I know that we’re talking about molestation and rape and genocide and those kinds of things that are on a much greater scale, but we’re also talking a much greater Person. In the same way that we will allow danger and physical harm because there is a greater good of the freedom of being able to ride bike and go places and do things – in the same way the heart of God as a Father, allows painful things to happen because there are things – this is where we have to submit and become a child, and realize He has wisdom. As we look at the creation, He has things going on. He knows how to work things together and create good and beauty that doesn’t even show up anywhere close to our radar screens, and we have to submit to that love and that goodness when He allows things like that. So comforting myself with that, that the love, the care, the pain that I feel, the empathy and the urge for justice is just a minuscule picture of what resides in God’s heart about the situation.
Joe Kurtz: Yeah, it’s part of that stamp of the Divine, we could say, that God has placed in our heart. We can take things into our own hands. The Scripture says, “Vengeance is mine. I will repay, says the Lord.” So, of course, there’s coming a time when God will make things all right. Our duty at times is to pray and to keep praying. Thank you for those thoughts. Our knee-jerk reaction to pain, suffering in the world and in our own lives is to run from it, avoid it, right? We are called to embrace it. It’s one thing to say that, but it’s another thing to do it. To embrace it is to walk through it and learn those things that God wants to teach us.
Bill Shiley: And be exercised by it.
Bryant Martin: And having that understanding of “The Wound is How the Light Gets In.”
Joe Kurtz: Amen. That was good. Thank you for mentioning that song. I appreciated that. Just a comment of my own from last night. You had mentioned a few songs that describe the struggle of the person that’s crying out in anger and rebellion against God, and staying there in that place. And so my thought was, “Where is the literature? Where are the poems? Where is the inspirational literature that we can read where people are wrestling with these same kinds of hard questions and yet finding faith, yet finding God? So when you brought some of those out tonight, I was touched and blessed by that, because most of us – I can speak for myself, I can speak for most of our listeners, some of those songs that reflect on the struggle and the rebellion, it can touch a chord deep down in my heart, but we need to check ourselves to make sure that we’re not resonating with the rebellion or the bitterness. We agree with the journey, we identify with the struggle, but we no longer experience the bitterness? Does that make sense?
Bill Shiley: Yeah, definitely. There are many songs. The ones I mentioned were more contemporary ones. But there are many songs, for example, “It is Well With My Soul,” written by one who was sailing over the place where his wife and daughters had drowned in shipwreck. The song, “Now Thank We All Our God” was written by a pastor of a church in – I believe it was Germany or Austria during the Thirty Years War, after their village was torn by the rampages of war and pestilence. And there were an incredible amount of funerals in one year that he had conducted in his small village, including that of his wife. Yet he writes this song, “Now Thank We All Our God . . . Who from our mother’s arms has blessed us on our way with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.” The only reference to suffering that he makes there is, “and guide us when perplexed.” That testimony of trust in God and accepting it, and being able to be such a vessel of healing in that war torn village in time of pestilence is astounding. There are many of those. Yeah, we need to be real careful about some of those songs. There were different songs I knew growing up – some of you will know the country song, “If You’re Going Through Hell.” And that resonated with me because life is tough, and it seems like everybody’s just kicking you, and all life does is just throws you a bucket of rotten tomatoes for everything you do. So just be tough and hang in there, and you might get through it. As I grew in my journey, I just realized, that is NOT the perspective of a Christian. The Christian doesn’t just buckle up and handle it because life stinks; he cries to his heavenly Father and he allows himself to be comforted, and he softens himself and surrenders to the discipline and training that God’s bringing in his life. So yeah, we need to guard against that – the lies that are in those expressions, while they do express the sentiments that we tend to have as humans.
Joe Kurtz: It’s not wrong to have the struggle.
Bill Shiley: But to harden ourselves in it, and to pull away from God is to choose our own destruction.
Joe Kurtz: Amen. So while we’re talking about this subject, I had thought of the song, “He Giveth More Grace When the Burdens Grow Greater.” To our listeners, if you do not know the story behind this song, look that up, because it’s written by Annie Johnson Flint, and it is an amazing story. This woman had suffered tremendously, and when you realize that context, the song is so meaningful and so powerful.
Bill Shiley: Another one is the song, “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go.” It was written by a young man that was engaged, and he found out that he had an eye disease that was causing him to go blind, and his fiancé broke up with him. And in wrestling through that pain and that rejection, by choosing to allow God’s love to fill him and give him purpose, he wrote that beautiful song. “I trace the rainbow through the rain and know the promise is not vain that morn shall tearless be.”
Bryant Martin: That’s good stuff.
Joe Kurtz: So we have another question here. This question:
How can a same-sex attracted person be pointed to the redemption of God of which you speak?
Bill Shiley: Yeah, that’s a very touchy issue. I’m just going to be honest with you. It’s an issue I can’t relate to from the perspective of having that appetite, that orientation. I will say this. Tim Mackie, from “The Bible Project” has a really good message on that, about marriage and sexuality. There’s some real good realism about that. Without talking about whether or not it’s legitimate to say that I have a certain gender orientation, but the fact is, being sexually active is not a necessity; it’s not a right. I’m in a place in life where I have to grapple with that issue and deal with that, even though I’m very heterosexual. But we have to find places where we have to deal with this surrender and fit what we’re experiencing and our feelings and our appetites, our longings into what God is allowing in our lives and the way He has made the world. I’ll just say that from my own personal experience. It’s not maybe dealing with the orientation and things, but as far as dealing with the need for companionship and the sexuality side of it is not just something that SSA orientation has to grapple with. And learning to surrender and realizing that there is good, and there is grace for God to help me to be able to be pure and to be a healthy person in my relationships where I’m at in life, is a choice that we have to make.
Bryant Martin: One thing I want to say to the person who submitted that, I walked with someone in that journey, and I’ll just say, “Open up about it, don’t hide it. Share it with a trusted brother or sister who can journey with you through that. I think that will be tremendously helpful. It’s way too taboo in our settings. We want to conceal it and not talk about it, but find somebody you trust to talk about that, because we live in a cursed world, and because of that, we grapple with these things with our flesh. You are not alone. There are other dear brothers and sisters who grapple with this as well.
Bill Shiley: I would like to say this about it. I’ve had friends that have battled with that issue. I’m glad you brought that up, Bryant, about talking about it, because that’s one thing I hear from those people. That’s one of the most difficult things, is feeling like if I say I’m struggling with this, or I’m having these feelings, that I’m going to be ostracized. We need to change that.
Bryant Martin: Yes.
Bill Shiley: But also I want to be careful in saying this, because I’m speaking from outside. I don’t know what it’s like to be in those shoes. But what I’ve observed in working with some people – some from both sides, some males and some females that had homosexual appetite – one thing I’ve observed in all of them is that it seems like often there is something that has happened in their life that has caused them to be afraid or have a resentment towards being a certain gender, or [difficulty with] closeness with the opposite gender. Often there’s some of that that at least plays into it. I think God wants to bring healing through the community of believers, and through openness in finding God as a Father in our lives. I hope I’m not speaking out of place or without understanding there, but that’s just one perspective from some of the people that I’ve been acquainted with.
Joe Kurtz: Thank you for your response to this question here. Moving on, I have another question for Bill. Actually, it comes in a group of three, which are all in a similar vein:
Did you go for counseling?
What is the role of professional counseling?
Is there such a thing as going for too much counseling.”
Bill Shiley: I have never gone for professional counseling. I have talked to some counselors in basically like a one-time session, but I’ve never like gone for a week or that kind of thing, or longer. I have been blessed by a lot of people who walked with me in the journey. It’s just been a truth here and truth there and a long growing process through it. Maybe some of that could have been helped by a session. I will say this about counseling: I think it has its place. I don’t necessarily think that all the gifts in their fulness are given to every local congregation. Some of that is in the church collectively on a broader scale that there are gifts given to bring Christ’s healing and Christ’s guidance. But I do believe that the model Jesus sets up is discipling. That is the way that growth is going to happen in a person’s life, and that happens in close community. So I do believe that going off for counseling, or a church sending someone off to get counseled with the idea that they’re going to go get fixed and they’re going to come back and be fixed, I feel is detrimental often, from what I’ve seen. I think it can be helpful to get some people who have experience in working through some of these things to speak into a person’s life, but it’s going to be minimal in its impact if it is not primarily nested in community of mentoring/discipling relationship.
Joe Kurtz: Excellent answer. Thank you. I think I’ll ask you one more question, and then I’ll read a few of these encouragements that came in. Question:
If we know of somebody close to us who is maybe struggling with depression or maybe struggling with suicide at a deep level, how can we best help them?
Bill Shiley: That’s a really good question. One thing I think is, “Listen to them.” Whenever somebody quits talking, that’s when you should get scared. Because it’s a prison because the light’s not shining in, and we no longer are allowing input in. Something is sitting there rotting. It’s just us and Satan to feed our fears and feed lies into it. I know it’s messy. I don’t have a professional opinion. I’ve not lived through ten lives. I’m indebted to God’s goodness through men (and their wives who have put up with the time I’ve taken from their husbands) as well as just good ladies. But I’m indebted to men who have been willing to sit there and listen to me and walk with me through, and give advice, and tell me painful things at times. It has been a long journey. I’m talking twenty years. I could hardly have shared this kind of thing ten years ago. I was just beginning to. The first talk I gave on why God allows suffering in the world was very elementary. That was 2010. What I would share today is completely different in so many ways. It’s going to be a messy journey; that’s all I know how to say it. God has a messy journey in walking with us, and if we’re going to be partners with Him, it’s going to be that way. Encouragement, just spending time with them. I’m just looking at my own life and some of the things that have helped me. At the bottom, each person does have to choose whether I’m going to listen to depression or whether I’m going to cry out and be willing to take the hard steps of faith and trust. I’m telling you, it’s not easy. I have fought some horrific battles. I have – in the same way I jumped up and down and pounded the steering wheel that morning I nearly committed suicide, I have battled, I have yelled and cried out to God and yelled at Satan (I’ve fought a lot of battles on the road.) There have been times I just yelled up and down, and declared, “God is good. I’m going to trust Him! God is good. I’m going to trust Him.” Because for me, there wasn’t any way out. God didn’t bring something else that fixed my problem and I lived happily ever after. I was just faced with, “I’m going to go nuts literally if I don’t just choose – just do the hard work of choosing to fasten my mind on this, like Philippians 4:6-8 tells us. That’s just some of my perspective. I’m just sharing what’s happened in my life.
Joe Kurtz: God give us grace and empathy to relate to people, to give safe spaces for people, to have these conversations with us. We live in an interesting and difficult time, I guess you could say, when people are seeking many many alternate ways to escape their existential pain – through drugs, through alcohol – it’s a huge problem in our country. And they’re doing it because the pain of their present reality is too great to bear. So they seek to medicate. They seek to numb it, I guess you would say, by taking drugs, by taking alcohol, but before we get off this line, let’s just point people to Jesus, brothers. “Come unto Me, all ye that are weak and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Hallelujah!
Bill Shiley: And you’ll never experience that until you decide to try it, without reserve.
Joe Kurtz: I want to say one other thing. We have not addressed every question that came in. Thank you very much for these questions. These are all very important questions, and we just for lack of time, we’ve not been able to touch them all, but thank you for engaging with them. I hope you have all found this to be helpful. There are two comments here by way of encouragement, and then I’ll be finished. These are actually directed to you, Bill.
You speak from a real place, Bill. I really enjoyed the message today, your candor, your honesty, and vulnerability, and using Scripture to put it altogether nice. I wish to add if I can, 2 Corinthians 12: 8-10 summary: ‘For when we are weak, then I am strong.’ When we place our trust and pain in God, He makes us strong when we are weak.
Bill Shiley: Amen. Thank you.
Joe Kurtz: Ok, here’s another one.
This is an excellent summary of the role of pain and suffering in the life of a Christian. May the Lord bless Bill for his transparency and for coming to terms with that design, and calling on God in how to respond to his experiences.
Joe Kurtz: So thanks to you, Bill Shiley, and God bless you very much.
Bill Shiley: Thank you for the encouragement, but God has blessed me, and He is blessing me, and one of the ways He’s going to continue to bless me is by more pain in my life. I know that. So this is not a journey that’s over. You know, this is not that Bill is all fixed now, and he’s over things. This is going to be a lifelong journey of learning to trust God and allowing Him to redeem me. What I want you to go away with is not Bill Shiley, but this is God’s story. If you need to quit on God, then I need to quit on God. But if God can change my life, and He can bring good out of the evil that I’ve suffered and good in my family from the evil that we’ve suffered, God can also do it in your life. And it’s Him that’s going to bring answers to your life, not me. I’m simply a vessel, so latch on to Him!
Bryant Martin: Yes, He’ll make you into a beautiful artwork.
Bill Shiley: Right.
Bryant Martin: Very good. So Joe, I’m just going to ask you then to close in prayer here. Thank you, Bill. God bless you.
Bill Shiley: Thank you for the privilege.
Bryant Martin: We still have a lot of people on the call. You stayed all the way to the end here, you stuck it out for 2 hours. But it wasn’t “sticking it out.” I think we’re all here, and we’ve been pulled in and you’ve taken us on a journey, and it has impacted us. I would just ask all of us who are listening to this call to pray especially for Bill over the next days. You gave this talk now twice in this past week. Four sessions. So God bless you for that. We need to surround you in prayer, especially over this time. I feel certain of that.
Bill Shiley: Thank you.
Bryant Martin: I would like to end this with a quote from E. Stanley Jones. He says: “We now know that God is like Jesus. He is Christlike. And if He is, He is a good God. If the heart at the back of the universe is like this gentle heart that broke upon the cross, He can have my heart without qualification and without reservation.”
Bill Shiley: Amen.
Bryant Martin: Bill, you have lifted up Jesus, and we can continue to lift Him up, that this God that can seem so distant, He’s like Jesus. We know He is. Joe, can you close us with prayer, please?
Father, we come to you at this time, at the close of this meeting. Father, we thank You for the way in which You have spoken to us tonight. We thank You for Your faithfulness in Bill’s life. We thank You for how You have rescued him from depression and despair and suicide. Thank you for that. I just pray for him specifically now in the next days and weeks that in the Name of Jesus he would kept safe, he’d be kept strong, he’d be kept faithful, Lord. And not just for him, but for all of our listeners on this line tonight, all of the viewers, Lord, would you meet each one where they are in their journey. We’re not all the same, and yet we’re a lot the same. We can resonate with what we’ve heard today. But Lord, You have given us Your Son Jesus. He is not a stranger to suffering and pain, but He has entered into our experience and endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him. He did this for me. He did this for each person on this call here tonight. I just pray that you would bless each person and help each one in their struggle and their journey to continue on. May they be refreshed. May they be encouraged to continue on, and find You faithful. Thank You that You give more grace when our burdens grow greater. You send more strength when our labors increase. To added afflictions, You add Your mercy. To multiplied sorrows, multiplied grace. Thank You, Father. Thank You for this time. Bless my brothers and sisters on this line. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.