Adversus solem ne loquitor

in these kaleidoscopic times
fragments of ourselves are scattered
yet as the earth slowly turns
the universe follows
our colours blend together
and everything falls into place
proving that we are stronger than
the sum of our parts
~ Anne Engelen

My new favorite book on suffering has my head whirling, new truths dissolving old fallacies and a deeper, more painful perspective emerging. I spin on the words of God to Moses: Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes him dumb or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? (Exodus 4:11, emphasis mine) I've heard three major arguments about the role of suffering for the Christian up to this point:
  • suffering is an indirect byproduct of a cursed world that just "happens" or is "allowed" to affect the Christian;
  • suffering comes from Satan, and is "allowed" by God;
  • suffering is discipline directly handed down from God to punish sin in the Christian's own life.
In John 9, Jesus and his disciples come upon a man who has been blind from birth. The disciples ask, Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind? Jesus corrects them - their perspective is too limited...they need a new category! It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was in order that the works of God might be displayed in him. (v. 2-3) Charles Stanley puts it this way:
Is it possible that adversity can originate with God? All of us would be more comfortable if Jesus had said, "This man is blind because he sinned, but God is going to use it anyway." That would be a much easier pill to swallow. But Jesus leaves us no escape. Sin was not the direct cause of the man's blindness: God was.
In these photos, grandmother and grandchildren bend in the parchment dry spring dirt to tie cotton rag flags onto twine demarcating the garden beds. Flags that remind little feet where to step; visual cues of the boundaries, the lessons already learned. And so it is with Charles Stanley, for me: a flag to remind me of lessons already learned, the free grace I was so eloquently taught as a child. This little book - my new favorite - is dogeared and underlined on nearly every page, first by my mother and now by my hand. When my suffering seems unfair, undeserved, there is a flag: the murder of God's own Son has yet to be avenged, and waits for the last day when He will judge from His throne. When my suffering seems purposeless, there is a flag: Christ has a goal in this, a goal so important it is worth my agony. When I fear I am alone in my suffering, that Christ has abandoned me, there is a flag: in John 11, when Lazarus dies while Christ tarries on the mission field afar, He was deeply moved in spirit, troubled, and wept. "He was not emotionally isolated from the pain suffered by those whose perspective was different than His own. When you hurt, God hurts." (Stanley, p. 21)

A Latin phrase I learned as a teen comes to mind: Adversus solem ne loquitor (do not speak against the sun). There comes a point, after the soul audit, after the weeping on my knees, after the begging for an answer, when I must simply stop fighting what I cannot change.
Suffering is unavoidable. It comes without warning; it takes us by surprise. It can shatter or strengthen us. It can be the source of great bitterness or abounding joy. It can be the means by which our faith is destroyed. Or it can be the tool through which our faith is deepened. The outcome hinges not on the nature or source of our adversity, but on the character and spirit of our response.
Stanley says something else that rocks my world today:
[I was] convinced that God could be trusted in the midst of adversity, that He really could work all things together for good if we adopt His definition of good and accept His system of priorities. I realized that God knows exactly how much pressure each of us needs to advance in the spiritual life. It was hard for me to stand back and watch others suffer because I was not aware of all God was doing for them on the inside. My perspective was limited to what was taking place on the outside.
You see the cancer at 29, the brain infection that came out of nowhere and struck down a perfectly formed child, the seizures I report and the food poisoning and the damaged pancreas and the breast tumors and the surgical complications. But what is happening on the inside - on the inside of me, of Aaron, of our whole family unit - is absolutely worth the anguish.

Truly, these are "kaleidescope times", we are scattering and blending into a fresh new painting together. This mural is far from finished. We're still putting up the flags. It is with little feet we still trod the carefully circumscribed pathways of this garden of faith. It is through this season of suffering that we learn to walk them with our eyes closed. The peace of God in our hearts is the hand of God clasping our small one. For even when He speaks no words, He is not silent. Even though unseen, ever present. Though He places the suffering here in our midst, so too He comforts and sustains.

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Today, a woman wrote me that she accepted Christ after reading this entry from last week, and the verses linked there. She is, literally, from the opposite side of the globe. Today, in the midst of writing these words, my daughter had a 4 minute seizure of the worst kind. So He continues to bring glory through the blood, sweat and tears. So He wrings praise from lips trembling in fear. So He upholds when we are undone. Please lift us up in prayer. Amelia has an appointment at Mayo this afternoon, and we pray with groanings too deep for words...Father, please give this doctor wisdom to heal this precious treasure.