I read a heartwrenching story last week of martyrs in Indonesia who have recently faced the horrors of becoming the victims of suicide bombers. They woke up one day as usual and got ready with their families to go to church and worship God. While in their church service, suicide bombers rushed in and detonated their bombs, and when the smoke cleared, lives were lost and some were forever changed.
The article did not spare any details. I could feel their pain as their wounds and their heartbreak over losing children was described. I wept bitterly – for them and for the ones who had detonated the bombs. One bomber was a mother who took her two young daughters in with her. It is hard for me to fathom that kind of sacrifice. I can’t imagine the depths of her struggle that morning. Suicide bomber or not, she was a woman with a heart like ours. She no doubt loved. She must have been hurting. She must have felt despair. Now she feels nothing, and all hope for her is permanently lost.
I don’t like to read about or hear stories like these, but I think it’s important to stay connected to the reality of suffering. Many people think that, as Christians, our journey will be beautiful, cup of coffee in hand as we set off to see the world saved. There are indeed beautiful parts to this walk, but there are also tragic ones. Jesus promised we would have trouble in this world. He also said that we would – not might – but would experience persecution for believing in Him (2 Timothy 3:12), and He called this the blessed life (Matthew 5:10-12).
Those aren’t usually our favorite verses to quote. I’ve certainly never seen anyone hang them up on their walls or wear them on t-shirts. Some people don’t even know they’re in the Bible, choosing to focus instead on all the fluffy verses that many devotionals offer so we can live feeling encouraged and hopeful. We need those fluffy verses, to be sure. I am not criticizing devotionals that point us to the truths that bring comfort to our constantly assaulted hearts. I am making the point, however, that we need more than just the light and easy-to-embrace parts of Scripture. We need it all. We need the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. And suffering is a very real part of that truth.
I was singing a song recently and felt the Holy Spirit get my attention, asking me to pause and consider whether I really meant what I was singing. Even when it comes to worship, sometimes we just mindlessly sing along. The lyrics I was agreeing with said, “Wherever You lead me, wherever You go, I will follow.” Simple enough. Of course I’ll follow Him. Coffee cup in hand, bags packed with all my favorite things. I signed up for beautiful adventures when I said yes to Him.
Then He brought me back to reality – my current reality. The one that feels like a bomb went off in my own life. While I know God is moving in this fiercely difficult time of my life, my heart does not necessarily want to believe that God has led me here. That moment with the Holy Spirit sobered my thinking. I know that God is not the author of evil, and that He does not cause the kind of devastation I am staring at. But I also know, and freshly reminded, that neither does He spare us a walk right through the middle of it.
Psalm 23 is frequently read at funerals, but it was written by a man who walked through a valley so deep and so dark that death would have been a nicer alternative. The shadows of death hovered over him, haunting him with threats and intimidation, and it was there that God met Him with comfort, with strength, with His presence and His beautiful promises. I can truthfully say that it is in my own deep, dark valleys where I have always discovered the goodness and the faithfulness of God.
Still, my heart does not easily agree to go there, even while I sing like it does.
Dear Woman of Breakthrough, here is what I’m learning all over again today – and what I want to share with you, my fellow traveler on this very narrow, broken road. God brings glory out of the most unlikely things. If we’re not sure this is true, we need only look at the cross. His ways are not our ways. He is a Good Shepherd, and an amazing Father. He is a faithful Savior and Deliverer, but His watchful eyes and saving arm are not always preventative. How I often wish they were! And how many messes I’ve created by trying to stop things from happening that God was willing to let me, or someone I love, walk right through the middle of.
This much I know for sure, and little else: when bombs go off in our lives, He is still right there. When He could prevent something from happening but chooses not to, it is not for lack of care or faithfulness. While we sift through the ruins and the questions, He has perfect plans to reveal a side of Himself we more than likely have never seen before. And while my humanity doesn’t like the painful part, my spirit knows that knowing more of God is worth anything I may face in the process.
Beloved One, while we endure the unimaginable, our faith is purified and our trust, miraculously, grows – if we endure believing. Many people don’t. Bombs – whether spiritual, mental, physical or emotional – are often dealbreakers for us. The enemy knows that, and so throws them often. But you and I, Women of Breakthrough, have been destined to stand, and to keep on standing. No matter what remains when the smoke clears after an attack (and there will be many), one thing will always be there: the God Who led us into that affliction and the God Who will lead us through and out of it.
The question that begs as we consider whether or not we will go where we’ve said we would is this: Is Jesus enough? We may lose everything else along the way (and we may not – all our sufferings will not be the same). But even if we do, will the promise of His constant presence be enough for you to endure in faith? Can you, and will you, believe that Who He is and what He has promised you are greater than any treasure we may hold while still on this earth?
Will you follow wherever He leads, even if it is unto death? Even if it means pain you cannot understand? Even if it means loss unimaginable? I will. And I am so, so thankful that His grace has brought me here, to the place where I can mean what I sing, even when it hurts.