The above question has probably been asked, in some form or another, by every disabled individual. Being disabled can often cause a great deal of internal anger and animosity directed at God. Is this normal? I personally believe it, by all means, is! Having these feelings is part of the human need to place blame. Often there is no one to place blame on and so internally we direct our anger at the Lord. Dealing with that anger is very difficult to accomplish. That is why we, all too often, ask the question: “God, have you abandoned me?”
It is so difficult to give an easy answer to such questions. The only thing we can say is that God NEVER abandons us, even though we feel as though he has. I’m certain that Bible characters like Job and Jeremiah often wondered if God had “plugged His ears” to their cries of pain. In reality, Jesus became the “all hearing ears” of God and He does hear our cries! Just not always answering our cries, the way, we would like him to. Dr. Charles Stanley, of “In Touch Ministries” explains it best with his description of the four “frontiers” where every suffering person will do battle: the frontiers of fear, helplessness, meaning, and hope. Our response to suffering depends largely on the outcome of our struggle in those frontiers. I think we all have experienced those four “frontiers” in some detail, but those of us that suffer disabilities have probably experienced them in greater detail than the rest of the Church.
I often get extensive comfort from the writings of the Apostle Paul and one of my favorite passages, in regards to pain and suffering, is found in 2 Corinthians 1:1-11 (NKJV):
(1) Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in all Achaia. (2) Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, (4) who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (5) For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. (6) Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. (7) And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation. (8) For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. (9) Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, (10) who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us, (11) you also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many.
My own disability has driven me into this feeling of “anger and animosity” nearly destroying me. This deep seeded anger stayed with me for more than 15 years. Who is vulnerable to these feelings of anger? Personally, I am convinced that we are ALL vulnerable! I was a Pastor when I became very ill and I lost everything due to my illness. I lost my wife and daughter, which was my fault, but I blamed God. I incurred medical bills in excess of $800,000, for which I blamed God and I totally lost my ability to work, for which I also blamed God.
The end result was I sealing myself in a shell of anger and hate all directed at the Lord. I lived there in the same community from 1984 to 1995 and during that period, of nearly 11 years, I never had a single Pastor, or any Christian for that matter, try to visit me. Even more disturbing was the fact that I probably had 30 friends who were pastors! That is a sad state of affairs for the modern local Church.
I’ve often been asked: “Don’t you believe in the awesome power of God’s ability to heal?” I most certainly do! But, unfortunately, there are far more incidents of suffering and illness, than divine healing. God simply hasn’t chosen for me to be healed yet, and he may never choose to heal me. This world is a world of “discord” and has been since the beginning of time. God placed man into this environment due to man’s association with “sin” and that’s where all pain and suffering originated. Jesus, himself, suffered much and we continue to experience suffering and pain due to the sin nature of man.
Jesus is still the “Healer” but he uses us, the Body of Christ, as his instrument to hold a hand, give us a hug, kneel beside our bed and pray, or to simply offer us an encouraging word when we are struggling. Unfortunately, all too often, the Church is failing in the Ministry of comfort to those who are hurting. The world is full of individuals who experience pain and suffering everyday of their lives, and they desperately need someone to be there and that someone is you and I! This pain and suffering eventually, in many cases, leads us to seek the Almighty in a more profound way, than ever before. At least, it did me and I praise him for bringing me to this point of desperation where I returned to him, and he received me with open arms!
I am going to end with a few quotes of some divine individuals who have made a profound impact on modern day thinking in regards to the subject of suffering and the ability to deal with it.
In seeking God’s power, I discovered his person. He is not just omnipotent; he is also the God of all comfort. And taking us through suffering, not out of it, is one of the primary means that the Spirit uses today in bringing us to God.” –Daniel Wallace, in “Christianity Today”, September 12 1994
“Don’t look forward to the day you stop suffering, because when it comes you’ll know you’re dead.” –Tennessee Williams, in the London “Observer”, 1958.
“Despair is suffering without meaning.” –Viktor Frankl
“Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible of poverty.” –Mother Theresa
“Some of us will not see pain as a gift; some will always accuse God of being unfair for allowing it. But, the fact is, pain and suffering are here among us, and we need to respond in some way. The response Jesus gave was to bear the burdens of those he touched. To live in the world as his body, his emotional incarnation, we must follow his example.” –Philip Yancey, “Where Is God When It Hurts?”, p.325 (Zondervan; Walker revised Large-print edit., 1996)
“Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.” –Helen Keller, “Optimism”
“You need not cry very loud; God is nearer to us than we think.”