Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Suffering and Why

For a year, my work had been intense. Some organizational changes reduced resources, just as major calls on those resources were getting underway. It was one of those perfect storms. The work mushroomed; the resources didn’t. the resources were diverted to whatever was the fashion of the moment.

And it didn’t get any better. The work demands grew in intensity. It became so intense, in fact, that I had to do something once unthinkable for me – I “triaged” the work, and determined what simply wasn’t going to get done.

There was a cost for this, of course. There was an organizational cost, and there was a personal cost. More than once I silently asked the question, “When is this going to end?”

I didn’t think that it might not end. I didn’t consider that this might be a permanent state of affairs.

Things changed, eventually. But the change happened slowly, and in ways I didn’t expect.

I look back on that time today, and I still don’t know if I can see the point. Perhaps that’s the point – there wasn’t one. Perhaps it was a simple demonstration of a broken human workplace, inhabited by broken human beings.

As difficult as it was, it wasn't a life-threatening event. It wasn’t a serious illness or loss of a loved one. This wasn't the horror of the Holocaust or genocide. There are many more worse things to experience than a broken workplace. And I wasn’t Bob Cratchit working for Ebenezer Scrooge.

But it was hard. It was daily, very daily. It became hard to get up each day and try to look forward to work. It became hard not to become a clock watcher.

And the circumstances led to an inevitable question, one that Bob Sorge asks in The Fire of Delayed Answers.

“Is it God’s will for me to suffer in this way at this present time?”

In his own case, the answer to the question was yes.

And as I’m drawn to the same answer, I don’t want to be. I don’t want to think through the implications of that “yes.” And yet the “yes” is plainly there.

The “yes,” of course, is immediately followed by “why.” And there’s no good answer to “why,” no humanly understandable answer. This is the question of suffering so often asked – if there is a God, why does he allow suffering?

The honest answer is “I don’t know.” A theological answer is probably readily at hand, but when someone is suffering, the last thing they want is a treatise on theology. Or being told there must be some major sin in their life.

Pat answers to suffering have been around a long time. Since the Book of Job was first written, in fact, and it’s the oldest book of the Bible. The answers weren’t very satisfying then, either.

Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’re reading The Fire of Delayed Answers. To see what others had to say about this chapter, “The Perseverance of Job,” please visit Sarah at Living Between the Lines.

Photograph of the Holocaust Monument, Moscow, by Lynn Greyling via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.


lorrie said...

Boy oh howdy can I relate to this post! I have become a clock watcher at my job, a job that used to be okay but is now a "very daily" exercise in keeping the cortisol at bay. I feel like my work place is trial by fire now; all goes against my grain - my ethics. It's become a place to "get through". It zaps my creative life. I feel trapped.

My prayer every day is "Lord, lead me in the way everlasting... help me to have joy (strength) in this place". It is almost becoming a mission field because the whole office is depressed and most have little hope. I am challenged to spread more light - to be the salt!

TC Avey said...

People can get so caught up in the "why" that they completely miss God.
It all comes down to we trust God or not?

If we trust Him, then we don't have to know "why".

Good post. I'm enjoying this series.

H. Gillham said...


Hard to carry joy sometimes.

This post felt so conversational as if you were talking to me.... and working through the problems of work...

Blessings. Hold onto hope, anyway.

jasonS said...

The "why" doesn't mean anything until you experience God in some way. It was that way for Job and it's that way for us. We can espouse all kinds of theological ideologies. Some may be completely on target, but it's probably not going to help the person suffering. In fact, it will probably make them more frustrated. All we can do is go through the process, trusting Him. Good thoughts, Glynn. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I could not help but think of my dear sweet hubby as you described your workplace struggles. Your words summed it up very well, what he is experiencing. And even though it's not genocide or the death of a loved one, it is STILL suffering--your suffering--and it is still extremely trying and difficult. And seemingly endless. And still a fire in which God works deeply in our hearts. It is hard to truly believe and understand that such suffering can be God's will--we don't want to think that it can be...but you only have to look at Job to know that, yes, it really can be and even though it makes no sense, to continue to persevere and trust in His plan.

Rick Dawson said...

"Suffering was the only thing that made me feel I was alive
Thought that's just how much it cost to survive in this world
'Til you showed me how, how to fill my heart with love
How to open up and drink in all that white light
Pouring down from the heavens
I haven't got time for the pain
I haven't got room for the pain
I haven't the need for the pain
Not since I've known you."

Sometimes a lyric captures things perfectly.