Pressed to the Father in Suffering

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Pressed to the Father in Suffering

By Wendy Alsup

I was rereading the first posts I wrote for this blog. I came across one on Miscarriage and the Father that begged to be updated and reposted.

A friend called me after she went to the doctor for an ultrasound to find out the sex of her baby and instead was informed that her baby had died. She needed to decide if she should have a D & C or wait on a natural miscarriage. There were emotional and physical pros and cons of each. While I have miscarried and could identify with her at one level, I have never had a D & C and didn’t have much wisdom to offer one way or the other on that.

But we talked about God the Father. She already knew the truth of God’s character, but it was helpful to us both to talk through it again.

God the Father is sovereign—in laymen’s terms, He’s in control.

God the Father is wise—He knows what He’s doing.

God the Father is compassionate—He loves His children.

Another friend shared with me that after working through her long term infertility and even adopting a child, she is facing the same emotions and struggles all over again after their attempts to adopt a second child fell through. These circumstances cloud our ability to see our sovereign wise, and compassionate Father. Suddenly, we wonder if He really does know what He’s doing? And if He does, maybe He’s not in control after all. But most often, we think that while He is in control, He couldn’t possibly love us and still allow this kind of suffering in our lives. The cloud of our circumstances obscures His love and compassion for His children.

And here is the crossroads. Do I let my circumstances inform how I view my Father? Or do I let Scripture’s truth of my Father inform how I view my circumstances? That is where we must wrestle in these moments. Thanks to Mrs. Kissam, my 8th grade Latin teacher, I know that the term compassion is from the root Latin words for suffering together (com—with or together, and pati—to suffer). Meditating on the root of this term opened my eyes to something about my Father. If Scripture is to be believed, then He doesn’t just generally feel sorry for me or love me with a standoffish type of concern. He enters into my suffering. He suffers WITH me.

Exodus 34:6 (NIV) And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,

Understanding the term compassion, that God accompanies us in our suffering, leads me to wonder about this verse on Paul’s desire to enter into Jesus’ suffering.

Philippians 3:10 (NIV) I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,

I can’t say I fully understand either one—God entering into my suffering or the possibility of fellowship with Christ in His. But as I go through my own suffering, it changes my perspective significantly to think that my Sovereign Father is walking intimately with me through it. Suffering can separate us from God. I’ve had moments where I was so mad and frustrated with God that I couldn’t even turn my face toward my Bible and avoided prayer because I didn’t want to put into words how disappointed I was with Him. But suffering can also bind us to God. It often takes extended suffering to do this–where you’ve held yourself aloof from Him until you are exhausted. You fall into His arms because you have nowhere else to fall, and you rest in Him. It’s the cycle of suffering — those first days where you have a naive, almost giddy hope in God doing something big, which then dulls over time into numbness and/or anger. Then you hit complete exhaustion before being pressed so closely to Him that you finally understand the phrase “fellowship of suffering.”

In those moments when the cloud of your circumstances hinder your view of your Father, preach the truth of His character to yourself. And when you are exhausted from it all, fall. It’s ok. Your wise Father who is in control of all things is WITH you in your suffering. He will catch you.

is the author of Practical Theology for Women, The Gospel-Centered Woman, and By His Wounds You Are Healed. She began her public ministry as deacon of women’s theology and teaching at her church in Seattle, but she now lives on an old family farm in South Carolina, where she teaches math at a local community college and is a mother to her two boys. She writes at theologyforwomen.org and gospelcenteredwoman.com.

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