I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the
salvation of everyone who believes. Romans 1v16.
Tuesday nights are Navs nights (= Navigators). I get in the car and drive my little self off to uni at 7pm, and meet with a whole lot of other Christian students. Then we all go off in small groups to different flats and do a Bible study. We have just started going through Romans, chapter by chapter.
The last few weeks have been rather depressing for me. There's a lot of stuff that seems to be going wrong for people. It seems a bit attention-seeking for me to say that it's depressing for me when it's all happening to other people, but that is seriously how it's been. Just knock after knock after knock for people I know and care about, or know a little, or don't know at all.
I've had a few crises in my past and here I am, still a Christian, going reasonably strong. So really, I should have sorted out any issues I have with the topic of suffering. The thing is, when it comes to my suffering, I don't have to try and be sensitive to myself or anything like that. I am aware of how I feel and so I can be grateful to God for many things despite the things that don't make me happy. However, it's not so simple to tell others to be grateful, especially when what they're going through is about five hundred times worse.
I'm not the sort of person who feels embarrassed to say that I am a Christian, most of the time. I'm not particularly interested in how that may change someone's opinion of me. I'd rather they knew, actually. All the same, there's part of me that gets very, very embarrassed that I subscribe to a belief system that says yes, suffering sucks, but there's something more important than that. It's so easy to slip into all the little cliches that Christians come up with to explain away suffering - everything happens for a reason - God is in control - sometimes God answers prayer with a no - etc etc etc. They just embarrass me now and I don't want to admit that I am so arrogant as to pretend I can get something meaningful out of suffering. And then I start getting very, very confused. Because I do believe God is in control. I just don't know why he doesn't choose to intervene sometimes. I'm studying the military resistance to Hitler at the moment, and Hitler escaped assassination by the minutest of chances a significant number of times - why did God allow Hitler to be lucky? And my mind becomes a huge tangled spider's web. And I don't want to try and explain suffering to someone who is suffering, because I know that nothing I say can explain it.
Yesterday, for the Navs study, Romans 1v16 glaringly stood out to me. There are times when it has been very dark and scary for me over the last few years. But somehow I didn't just drop the gospel, because for me, beyond all the darkness, the gospel trumps death. Beyond all the suffering, all the contradictions and confusions, the gospel is a powerful thing and the only thing in the world that could ever offer hope to get through death and suffering.
So my conclusion is: I don't need to explain suffering yet. I'm sure to have more question marks about it and I'm sure to find it difficult. But I do have to trust God to pull me past it, and I do have to stop being ashamed of a faith that dares to say that something about suffering is meaningful.