by Julie Zine Coleman
You have turned my mourning into dancing for me; You have untied my sackcloth and encircled me with joy. Psalm 30:11 NASB
It had been a long two years, watching my mother battle Leukemia, only to succumb to death in the end. She and my Dad had relocated to Houston, Texas, to receive experimental treatments at M.D. Anderson in a last-ditch effort to save her. Nothing had worked, and now she was gone. We sadly packed up their little apartment and headed back to Connecticut.
In the hours following her funeral, my dad and I took a walk around his yard, inspecting the plants and trees that had been without his green thumb for almost a year. We stopped at his front garden. “Do you see this dogwood?” He asked. “As we were leaving for Houston, I asked God to please take care of it for me. I told Him, ‘I don’t care if we are burglarized or the house burns down. Please just keep this beautiful tree alive.’” It had been a rainy summer, and everything in the yard was lush, green, and thriving.
But that dogwood tree was dead as a doornail.
In an instant, all of the pain and loss came rearing up to engulf me. “Really, God?” I silently demanded. “The man has just lost the love of his life. You couldn’t even keep a stupid dogwood tree alive for him?”
Throughout the years of Mom’s suffering, I had repeatedly cried out to God for a sense of His presence. It was like shouting into the wind. I got nothing. And now this disregard for my poor father’s plea? Standing by that dead tree, I began to doubt the existence of God.
Suffering and grief can do that to a person. Everything superfluous in our lives fades to the background, and we zero in on the things that matter. As we try to make sense of it all, God can seem distant or even non-existent. It happened to Job. Satan had accused God of flooding Job with good things so that He would worship Him. But would he continue to worship if those things were removed? God gave Satan permission to destroy Job’s wealth and family. He even let him tamper with his health. (See Job 1-2 for the whole story.)
Heartbroken, destitute, and in physical misery, Job sat mourning by a fire, scratching himself with a bit of broken pottery. His wife lashed out at him. “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9 NASB).
Friends came to lend support to Job, but after seven days of silence, they begin to reason with him. They accused him of sin, for obviously this all was a punishment from God. Not helpful. Job turned to God in agony, begging Him for relief. For thirty-seven chapters, Job got nothing. God remained silent.
Finally, in chapter 38, God speaks. As they interact, Job is given an ability to understand God like never before. “I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You; Therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-6 NASB, emphasis mine).
God used Job’s terrible experience to bring him deeper into relationship with Him. He had used it, not only to answer Satan’s accusation, but for Job’s great benefit. God transformed the source of his anguish into a source of joy.
He did that for me, too, beginning on that walk around Dad’s yard. That dead dogwood tree spurred me on to figuring out what I could depend on when it came to God. I began to write and study His word in earnest. He was faithful to take me beyond anything I could have imagined. He eventually transformed my grief and disillusionment into strong conviction that led to joy.
Suffering can be that kind of pathway. Even Jesus knew His suffering would ultimately would become something beautiful: “…Jesus, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross…” (Hebrews 12:2 NASB).
Is there something you are enduring right now that makes God seem aloof and uncaring? Hang in there with Him. He will make something beautiful out of it in the end. Your relationship with Him will never be the same. It will be worth it all.
This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).
About the author: Julie Zine Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or crafting. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.
Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a revealing look at the encounters that Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.
Join the conversation: Have you ever felt that God was aloof and uncaring?