People often ask, “If God is real, why is there such darkness in the world? Why do people suffer? Why is there evil?” The answer to this question has evolved over my lifetime as I’ve dug deeper into God’s Word and longed to understand him better and more fully and intimately. This season of my life has shown a recurring theme through the verses I’ve read, the people I’ve met, and the stories I’ve heard. That theme is the power, process, and promise of restoration. When a building gets too old, some of its parts become a danger to its entire structure. Floorboards weaken, ceilings crack, ledges crumble. What was once safe and new, glimmering and beautiful, is now broken and desolate, in need of restoration. When a building is renovated, walls come down. Things that are cemented into the ground are cracked and shattered and blown away in little bits and pieces. It’s a violent, loud, and painful process. The old, comfortable, worn-in parts are stripped away and destroyed to make room for something that far surpasses its predecessor. That is restoration… and that is what God desires for those He loves.
Have you read Lamentations? It’s not a very popular book. It’s pretty depressing to most people. I used to be one of them. I couldn’t STAND to read Lamentations. It made me want to press the “unlike” button on God. He seemed really cruel in Lamentations… and unfair… and careless. But The Lord brought me back to Lamentations a few weeks ago. He brought me to a verse that says,
“How the precious children of Zion,
once worth their weight in gold,
are now considered as pots of clay,
the work of a potter’s hands!”
When I was in middle school, we used to sing a song in choir called “The Potter’s Hand” that spoke of being open and willing and ready for God to mold you into something new. To be clay in the potter’s hands. I read this verse and that song immediately came to mind and it was one of those “…OHHH” moments… Lamentations isn’t about the wrath of an unfair, cruel, and angry God. It’s about how deep of a love The Lord has for His children that He would move to work for their good when they had abandoned Him. When they had turned away from Him, cursed His name, and wanted nothing to do with Him, he knocked them back into His arms where He knew they would have true joy again. He stripped them of their finest possessions because what they had been clinging to was exactly what was keeping them from The Lord. Listen to this writer go from mourning about his losses to praising God from freeing him from them:
I am the one who has seen the afflictions that come from the rod of the Lord’s anger.
He has led me into darkness, shutting out all light.
He has turned his hand against me again and again, all day long.
He has made my skin and flesh grow old. He has broken my bones.
He has besieged and surrounded me with anguish and distress.
He has buried me in a dark place, like those long dead.
He has walled me in, and I cannot escape. He has bound me in heavy chains.
And though I cry and shout, he has shut out my prayers.
He has blocked my way with a high stone wall; he has made my road crooked.
He has hidden like a bear or a lion, waiting to attack me.
He has dragged me off the path and torn me in pieces, leaving me helpless and devastated.
He has drawn his bow and made me the target for his arrows.
He shot his arrows deep into my heart.
My own people laugh at me. All day long they sing their mocking songs.
He has filled me with bitterness and given me a bitter cup of sorrow to drink.
He has made me chew on gravel. He has rolled me in the dust.
Peace has been stripped away, and I have forgotten what prosperity is.
I cry out, “My splendor is gone!
Everything I had hoped for from the Lord is lost!”
The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words.
I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss.
Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this:
The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”
The Lord is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him.
So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord.
And it is good for people to submit at an early age to the yoke of his discipline:
Let them sit alone in silence beneath the Lord’s demands.
Let them lie face down in the dust, for there may be hope at last.
Let them turn the other cheek to those who strike them and accept the insults of their enemies. For no one is abandoned by the Lord forever.
Though he brings grief, he also shows compassion
because of the greatness of his unfailing love.
For he does not enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow.
Who can command things to happen
without the Lord’s permission?
Does not the Most High
send both calamity and good?
Then why should we, mere humans, complain
when we are punished for our sins?
Instead, let us test and examine our ways.
Let us turn back to the Lord.”
Don’t you see? The Lord works for our good. He moves to put us back in places where we will have the chance to either praise or curse Him. When everything in our lives is perfect, there’s no need for God, is there? We can thank Him and praise Him but more often than not… the times when we are on our knees crying out for God to bring us closer to Him happen when we are stranded in the midst of our desolation and despair. That’s when we ask The Lord for strength, and that’s when The Lord delivers strength. That’s when we ask The Lord to take control, and that’s when The Lord takes control. Those times in our brokenness are when we desperately seek out the tiniest bit of light in our darkness and RUN towards it. God does not work to harm us. Our physical bodies may be destroyed but He seeks to restore our souls. To flood our hearts with the joy and peace that can only come from submitting every moment and detail of our lives to Him. The times I have felt closest to God have been in my saddest seasons. I have called out to him with a broken heart and He rescued me from my path of destruction. Haven’t you ever noticed the beauty in tragedy? The way people hug each other afterwards, how they say “I love you” with a new sincerity? The way they begin to live intentionally and with urgency? It’s because when we are stripped down to our absolute bare, naked core… when we are bleeding and empty… that’s when we are in a place where we are most ready and open and willing to be poured into. To be built up again. To be loved. To be counseled. To be restored. Praise The Lord for His desire to bring us back to this place.