One of the biggest challenges to faith is trusting God when we witness suffering. This scenario is also an opportunity to strengthen our faith muscles. I’ll explain what I mean about this spiritual workout later. First, I want to share a personal story about suffering. Several decades ago, I deeply mourned for my grandmother. She had dementia and ended up in the hospital due to internal bleeding. While recovering, she climbed out of her hospital bed, fell on the floor, and broke her hip.
The time between her hip fracture and the operation to repair it was torture for her. She moaned, cried, and yelled as if she were in labor. Her dementia caused her to pat her hand on the mattress and call out for her dog that was not allowed to visit her bedside. At one point she asked where her mother was.
As I watched her suffer, my heart broke. As I listened to her anguish, I asked God how He could stand to witness so much suffering in the world. I was overwhelmed by the cries of one elderly woman. Yet, God hears the cries of the entire planet.
I prayed for my grandmother. I recited what I remembered of the 23rd Psalm to her. And I gently moved strands of her silver hair off of her brow.
The gentle and quiet woman I’d known and loved all my life was not experiencing a gentle end to her life.
Grandmother didn’t survive her operation.
On the day of her death, I sat at the kitchen table across from my husband and did some moaning of my own.
After pushing my food around my plate as loss of appetite settled in, I set my fork down and asked my husband, “I wonder if Grandmother’s recently renewed interest in God means she’s in heaven. I can’t imagine how horrible hell must be. The suffering she endured in the hospital was bad enough.”
My husband listened. He had no words to offer. He more than likely knew I needed to hear from God Himself.
In my spirit, I reached out to my Heavenly Father. Surely, He had a word or two of wisdom and comfort for me.
As I sat there with a heart full of grief and pain, I felt a warm hand on my shoulder. I turned my head to see who it was. No one was there. Instantly peace replaced the pain I was carrying. God’s Presence filled me with joy and love more palatable than the cries that had come out of my suffering grandmother’s mouth.
With one touch from God, I realized anew I can trust Him. Words weren’t necessary for me to tap into His comfort.
In my suffering, the God of Comfort comforted my soul.
Seeking to trust God in our suffering is where peace amid pain is found.
Difficult questions don’t have easy answers. In these situations, a gesture of grace from God is an especially gracious gift. Sometimes the best answers are wordless.Sometimes the best answers are wordless. #faith #poetry Click To Tweet
Sometimes trust is fueled by a simple touch of empathy and compassion. Sometimes there are no earthly explanations available.
Sometimes suffering is a glimpse through the window of heaven.
Psalm 34:18 NIV says, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”
I don’t know why my grandmother suffered so much at the end of her life. I do know God is faithful. I do know He is able. I do know it profits us to keep trusting God when we witness suffering.Psalm 34:18 NIV The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18 NIV #Bible #podcast Click To Tweet
And now I’d like to close with a poem:
Oh God of compassion
who comforts the soul
with a gentle touch
more precious than gold
Oh God of Heaven
who soothes our pain
with Your gentle Presence
when we call on Your name.
Blessings of Comfort & Compassion ~ Wendy Mac
(Thanksgiving blessings to my Canadian friends.)
P.S. My grandmother loved roses. I have a fond memory of the rose garden my grandfather helped her create. I’m nosy-to-know what flower reminds you of someone special?
And speaking of special people, I recently read a new book co-authored by my literary agent, Cynthia Ruchti, that’s helping me be a bigger blessing to my husband. I love good marriage books. My review of it is here: Spouse in the House. You can find out more about Cynthia and her over three dozen books here: Cynthia Ruchti. Her marriage book is witty and wise. It made me laugh and learn. A. Lot.
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28 thoughts on “Trusting God When We Witness Suffering”
Our pastor spoke on Suffering yesterday. It’s hard to be helplessly on the sidelines while someone we love suffers. It would be especially painful to live through it with a grandmother who doesn’t understand her pain. 💔
I didn’t know you have a podcast. That’s amazing. I will listen.
Thank you, dear Jane. Yes, “It’s hard to be helplessly on the sidelines while someone we love suffers.” Remembering God doesn’t delight in seeing suffering and knowing He sees all of the suffering going on down here helps me trust He’s going to wipe away every tear at the end of this chapter.
Blessings ~ Wendy Mac xo
Wendy, That experience you had after losing your grandmother is a beautiful example of God’s comfort during grief and one I’m sure you’ll never forget. Remembering how God comforted me in the past helps me trust him for the future. God will comfort us so we can comfort others. I love 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 and have experienced it many times in my life.
It’s still difficult though to watch a loved one go through so much pain and suffering and I question why sometimes … then I remember Jesus and have to believe he’s entering into it with them. He can identify with them like nobody else.
Roses remind me of my grandmother too. She loved roses. She had a huge vegetable garden and lining the edge of it were the most spectacular roses. Fittingly her name was Rose too. 😊. Blessings, Nancy
Thank you, dear Nancy, for the reminder that Jesus “can identify with them like nobody else.” Our God is not only a God of Comfort, He is a Suffering Savior who willingly bore the pain and shame of the cross so we could cross over to His Holy side.
How cool that your grandmother, Rose, loved roses. 🙂 Such a beautiful name.
Blessings ~ Wendy Mac
I love how God united your hearts in Him at the end like that. The way His love and mercy poured out of you as you became His touch upon her and He touched you in the same way through your grieving. His touch awakens us to see heaven blooming, where we couldn’t before.
I will never forget reading of a missionary trying to translate “trust” in the Bible and God giving him the answer as a man came into his office and flopped onto the chair. So trust became: “leaning your whole weight upon God” in the translation. That’s the gift your husband surely gave you in not answering your heart’s cries and letting it be God who caught your whole weight, to lift you up in His grace.
He is so so faithful in our faithlessness – ever birthing a deeper trust and faith in us through every new loss, trial and pain we walk through. Bless His holy Name!
What a great translation of “trust.” It’s a phrase to meditate upon.
Oh my, dear Anna, I hadn’t noticed the double touch. xo Yes, I have always appreciated the gesture of love when my husband or daughter moves a strand of hair from my face. I’m blessed to now realize the depth of the gesture I gave my grandmother. It would have been a gift moment for her too.
Your words about trust are a gift too. Yes, leaning on God lifts us into His grace. Amen and bless His holy Name–indeed!
Blessings ~ Wendy Mac
He’s always working to unite us in His heart of love, humbling us in doing so. I think it’s actually easier to wash His feet, as we love on others, it’s harder to let Him wash our own weary feet (so humbling). I saw that with my Mum as she struggled to surrender to a love that ran that deep for her and all her loved ones at the end – only by the grace of God does that washing happen, as He causes us to collapse into His arms.
You know, now I think he should have translated it even more specifically as God did with that man: as a collapsing into God’s arms of grace. I don’t believe we even do the trusting ourselves (for we have died, it is Christ who lives in us). It is Jesus in us trusts who trusts His Father, as He leads each one of us into situations that cause us to collapse, as the things that have held us up in this world (including our own fleshly belief systems and religious traditions and doctrines that put up walls), fall away and we are left with only His arms of grace to bear us and our loved ones up on eagle’s wings. It’s then our faith is reborn – as those seeds of His Word He has long planted in us are broken open to bring us and others new life and new sight.
I love your words–your thoughts, dear Anna. Amen especially to: ” It’s then our faith is reborn – as those seeds of His Word He has long planted in us are broken open to bring us and others new life and new sight.”
It’s all His doing and all the glory goes to God. <3
Oh my: that’s making me weep so much. I washed my Mum at the end. She couldn’t move and the hospice nurse asked for a family member to help her wash my Mum because she saw it would help my Mum to relax and it did too. And when she went to be with Jesus it would be the flashbacks of those days that led to me collapsing into my beloved Jesus’ arms, as He washed my own weary feet and opened my own blinded eyes to see Him where I couldn’t see Him before.
Beautiful. <3 The love of Jesus is the loveliest of all.
Wow, what a testimony to tug at the heartstrings. I was halted, pausing to read twice, “Difficult questions don’t have easy answers. In these situations, a gesture of grace from God is an especially gracious gift. Sometimes the best answers are wordless.”
If I see hollyhocks it brings one grandmother to mind because she had them at their farm house. They’re a flower I seldom see but she liked them. Both of my grandmother’s middle names were Rose.
I’m ever grateful that our God is the God of all comfort so that in our time of need we can find peace in our pain. May the Lord Jehovah bless you.
Thank you, dear Manette. How lovely that both your grandmothers had Rose for a middle name. I miss hollyhocks. They remind me of the paper flowers people often decorated wedding cars with.
This memory is the first time I remember wrestling with the subject of suffering at such an intense and personal level. It blessed me that God didn’t mind my honest questioning. He meets us in the middle of our pain.
Blessings ~ Wendy Mac xo
Your story reminded me of my mother, who walked her own path of pain and suffering. God is indeed the God of all comfort.
Thank you for sharing that, dear Linda. xo The bond we have with loved ones makes any pain they suffer especially painful for us to witness. But God. He’s a faithful Father who comforts us.
Blessings ~ Wendy Mac
My grandmother broke her hip too and all her organs started shutting down. The enormous pain had her crying, “Help me.” She did not survive. Broke my heart. The hardest thing to bear. I loved her so much. And hydrangeas remind me of my grandmother.
It’s especially hard to witness sweet people suffering. And to hear a beloved cry out is heart wrenching. Hugs, dear Shelli. xo
Hydrangeas are lovely. They suffer easily when summers are harsh with heat. Our last season was hard on our plants. I hope next year is gentler.
I have been meditating on trusting God a lot in the past months because of unsettling events in my little clan, and tensions in my wife’s enormous clan. People lust to be in control, demanding to be in the know (and to be right!). Faith does not need knowledge or personal victory, it is what takes us through life, not what gives us control of life. My human brain knows how seeing someone suffer causes such strong feelings of helplessness, but trust teaches that God is in control, may even have a wonderful purpose in the grand scheme of the divine (what a blessing lesson the story of Job is, for instance), and Jesus has been there before and The Spirit will be more for us than our minds can even comprehend (if we will walk by faith, not by sight). Faith leads to finding evidence of God’s work, not evidence leads to proving faith.
Thank you for sharing this experience; may it encourage others.
I hear you, brother. God desires gentleness to be a descriptive of His people–not a demanding spirit.
Amen to these words of yours: “Faith does not need knowledge or personal victory, it is what takes us through life, not what gives us control of life.”
Thank you & blessings as we navigate these unprecedented times as peacefully as the Lord makes possible.
I am so sorry for your grandmother’s struggle and pain. I know you were a comfort to her. Just before my grandmother passed away, she experienced terrible fear. It was awful to observe and not be able to provide comfort. She was precious to me and always had bright petunias planted in the box out front.
Hugs, dear Tammy. Pain and fear are terrible things to face at any time. To deal with them at death must be the hardest of all.
My other grandmother grew petunias too. When I grow them, I think of her. 🌿🌸💌
We can’t pray for our loved ones that have gone on already, but as long as we HAVE Christ Jesus we never have to abandon Hope until we reach Heaven and be with our Lord face to face.
On another note, it seems the older we get, the more we become aware of other’s suffering and it seems to hit us harder than when we were young. As you stated we can ONLY imagine the Lord’s feelings. I’ve often taught this too when teaching on God’s love; if we could even begin to comprehend the depth of His love, imagine the depth of His suffering because of that love!
Great message Sis. I pray for you and yours and comfort, peace and overall healing are a great part of those prayers! God bless! Your friend and brother in Christ – Roland
Thank you, Pastor Roland. Amen that having Jesus means we have hope. Always.
The depth of the Lord’s suffering is something I ponder each time I partake of communion. Perhaps it may be better if I pondered it each morning. It would prime my heart to view the events of the day in the light of His love and grace.
Blessings, dear brother. 🙂
Wendy, what a beautiful post. We’ve walked through some hard seasons this year, and I’ve had the privilege of walking (in varying degrees) alongside some friends as they’ve experienced suffering this year. Your words are a comfort, my friend. Even when people don’t always know what to say, our loving Father does. Thanks for this reminder. I need it today.
Thank you, dear Jeanne. Yes, God really does know what to say and when to say encouraging words to the heartbroken. Often, in the middle of a mess, I remind myself that He will speak comforting (or correcting) words to me in my morning quiet time.
Your latest blog post was spot on with tips for coming alongside others who are hurting.
Blessings, dear friend. xo