I’ve got all kinds of love for Nell Goddard. She is wise beyond her years, she writes with insight and passion, and she represents fresh hope for a new generation of intelligent feminists. Plus, she happens to be studying at the Best University in the World. I’m delighted to be sharing her God and Suffering story here today:
I find myself standing, alone, in a play park, the drizzle mixing with my tears. My stomach is churning, and my head is buzzing. Questions fly from my head to my heart and back again. So rarely are the two connected, and yet today, the feelings and the questions are all jumbled up in a tight knot, making me ever so aware of how little I understand myself, and how little I understand God.
I never realised that pain was recurrent until that day. The questions you thought you’d answered years ago come racing to the forefront of your mind, as burning as they ever were, the previous answers lying forgotten by the wayside.
Standing, alone, in a play park. A seemingly harmless conversation with another Christian has sent me hurtling back 6, 7, 8 years, to a time when I began to doubt the rock upon which I had built my life. The rock which was being chipped away, day after day, by another Christian. The rock of knowing who God was, and assuming that God’s people always acted in a particular way. Assuming that the Bible was used to build people up. But here it was, being used to manipulate, harm and destroy.
I didn’t understand. From age 11 through to age 14 and beyond, I didn’t understand how people who claimed to follow the same God as me could have such a radically different view of His purpose and plan. God stood, distant and cold, behind a dark cloud of resentment, anger, and confusion. And I gave up on Him. Refusing to believe in the same God as the person who was taking away everything I knew and loved, I turned my back and walked in the opposite direction.
But still He remained.
An ever-present help in trouble, the One I could not forget, no matter how hard I tried. Still He was there, shining brightly with love, peace, and forgiveness behind the dark cloud with which I had covered Him. Man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.
I’ve never understood how He works. I wish I could tell you I’ve stopped trying to decipher it, but that would be a lie. I long to know how He takes all that is bad, all that hurts, and all that weighs upon me, and turns it, ever so slowly, into something beautiful. I want to be able to explain how He is found in the smallest things, making the biggest impact.
He was there, in the darkness of my early teenage years. In the questioning and in the anger. He was there, feeling with me every blow that came to the rock upon which I was standing, holding me tight as I struggled to stand. He was there, in the moving from the home I loved, in the stress-induced sickness of my mother, in the anger and the tears and the confusion. He was there. I just couldn’t always see him, because suddenly, He was not as easily understood. The God of my childhood, of simple Sunday school stories, was gone. He had been replaced by a God no different, no less incredible, but one darkened by questions and blurred by tears of red hot anger and hurt.
But still He remained. He was to be found in the quietest, most unlikely of places. In the house by the Irish Sea lent to us by former colleagues. In the M&S food vouchers given to make life easier as my mother got illness after illness. In the friend who cooked me dinner as I sat on his kitchen floor, quietly sobbing into my tea.
Still He remained.
He was there as I found myself, years later, standing, alone, in a play park. He was there as the drizzle mixed with my tears. The questions, which I never really understood, danced in front of my eyes, mocking me. But this time, I looked closer. I looked closer for my God. The One who is found in the unexpected places. Who feels as if He is hiding, but is actually closer than ever before.
He is to be found in a revision companion’s listening ear and quiet prayer uttered as you sit together on the floor of the church cloakroom, eyes moist and heart troubled. He is to be found in the phone call from the friend who read between the lines of a text and cared enough to call. But He is to be found, most clearly of all, in the previously undiscovered passages of the book you assumed was only for those who had it sorted, in the depths of His Word…
I remember my affliction and my wandering,
The bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them,
And my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed
For His compassions never fail, they are new every morning
Great is your faithfulness.
Standing, alone, in a play park. Still He remains.
Nell Goddard is a 20-year-old Theology Undergraduate at Durham University, who started blogging in the fear that her brain would turn to mush during her gap year. 2 years later, she’s still blogging at www.musingsofaclergychild.wordpress.com about being a clergy child, faith, and anything in between, and finding that her thoughts make a lot more sense when she writes them down. She will talk to you for hours about her dog, justice, or the need for gender equality across the world.
Over to you:
- Have you ever gone through a time of suffering that was caused by another Christian? Where was God for you when that happened?