When Christians cause the suffering – Nell Goddard

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.
Lamentations 3:19-23

Standing, alone, in a play park. Still He remains.

Photo copyright Nell GoddardNell 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. 

[tweetit]“I assumed the Bible was used to build people up. But it was being used to manipulate, harm, destroy.” – @Alianoree [/tweetit]
[tweetit]“I didn’t understand.” @Alianoree ‘s beautiful, moving God and Suffering Story– When Christians Cause the Suffering: [/tweetit]
[tweetit]”God was to be found in the quietest, most unlikely of places.” – @Alianoree – When Christians Cause the Suffering: [/tweetit]
[tweetit]“The God of my childhood, of simple Sunday school stories, was gone” -@Alianoree When Christians Cause the Suffering:[/tweetit]
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?

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12 Responses to When Christians cause the suffering – Nell Goddard

  1. Karen 15th October, 2014 at 1:34 pm #

    Hmm yes. Can quite relate to the jealousy – thing. To be honest, i would never have thought I would be the subject of jealousy – for any reason. But I have had to face it again and again in recent years, and it astounds me every time. Sometimes, it can remain hidden for 30 years…and then you face it in abundance once it bursts out. It presents as resentment, so people are unable to recognise it in themselves at times.

    It produces some rather horrid reactions in people…I mean, look at Joseph’s brothers It takes me quite a while before I recognise what it is. I always think that I should be the one who is jealous…I find it very puzzling.

    The difficulty is knowing how to deal with it before it is too late. Perhaps by praising the person who is jealous? Ii really don’t know….Any helpful suggestions?

    • Tanya 15th October, 2014 at 1:40 pm #

      hi Karen- just wondering if you meant to post this on my post on Toy Story and Jealousy?

      “It presents as resentment” – yes – and this is worth remembering, because ‘resentment’ is the more socially-acceptable face of jealousy.
      Joseph’s brothers are a great example, I’d forgotten them. I was also thinking of Saul and David (throwing a spear at him doesn’t sound so far from Woody driving a car into Buzz…)

      How do you deal with people who are jealous of you? I’m not sure. I always like a confrontational approach: “I’m feeling that you resent me a bit – is that just me? Is there some wrong I have done you?” I don’t think you can stop someone being jealous of you, but when I have confronted friends on this, it has helped. But – i’m definitely open to suggestions on this. People who are jealous very rarely admit to it.

      • Karen 15th October, 2014 at 2:34 pm #

        Yes, I wrote it there, but it somehow landed on this page…not sure how…

  2. Martin Frete 15th October, 2014 at 11:59 am #

    for me it’s not so much a question about being hurt by another Christian it is more about how I hurt other Christians myself.i’m afraid that I have often been guilty of doing just that. Through stupidity or thoughtlessness I have sadly been guilty of the offence.
    If I had any defence at all, it is just to say that I know my God forgives me and I am sometimes able to ask those that I have hurt for forgiveness.
    When I refer to my God I am referring to the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob.

  3. MaryLee 15th October, 2014 at 4:19 am #

    Oh, Tanya, thank you for sharing this blog. I needed this today.

  4. bug 14th October, 2014 at 6:57 pm #

    I’m finding that much that is said to me doesn’t line up with how I’m treated. Not that there is overt bad treatment, it’s subtle….no answers, no one calls or emails to say hi. I’ve done it but being the depressed person who doesn’t get better…in a healing church….well, maybe inside of themselves they blame me, wish I would go away…. They probably would say those words are my “mental illness” or me believing lies from the enemy…I don’t know where to go or what to do. It’s very hard to just separate myself and go elsewhere with my struggles. I don’t want to burn any bridges.

    • Nell Goddard 14th October, 2014 at 11:29 pm #

      I’m so sorry to hear that you are struggling at the moment. Please know that I am praying for you, that you would know God’s unchanging and unfailing love close at hand, you would feel Him beside you and know that He cares deeply for you, and will never leave you nor forsake you. There is always hope, even when you do not think that there is. He remains, even when it feels that all else is gone. Praying for you x

  5. Mark Allman 14th October, 2014 at 1:19 pm #

    I am glad He remains. He has for me throughout my life. Even in those times I went away. There is so much I don’t understand but I don’t believe that God wants life simple. I do not think we appreciate when things come easy when there is no struggle.
    There is beauty in struggle. Beauty when we overcome and even when we fail for I think it all pulls us to God.

    • Nell Goddard 14th October, 2014 at 1:56 pm #

      Thank you so much for your lovely words – He does indeed remain, sometimes we just put up barriers that make Him harder to find. There is indeed beauty in the struggle, and beauty in finding him in the things and the places we never expected. He remains through it all, and still He is good. Thank you for reminding me of this, again.


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