Some may argue that maybe He doesn't care.  But then why did He come? An indifferent God would never have reached out to us in such extraordinary way, and certainly wouldn't have suffered and died for us. Nor would He have suffered with us.      

 

Others might say that maybe He doesn't truly understand our suffering. That doesn't seem likely. The Bible tells us that Jesus chose to live in the midst of those everyone else scorned. He came to the sick, the poor, the prostitutes, and the tax collectors. God didn't spare Himself suffering. When He came to earth in Jesus, He not only came to comfort and save the suffering, but He also came to know suffering firsthand. 

 

When Jesus lived among the suffering, He was made to suffer for living among them. The powerful elite taunted Him for associating with undesirables. They derided Him for breaking deeply rooted customs such as touching lepers, who were considered unclean, and for healing the sick on the Sabbath.  Jesus was laughed at, His sanity was questioned, and He was ultimately killed. This does not sound like a God who doesn't understand what it's like to suffer. It is a God who suffered with and for those who suffered, becoming intimately familiar with what it is like for us to suffer.

 

Some may argue, as Rabbi Kushner does, that God is not powerful enough to heal us. Then how do we explain the healing miracles Jesus performed? Yet, Jesus’ miracles not only caused us to wonder at the miracle but also to wonder why, if He had such powers, He didn't use them to rescue all of humanity. 

 

Well-meaning Christians, in an attempt to encourage me have said, "God doesn't give us everything we want, but He gives us everything we need." I've always wanted to ask them what their definition of need is. Do I need to be able to walk, to get out of bed, to feed myself? Living in my body, in the physical world, just how much of what I want is, indeed, what I need? I don't know — which may not be a bad thing. That's because the answer is not what I need, but what God needs of me. You may ask: what can God can possibly need from a mere human being? He needs that we trust in Him.

 

God’s system may not seem to favor each of us all the time, but it ultimately favors all of us. We are left to trust that God, in His infinite wisdom, works all things for the good. Fortunately, we have living proof in Jesus that suffering can be redeemed and transcended.

 

Paul, after appealing to God to have a thorn in his side removed, prayed that his suffering would be redeemed, because he knew that Jesus could transform it. John Donne, bedridden and in despair, who first prayed that his suffering be removed, eventually offered prayers that it be redeemed. Joni Eareckson Tada, a quadriplegic, who as a teenager broke her neck in a diving accident and has been confined to a wheelchair for years, claims that her accident was the best thing that ever happened to her because it turned her toward God. Amazingly, God not only got her attention but also the attention of others who see His work displayed in her life. But is that enough? Does that justify such horrible suffering?

 

Joni once said of her life, "It's a daily, hard-fought-for, desperate pulling down of grace from heaven." What can someone who suffers relentlessly possibly mean by grace? If I were to define God's grace as giving me everything I want, I would conclude that He is not a very gracious God. After all, He has not restored what I have lost nor healed me. I continue to suffer from a disabling illness, and live alone and poor. Yet Joni’s ministry is proof that if I trust in Jesus, God will work in me for the good.  Despite quadriplegia or maybe because of it, Joni has given hope to millions as a renowned speaker, radio host, acclaimed writer, artist, and singer.  She also funds the distribution of wheelchairs to the poorer nations around the world.  Whenever I hear Joni speak, I hear the grace of God in her voice, reminding me of the inspired words of Paul, who wrote that God's grace is sufficient for him.