I've grown comfortable in my wilderness moments. The ups and downs, the barren place is a place that I have spent so much time in that it has come to feel like home. I know how to operate there. I know how to encourage others that are in it. Because when you walk through enormous tragedy and God just shows up in huge ways, you become changed by it. When you stand in an empty field that once held remnants of a plane that was blown out of the sky in this evil world–your mother never to return home because of it–and you stand in that place that has always meant death and God's love swarms around you like it has in no other moment, you start to see even the worst pain differently. You start to see the beauty. The beauty that can be present even in suffering. That message that I won't ever stop proclaiming because I believe it in every fiber of my being that it is there. That God is present with us in the pain and the struggle and the vast and dreadful desert. And that He uses everything–absolutely everything–for our good and His glory. Even when it isn't good in the moment. Even when it feels like a million shades of awful. The wilderness place is never where our stories end.
It's the question that everyone asks, but I wonder if people actually really want the answer. How could God allow it?
Why? Why does He allow evil to happen? But in knowing God and following Him, we begin to see more of His character. This God of outlandish love that comes through for His people over and over and over again–in His way and in His timing and in a way that He knows is best for them. Do we want the answer if it means enduring pain is part of the process? The long journey home? If it makes us more like Him? If it strips us of pride and idols and all the baggage that just continually brings us down? How could a good God allow it?
We see the world through narrow eyes. We see the temporal things. We see just what is in front of our face at the time. And often what is there is so overwhelming–how could we possibly see anything else? But we have to look at the full picture. We have to think about how our stories ultimately end. Our God who gives us the choice of whether or not to love Him–because could we truly love Him if He didn't give us that option? He is too big to accept that kind of response. He wants us.
He wants us to love Him for who He is because He already loves us for all of who we are. And with the option to love Him also comes the option not to love Him. To go our own way and forge our own path. We all have a will to choose, and we all at different points choose the wrong thing. And the world is broken and full of pain and how do we even begin to reconcile it all? How do we accept that He is still good?
He promises to be our God. Our deliverer. Our Savior. Our refuge. Our strength. He promises that we are held safely in His everlasting arms. So why doesn't He move those enormous mountains in our paths? Why does He make us take the slow and arduous climb to the top? The climb that eventually leads us up to the steepest peak where we can look below and see the landscape that was always there but was just always over the next rise. The view that allows us to take it all in–the whole journey. To see both where we have come from and where we are going.
The reality is, God doesn't remove every single mountain in our path. He wants us to climb them. He wants us to put one foot in front of the other and feel our muscles trembling with every single step. We feel like we are drowning in our struggles and our sorrows and we cry out to Him for rescue, and the tide just gets stronger. We forget that He already parted the seas for us. That our lives aren't measured from one circumstance to another, but from His Son making the way for us and the forever that still awaits us. That there is another side to the mountain that we are climbing and the narrow road we walk is so much shorter than we could possibly believe. Every single step up the steep road strengthens our bodies to continue the walk home. It is hard, and it is painful, and at times we fall over and feel like we couldn't possibly take another step. But it's still the road home.
Are we going to choose it anyway? Are you going to choose a road that is full of pain and sorrow and hurt? Because He says it is part of the path. That suffering was always a companion on our journeys. That we will be hated and slandered for His name and that by signing up to walk His way, we are signing up for struggle and heartbreak. But would He ask this of us if it wasn't worth it?
Evil is running rampant. This world is full of so much pain and sorrow, and it is far too much to bear. People all over the world struggling more than we could possibly fathom, and why does He allow it? But would we know His goodness if He didn't? Because there is a difference between allowing something to happen and condoning it. Approving of it. And if you spend anytime in His word, you will know that God so wholly and completely disapproves. He doesn't like it anymore than us when we are faced with a huge mountain to climb in our path–but He will use it. He will redeem it. He will show up and walk the way with us. Because He is good, and He wants the best for us. He can see more than we can and sometimes that means the hard road. Sometimes the hard road is the only road.
Yes, evil is very real, but if we just focus on that part of the equation, we are missing the whole point. Because evil and wickedness don't just offend God, they stand in complete opposition to God. He opposes it in every way–His perfect righteousness cannot stand for it. And He will get the final say over it. Ultimately, He will show just how much He doesn't
approve of it. And the fact that He delays to set this world right is actually a mercy–it gives more time for people to come to Him. To choose Him. To take hold of the freedom that He gave us in the garden that we took and screwed up. Because as hard as it gets and as ugly and painful as the road may seem, God wouldn't allow anything into our lives unless He knew that one day it would be worth it. That it is worth it when God leaves us in our tragedies. Because when He wages war on all that is evil, the fruit and beauty of our pain will be more than we can possibly fathom. The tears will turn into complete celebration because we will see–we will see
what it was all for. Every sacrifice and every sleepless night and the utter senselessness of tragedy. Those very things will become our joy.
We have to remember the full story. We have to remember that where we stand right now in this moment is not where our stories end. That our journey began in a garden full of promise and that the freedom that He gave us to love Him and choose Him, we took and turned it on its head and still He comes after us and promises to set it all right. He constantly gives us way more than we can handle, but He can
. He can handle it. There is no situation or struggle that we walk into that catches Him by surprise. Including suffering. Including the worst of the worst. Including the darkest night. He is there. He has already won.
And the moments of our journeys that we spend in the deep shape us and allow us to become more like Him in the process. Because He wouldn't lead us straight into the fire without knowing that it was worth it in someway.
And that is the beauty of it as well. That as we step further into the darkness of pain and sorrow and still trust Him in it, eventually He turns it all to light. The tears that turn to testimony and it becomes not just about us stuck in an impossible situation, but about our Sovereign God and His strength and power that overcomes it. The deep that we despise that lights the path for others. The situations we walk into blaming Him for and walk out of praising His name.
Suffering and evil are very real, but so is our God. Our God has already won the war and is coming back to finish the final battle and get the final say over all the injustice and ugliness of this world. I, for one, wouldn't know Him without the pain. Without the struggle. The darkest moments that have led me directly into His embrace. The storms that He allows even in all their terror because He sees what we cannot see yet and knows that one day even we will find it worth it. Are we going to stand with Him or against Him? Seeing the world as it is today and knowing what we know, are we going to choose Him anyway? Even when it doesn't feel worth it, are we still going to trust that it is? Will we run straight into the deepest sea if it is the only way to get to Him?
Because over the steep rise of that mountain peak, there is beauty beyond measure. And just because we cannot see it yet doesn't mean that it is not there. Just like how the stars still shine in all their brilliance in the light of day, but only in the night sky can we take them in. It is there. All the beauty and wonder and joy of our struggles. It's at the end of this short and arduous road in the forever beyond.
And it will be worth it.
By Kelly Halsch
Originally published in Be Still Magazine, Issue 2.