Suffering is largely a mystery to me.
While God’s grace and presence have been unimaginably rich in my pain, I still don’t understand why particular believers who love God endure loss after loss until they feel hopeless and confused, covered in darkness. I don’t understand why people who have not strayed from God’s path, but are looking to him in all things, feel defeated and dragged into the dust. I don’t understand why God’s people, whom he treasures and protects, are led like sheep to the slaughter.
And I’m not alone in my bewilderment. The Bible reiterates that the reasons for suffering can be mysterious and confusing, and from our vantage, incomprehensible. In the opening scene of the book of Job, for instance, we are taken into heaven and are witnesses to a dialogue between Satan and God. We realize from their interchange that there is much more happening in suffering than any of us can see, for sure in Job’s life but also in ours (Ephesians 6:12). God has his purposes, which are for both our good and his glory, though we may not understand them until heaven. Until then, we live with a seeming paradox: that God is both sovereign and good and yet his people can still suffer unthinkable loss, even when they are faithfully trusting him.
Psalm 44 reflects on a similar tension. We don’t know the circumstances surrounding its writing, but we do know that the Israelites felt abandoned by God. The psalmist speaks directly to God about their baffling pain in the face of his unparalleled power and past deliverance. He boldly cries out to God, pouring out his questions and doubts, trusting God enough to honestly come before him. It’s a psalm for those who trust God but have more questions than answers in suffering.