“For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.”
– Genesis 32:30
“Is it worth it?”
This is a question a friend asked me recently. We had been talking and listening to each others stories of pain and fear and struggle, each wrestling to reconcile our understanding of God with our experience of life and of Him.
We don’t share the same faith, but we are each trying to forge a way within our faith communities, that is faithful to our respective revelations of God and also true to our experience of life with struggle, heartbreak and pain.
Some of our questions are the same, some are different, but we are quite similar personalities and in similar situations within our faith communities – each finding ourselves somewhat on the outside due to our sufferings-without-end that make people feel uneasy, challenging their comfortable view of God, or simply because some see our continuing struggle as lack of faith or spiritual maturity in our circumstances.
We are each women of faith wrestling with what it means to live well in difficult circumstances, and each grappling with that age-old question of ‘why?’
I think we probably have quite a different understanding of what the answer to that question may be, our faiths are quite dissimilar in terms of understanding who God is and why he operates the way that he does. Nevertheless, I was surprised and encouraged to find how much of our wonderings and experiences were similar. To struggle in this way is immensely human and not unspiritual at all. The human condition is such that the same questions get asked again and again and to wrestle with them, and with God, is both painful and courageous, and I would honestly say necessary to deep understanding of, and intimacy with God.
It also saddened us both though, that so many people who do share our own faiths and theology seem unwilling or unable to walk this path with us, or even bear witness for us as we walk it.
Our time together was immensely encouraging and beautiful. It is rare to find yourself with someone who both listens well and shares courageously. To be able to give eachother that safe space is a wonderful gift.
That question though has stuck with me. We had been talking about some of the joys that come along with the sorrows, and also about how necessary it is to truly live through both. And so, it shouldn’t have been an unexpected question really, and yet it rather threw me. I found it difficult to answer because a simple yes or no really didn’t seem sufficient, neither doing justice to all we had shared.
It is question that has, and will continue to require much turning over in my heart and mind, and one that ultimately I think I will need to take to God again and again.
The short answer, for me at least, is yes. It is worth it because of the depth of intimacy with God that I can gain is honestly and truly worth all the treasures of the world. Is worth the sacrifice of an easy life. To really gain Christ in the midst of the brokenness of my life is worth it.
And yet, it’s not a simple yes. It is a yes that still comes with the why. Is it really necessary to suffer like this to gain him. Isn’t there an easier way. Hasn’t he done it all on the cross.
It is a yes that comes with doubts. Is God truly good to require this of me, when he could just end my suffering with a word, a thought. Am I really any closer to knowing him, or am I just scrabbling about in the gutter down here. Do I love him enough to accept this sovereignty of his.
It is a yes that comes with a heart cry for the pain to end. A yes that fears I won’t make it, that I can’t overcome, that it is all, in the end, too much for me to bear.
It is a limping, bruised and bloodied yes, a yes spoken through tears and with faith the size of a mustard seed at times. Like Jacob I come away limping.
It is an incomplete yes, a yes of faith and hope that it will be worth it. One day. That when I look back on my life I won’t look back with bitterness and regret, but with gratitude and joy. It is choosing to say yes, and be grateful, and take my questions and doubts and fears to God, believing that at the proper time he will give me back treasures beyond measure that will far outweigh all that I have endured. That in the end I will gain Christ and the joy of him will be enough, more than enough.
It is a yes that stands on the day when he himself will wipe away every tear from my eye, and that until that day he keeps and counts them, not one forgotten or overlooked, not one maligned by the God whose compassion never fails.
And it is a yes that hopes for days along the way when it really does feel worth it, that hopes there will be triumphs and joys that fill my heart with gladness, and give me strength for the days when everything crowds in and my courage falters, my faith wanes and I fear I can’t go on.
It is a yes of faith and hope, said through tears and laughter.
Is it worth it? This is it. This is the question on which it all depends. This is the very epicentre in times of crisis and pain and unending grief.
Is it worth it?
Yes. I believe it is.
My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.
– Psalm 73:26