The Truth That’s Hard to Swallow

Facebook is an interesting community where we’re assaulted with all kinds of opinions, arguments, and uncomfortable gossip (that’s why I don’t spend much time there, you’ll find me more often on Instagram). But when I do drop in to post occasional updates or links to blog posts, invariably I’ll get a few responses that are well intended, I assume, but nonetheless, they are comments that are untrue.

As I’ve posted updates on LeRoy’s destructive illness and paralysis, I’ve received these kinds of comments:

“Your husband doesn’t deserve this!” “God didn’t do this to him, this is the work of the devil!” “God doesn’t bring illness . . .”

All of these statements are well meaning, and may have a small grain of truth to them . . . God does not produce evil actions or tempt us with evil (James 1:13) and every gift from God is good (James 1:17), but yes, I must argue, God does bring affliction—and as hard as that truth may be to swallow—affliction sent from Him is one of His good gifts.

If we claim to live under Scripture’s authority, we can’t deny or escape this truth:

I know, O LORD, that Your judgments are righteous, And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me (Psalm 119:75).

Who “afflicted” the Psalmist here? Who did that “in faithfulness”?

Let’s take a quick run through Scripture and consider God’s role in afflicting those He loves. (This sounds like a fun read, doesn’t it? Bear with me . . .)

How about Joseph?

This young man appeared to be a pretty righteous dude. He had strong moral convictions and stuck to them even when it would’ve been easier to give in. From what we see of him in Scripture, there are no glaring sins, other than perhaps enough foolish pride to let his brothers know about his self-exalting dream life (Genesis 37:5–11).

But God had a plan for this young man. And an integral part of that plan included sending Joseph into a long season of affliction. Obviously, God had good purpose in doing that.

Psalm 105 records a bit of what God was doing with Joseph. Verse 16 begins with a poetic description of God “calling” for a famine on the land of Egypt. Here we see that Joseph’s life was woven into God’s plan for His people and even the rulers of Egypt:

[box]And He called for a famine upon the land;
He broke the whole staff of bread.

He sent a man before them,
Joseph, who was sold as a slave.

They afflicted his feet with fetters,
He himself was laid in irons;

Until the time that his word came to pass,
The word of the Lord tested him.

The king sent and released him,
The ruler of peoples, and set him free.

He made him lord of his house
And ruler over all his possessions,
To imprison his princes at will,
That he might teach his elders wisdom.[/box]

The ESV says that God “summoned” a famine on the land of Egypt. God did that. Famines are not pleasant nor comfortable, but God brought that famine. He called it into being.

Evil does not originate or flow from God, but God can employ evil and He can even use evil to defeat evil itself.

God used the evil deeds of Joseph’s brothers to send him into Egypt, and their actions were used by God to take Joseph into Egypt. The famine, Joseph’s affliction and sorrow, the loss Jacob endured . . . all of these were God’s good gifts brought by God for His good purposes.

Yes, these afflictions were good gifts.

And what about the affliction Job endured?

Did Job bring about his own suffering because of his sin? Was he being punished for some horrific moral failure? No.

God is the one who initiated Job’s suffering when he asked Satan, “Have you considered my servant, Job?” God praised Job as a man who is “blameless and upright . . . who fears God and turns away from evil.” When Satan challenged God’s assessment of Job with the accusation that Job only serves God for the good blessings He heaps on him, God responded with the confidence of a Father who knows his child’s loyalty.

God allows Job’s loyalty to be proven.

It’s understandable that we all want to fit suffering into that little box, that pagan system of “Karma” that explains illness or tragedy as a result of some wicked or sinful past.

Job’s struggle, and what he voiced in his perplexed state, actually affirms that his understanding of God (at that time) was framed by a logical, but limited, worldview. Job honored God, chapter one clearly affirms that, but his limited perspective was based on the idea that because God is good (and also all powerful), He will not bring affliction to those He loves.

I think a lot of us live with that perspective; it seems to make sense, especially if we lived in a “Cross-less” world.

But that’s where the rub comes.

God graciously chose Job (yes, I said graciously) to experience a level of pain and suffering that few are invited to walk. This extended season of intense affliction wasn’t meant to destroy Job, but it allowed him to enter into a greater understanding of God and also allowed his journey to display God’s worth (for thousands of years!).

Job’s story flies in the face of the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel.

When a godly man suffers, it doesn’t make sense in our system of right and wrong.

(And yet, it does, when you think of the cross.)

LeRoy counters that way of thinking with this question, “Jesus suffered for me, why should I be exempt from suffering?”

And why should any of us be surprised when affliction comes our way? We’ve been warned by our Savior (who suffered more than we ever will) that we would endure difficulty during our time here on earth:

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

The book of Romans reminds us that all of creation is groaning under the curse as a result of the fall. So, as long as the conditions of the fall are in effect, we’re all susceptible to the painful experiences and consequences of living in a fallen world. And that, too, is under God’s rule and controlled by His hand.

Yes, Jesus brings redemption, healing, and life . . . but He also sends us into storms of suffering that He might be glorified through our response and faith in the storm. He sends us into the fire, that we might be refined in the furnace of affliction. He appoints affliction for us, that He might accomplish His plan that goes far beyond our small existence.

Who is to say why God has chosen this journey for us at this time?

From outward appearance, it would seem a waste, an injustice, a contradiction. But we serve a mysterious God who is known to use the most unexpected means to bring about a miraculous and glorious end result. Would Joni have brought as much glory to God outside of her wheelchair?

We aren’t the ones who can determine that.

As we face suffering, and everyone in this fallen world does, and we walk through the path of affliction with a heart that remains devoted to God . . . it gives the lost world a glimpse into God’s value. They get the message that whatever happens to us—this incredible God is worthy of our worship—no matter what!

And we know from James 1 that suffering is a means that God uses to mature us. We all need that. I definitely need that!

Joseph didn’t understand why he was given dreams of glory and ended up abandoned in a prison cell. Job didn’t know the dialogue between Satan and God, and couldn’t see the story God was writing in his life, and yet what amazing stories both of these became! You and I don’t see the scope and expanse of our stories, either.

God never ceases to amaze me. He is faithful, He is good, He is omnipotent, but He does not always work in ways that are easy to understand.

He is incredible in His ability to take the worst points of suffering and bring redemption and even a greater knowing of His heart.

I don’t understand why the person who is the nicest, most kind, gentle, and giving man I’ve ever known, is suffering right now. I don’t understand why my pastor, who has faithfully delivered messages from God’s Word since he was just a boy, is enduring excruciating pain, and for this season removed from ministry. I don’t understand why God has chosen to send us on this journey at this time.

All I know is that our God is all wise, and He Himself suffered to secure our freedom from eternal suffering.

And that is the truth that’s truly hard to swallow. He is good. He is all powerful. And He appoints suffering. His suffering brought about my rescue, His pain accomplished my freedom. That truth is hard to conceive.

He appoints suffering, yes, painful journeys. And in doing that, He is still good.

My heart goes out to those who are suffering, especially those who are suffering because they are still held captive by the evil one, who’ve never received new life in Christ.

Perhaps someone who is blinded by the deception of the evil one will watch you when you are at a point of intense suffering, and see your love and devotion to the Savior. And perhaps those who are condemned, and observe your faith in Christ in your affliction, will have their eyes opened to the wonder and value of this Savior that you follow unwaveringly—and will respond to His great love.

This is our hope and prayer, that God will use our suffering, will use yours, will use the road of affliction that you may be walking today, or one day in the future, to showcase the fact that He is good and worthy of our worship.

Will you join us in asking God to accomplish that?

Photo by Jake Melara on Unsplash


  • Cathy

    Amen Thanks for preaching the truth in an age that believes, pushes & teaches the lie even in our churches
    Paying for you both

  • Becky Arnold

    Beautiful words from a heart of tested and tried faith. We continue to pray with and for you, Kim. I’m so thankful God is carrying you. He’s so tender — as I read this morning in Deuteronomy 1:30-31 — “The LORD your God who goes before you wil HIMSELF fight for you, just as He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the LORD your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place.” I am thankful that He is the same God in character and tenderness to you and LeRoy as He was to the Israelites. My hope rests in that for you guys. Just know we care and pray for you both.

  • Janet

    Yes Sister will definitely add the s to my prayers for y’all as well as our own lives!! Get d is an awesome God!! Thank you both for being his loving faithful children!! Love y’all much!! Janet

  • Vickie

    I heard a pastor who had once had cancer say, “When people don’t know what to say, they open their mouth and prove it” meaning they often would be better off being silent and coming alongside. Sometimes I wonder why the question is “Why me?” instead of “Why not me?” The rain falls on the just and unjust, and as for myself, I have learned more in the valleys than on the mountaintops. Sure, I like the mountaintops best, but we can’t live there. God’s grace as y’all continue this journey.

  • Julie Musil

    Such beautiful words from the heart. I don’t know the theology of it all, but I’m learning that God is good all the time. Even when it doesn’t feel like it. Continued prayers for both of you.

  • Ashley

    I recently listened to a sermon on Giants reminding me that hope is what gets us through the ‘in-between’ time, reminding us of Abraham’s 24 years, and Noah’s years in particular. I am praying for you in your in-between time with Leroy, that healing will come again in your lives. I am praying for my husband in our in-between time that healing will also come in our lives. What I believe is depression, brought on by his last contract ending and not getting another, his turning 60 and my emasculating, fierce-woman personality has caused him to turn from God and emotionally and spiritually check out of our marriage. Since he doesn’t ‘feel’ married, he feels free to do whatever he wants. Thankfully, he does want to stay connected to our kids, so though he had an apartment last year, he did move back home, and because of the loving, wonderful man that he truly is, he is kind to me. As for me, thanks to God and using your writings – things that I’ve read and heard over the years, but never truly recognized until your book – I’m growing. I’m leaving the mean-fierce behind, living in that peace beyond understanding, and growing and fasting and praying and hoping – in a God that has won the victory. Thank you.

  • Linda W Perkins

    I love this. You are a wise woman, blessed to be hearing the whisper of the Holy Spirit above the noise of the crowd. I have a blog for people with chronic illnesses (I have several) and wrote a post awhile back called The Gift of Suffering. I got one or two people who didn’t understand either. And yet, those of us walking through the fire, hand in hand with the Lord, know what it is to draw closer to God and to feel His love,even through the suffering. God bless you and your husband on your journey if faith.