Looking at Suffering Through Two Lenses

Steve Estes, a fellow believer, guided me to Lamentations 3. Especially, verses 32-33, for “Though [God] brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.” My wise friend said, “Joni, this shows the Lord took no pleasure in your broken neck. Like any father who has compassion on his children, it pained his heart to see you hurt. Yet at the same time, it pleased God to permit my accident. Your spinal-cord injury was something he sovereignly designed. And he designed it for a good purpose.”

“God’s ways are so much higher than ours. He has the capacity to look at suffering through two lenses — through a narrow lens and a wide angle one.”

Steve and I had no idea that more than 40 years later, part of God’s “good purpose” would include the ministry of Joni and Friends. It’s why I still share Lamentations 3 with the special needs families we serve at our ministry. As Steve used to tell me, “God’s ways are so much higher than ours. He has the capacity to look at suffering through two lenses — through a narrow lens and a wide angle one. When God looks at a painful event through a narrow lens, he sees the tragedy for what it is, and he’s deeply grieved. God feels the sting in his chest when a child develops cancer or a husband has a debilitating stroke. However, when God looks at that same event through his wide angle lens, he sees the tragedy in relation to everything leading up to it, as well as flowing out from it. He sees a mosaic stretching into eternity — it is this mosaic with all its parts, both good and evil, which brings him delight.”

Lamentations 3 is filled with extraordinary insights. In the span between verse 32 and 33, the Bible asserts “the Lord brings grief,” yet “he does not willingly bring… grief.” Amazingly, God tried this out on himself. He willed the death of his own Son, but he took no delight in it. God saw how Jesus’ death would demonstrate his incomprehensible mercy, as well as bring his people to salvation. God often wills what he despises because — and only because — he has a wide angle view on the world.

Oh, friend, too often we have only a narrow-lens view of our world — May God give us all his perspective and may we rejoice in the beautiful mosaic we will one day understand.

 

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