It does take much living to realize that life is hard. And no matter the strength of our faith, we would be liars if we said that life doesn’t have intense seasons of pain and difficulty. We have the struggles of everyday life and we have the life-altering kind of struggles like a diagnosis, a betrayal, divorce papers, an accident, or something else.
And often times in Christian circles, these situations get turned into something that they aren’t. It is easy to lie about the pain in our suffering and minimize.
One way to understand this dynamic is to look at the ways people talk about painful experiences. If someone has just undergone an ugly, protracted divorce, for example, he or she might say something like, “Well, it was never a good marriage anyway,” or “But I’ve really learned a lot from this whole experience.” This kind of rationalization tries to make something bad sound like it is good. It is a strategy to avoid looking pain and grief directly in the face, to avoid acknowledging that we wish life were different but are powerless to change it. - Tullian Tchividjian
Others go the other direction and instead of minimizing the pain and suffering, they turn the pain and suffering into evidence of God’s anger at them.
Or worse, even others go looking for pain and suffering, somehow believing that they need to find suffering in order for God to his work in their lives.
Suffering is hard. No matter what age or stage of life, no matter what family situations you come from, and no matter how good your career, you will face suffering. The reality is that in our life when we face suffering, we often find ourselves completely powerless and having no idea what do.
Martin Luther suggested, "He who does not know Christ does not know God hidden in suffering.” Rabbi Lawrence Kushner said, “When you look closely and for a very long time, you discover things that are invisible to others.”
Perhaps in the midst of the pain and hurt, God is hidden yet at work. In the pain, when we are completely powerless we have no other option but to rely on the one who has power over our situation. In the pain and hurt when we can’t see anything good, there is one who “works all things for the good of those who love him.”
Martin Luther called this suffering, “soul struggle":
“[These terrors] so much like hell that no tongue could adequately express them. . . . In such a situation, God appears terribly angry, along with all creation. At such a time, there is no flight, no comfort—inside or out—only accusation of everything. . . . All that remains is the stark-naked desire for help and a terrible groaning, but [the soul] does not know where to turn for help. . . . Nor is every corner in the soul not filled with the greatest bitterness, with dread, trembling, and sorrow.” - Martin Luther
In the face of the soul struggle, the great pain, God is hidden at work. When we are driven to our knees, the God who seems distant is actually present with us. When it seems like the world has turned against us, God is fighting for us. When it seems like the accuser wants to destroy us, Christ himself stands in our place.
We may not see God in those moments, but he is there. And when the moment passes, we can look back and see it. God is there, even when it appears he is hidden.