“Why do bad things happen to good people?”
It may be one of the most common questions we ask when we’re in pain. Maybe that’s because suffering is more than just an inconvenience. It shakes our lives to the core, leaving us so disoriented and confused that nothing seems to make sense.
Suffering is universal. At one time or another, all of us will have our world turned upside down. In fact, Scripture and life itself plainly teach that every one of us will take our last breath one day.
And, yet, when affliction strikes, we often think, “Why me?”
Maybe that response reveals something deeper about our faith than we’re often willing to acknowledge: trusting God with every detail of our lives is hard, especially when we suspect the outcome of our circumstances won’t turn out the way we hope.
I think it’s okay to admit that the struggle is real, but we don’t want to abandon our faith to whatever solutions we can muster under our own strength, either. How do we learn to anchor our commitment to the Lord in a way that carries us through life’s deepest valleys?
Well, there aren’t any easy answers for that, but our guest on yesterday and today’s program, Bo Stern, can speak to that with an eloquence few people can. She joined us in our studios a few months ago to have a frank and open conversation about the challenges she and her husband, Steve have faced in recent years and how they’ve made it through with God’s help. As you’ll hear, it’s ranked among our “Best of” for 2015 for good reason.
In 2010, Steve noticed physical symptoms that worried him. Five months’ worth of doctor visits led to the diagnosis of ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, which generally has a 2- to 5-year prognosis and is always fatal.
ALS is a neuromuscular disease where the brain’s motor neurons stop firing. The body’s muscles stop functioning because the brain stops telling them to move. Eventually, full paralysis sets in, and the person is entombed in their own body until their breathing finally gives out. The prognosis is bleak and there is very little for which patients and their families can hope.
Bo and Steve’s life together has been a love story marred by the ugliness of a terminal illness. But the beauty of God’s presence and comfort has been there, too – only it’s been found in some of the darkest moments of Bo and Steve’s suffering.
Those dark places are where God’s peace is often found … which is why we struggle to see the beauty that comes from suffering. We look for something that cuts through our sorrow and replaces it with happiness.
But Bo says the true beauty of the Christian faith is that Jesus comes into our sorrow, mingles with it, and softens it. Scripture refers to it as the “oil of joy” (Hebrews 1:9) that comes in and heals and soothes and reminds us that He is with us in our pain.
Bo says: “I have chosen to stay in this place of believing that God is doing His very best work in us. This is not Plan B. He is doing something beautiful and if that leads to healing, we will dance really hard. And if that leads to heaven, we will dance really hard because we know He’s doing something beautiful.”
There’s nothing easy about suffering, but of this we can be certain: when pain rocks our life to its core, we need something to comfort us that goes deeper still.
There are only two things in life that we can count on to do that – the love and support of family and friends, and, most importantly, the bedrock of our faith in Jesus Christ. Nothing besides love and an eternal perspective can reach into our suffering and bring us true comfort.
Perhaps you’re facing the loss of a relationship or a divorce, financial struggles, or a terminal diagnosis. You may be in the midst of that right now, and it’s hard to trust God. If so, I encourage you to join us for our program and the rich, hope-filled perspective Bo Stern offers.
Bo is a teaching pastor at Westside Church in Bend, Oregon. She’s been married to Steve for nearly 30 years, and they have four older children and a grandson.