God in the Pit

Written by T. M. Suffield |
Saturday, May 6, 2023

We think God’s job is to make our lives nice and easy and straightforward and most of all comfortable. It’s not, and that’s not the path of joy. There is no joy to be found there, only disappointment multiplied. God instead wants to give us himself, nothing more (as if there were more!) and nothing less. There’s a sticking point, though: the gift of God in the pit is not receiving, which will drive our modern mind mad. It’s longing.

Larry Crabb tells story after story in his book Shattered Dreams of people whose lives have been upended by grief and pain and the unexpected mundanity of living.

Tears have become my deepest form of worship, some reflect. They discover deep desires for God, and then a new hurt on top of the cavalcade of grief: he seems to have disappeared. We don’t know where he is. We can’t find him.

This hurt is, Crabb asserts, a hopeful hurt. We find as we push into the pain that there is joy available in God, even if we aren’t happy at all. How does that work? It works because we learn to long. And longing is the ground of joy, of participation in God himself for his own sake.

We struggle with the idea of unfulfilled desire. Many of us will have been able to get anything we want, until we can’t. Even then we’re surrounded by people who can get what they want, often instantly. Even deferred fulfilment sounds like a wound to our machine-catechised souls.

You’re not a smartphone, you’re a tree. And, as Joel Ansett points out, in his song Tragedy is Not the End, your tears are shaped like seeds. That longing, that unfulfilled desire for a world that’s right, that we treat as though experiencing it is the very depths of Hell, is supposed to be a signpost to something greater. It’s longing that takes our hand and leads us towards joy. As Lewis famously said in The Weight of Glory, if we discover a desire within us that cannot be met by anything in the world, then maybe, just maybe, we’re made for another world.

I don’t mean to be trite; longing is a good guide but the path to joy is lined with daggers and full of hairpin corners. It is no easy road. Nothing worth having is ever easy.

Grief is most often how we first learn to long, whether the dull, weary griefs of older relatives dying, or the sudden sharp griefs of loved ones snatched from us unexpectedly, or the aching absence of the grief of what will never be however much we miss it, or the tiny death-by-pinpricks of the grief of dreams smashed into a thousand pieces.

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