“And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years.
Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you. So you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him.
For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.”
By quoting this, I don’t mean that God is the reason that bad things happen to good people; I know that people make bad choices and that no one acts in a vacuum. Suffering, even when it is not a result of our own disobedience, is not always an evil, either.
I resist the urge to quote at length Paul (Romans 5:3-5) and Peter (what suffering can compare to the glory that awaits us?), and even Tolkien (does anybody remember Éowyn talking about how “it is not always good to be healed in body”) and Lewis (the bit where God “shouts to us in our pain”).
There is simply something real and true about knowing that my dependence upon God transcends my emotional stability or physical stamina and reaches into the core of my self. The whole connection relies on steadfast love that we’ve been promised and shown, and trust and obedience: a scary proposal for our side if anything is done with less than a whole heart.
. . . And NO, I’m not advocating self-flagellation. Calm down.