Friday, February 3, 2012

Seeing Jesus in Pain

If you've been following this blog, you know that Kim and I have endured a lot of pain and suffering in the last few weeks. As such, this idea of pain and suffering has been swirling around in my mind a lot lately. I am very well aware that there are others who have endured and will endure far greater pain and suffering than we have. I do not want to marginalize your pain nor do I want to speak on your behalf, but I do want to bring to light a few things the Lord has helped me to see as we have walked through our own pain and suffering.


One of the first arguments against Christianity is the existence of pain and suffering in the world and it's often worded something like this... 
"If God is a God of love how could He allow such great pain and suffering in this world?
and this conclusion often follows.... 
"Since so much pain and suffering exists in this world, God therefore must not exist, as no loving God would allow this."
I'm not going to try and get all philosophical here or wax poetic about the divine purposes of pain and suffering, but I do want to chime in with a few humble thoughts.

First of all, despite the fact that Christianity is often dismissed because of what many believe is an insufficient answer to this question - if you really think about it EVERY religion must deal with this difficult question. What is the purpose of pain and suffering within every walk of faith? Is it merely an illusion or is it real? Is there a purpose or is it random? Does it cycle ad infinitum or find a final resolution? So let's not pretend that Christianity is the only religion that must deal with it and give everyone else a free pass. It's a real problem and it's a real problem for every religion. That said, In the midst of intense pain and suffering I can see how someone might dismiss God - even hate Him - because of what they are having to endure. How could a loving God allow this to happen?

I cannot tell you the divine purposes behind every pain and every suffering in this world or even for your specific pain. But let me tell you of a pattern I see in all of it. The Bible says that God is "always working for the good of those who love Him" (Romans 8:28) In other words, God has the sovereign power to make something eternally good come out of something horrifically bad. He can turn lemons into the ultimate lemonade (and I don't even like lemonade). Just look at the life of Joseph in Genesis. Despite the many sufferings he endured from his own brothers, in the end he has the wherewithal and perspective to tell them: 
"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." -Genesis 50:20
And so, God has the ability to turn evil into good and sometimes we are forced to trust His heart when we cannot trace His hand.


When the Christian apologist William Lane Craig was challenged with the problem of pain and suffering he shared something I found interesting. He said, in the places where pain and suffering is greatest, he has found the gospel of Jesus Christ is being spread the fastest. We point to dire places and situations like Africa and Asia where physical suffering is so intense and shake our fists and ask "Where is God in all of this?", but ironically it is in these very places that so many are coming to faith on a daily basis and finding an eternal salvation. As C.S. Lewis wrote:
"God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world."
Maybe. Just maybe God sometimes redeems great pain and suffering by using it to speak into the hearts of those He dearly loves and who have otherwise chosen not to hear Him. Maybe in His eternal wisdom, He thinks a little suffering on earth, will not compare to an eternity apart from Him.

It's hard for me to see my kids get shots from our pediatrician. Really hard. And even when they look up at me with their tear-filled and incredulous eyes, I still don't choose to shield them from that momentary pain, because I know in the end, it will save them from a far greater pain and the effects of a far greater disease. What kind of parent would not do this?

As I described in an earlier post (see HERE) while watching my wife suffer during our Code Blue episode, "there is nothing more humbling than seeing the one you love suffer so greatly....and being powerless to stop it. Nothing." 

I have been so humbled by all of this that I would not wish this experience on my worst enemy. But here is the kicker: In the gospel we do not find a God who is aloof to pain. Nor do we see Him dismiss it as a mere illusion. We see the exact opposite. We see a God who recognizes that pain is very real and that it is horrific. In fact, He thought it was so horrific that the Bible says God Himself stepped into time and space, entered into our world and endured a pain and suffering none of us could dare to fathom. He chose to deal with the problem of pain and suffering head on. He did not have to - but He chose to. This is why we call His grace so amazing.

I have heard (and believe) that the greatest pain one person could ever be forced to endure is to see their very own child suffer and die. I can't imagine. I seriously can't. My friend, Joe is having to deal with a son who has a rare form of leukemia. If the cancer cannot be beaten into remission and if they cannot find a bone marrow donor match - his son Andrew will die (please register! see how HERE). My heart breaks for him. As hard as it is for me to see my wife suffer, I can't imagine the horror of seeing my own child suffer and being powerless to stop it.

Now imagine not only watching your very own son suffer, but choosing to allow him to suffer. What parent would do this?

God did.

In just a few short verses after Paul reminds us that God is always working for our good (Rom 8:28), he follows up with this: 
"He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" -Romans 8:32
God loved us so much that He gave us His very own Son. He chose Him to suffer so we would not. What kind of love is this? And how could I deserve it?

So let's not insult God when we endure our own pain and suffering by dismissing Him as unloving or uncaring or non-existent. He gave us His very own Son - what more must He do to prove His love towards us?

God deals with pain and suffering through His Son and not only that, He promises a final resolution to it all. The Bible states that for everyone that has believed in His name and who enters heaven" 
 "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." -Revelation 21:4
Not only that, His promise is that He will restore everything that is evil and wrong back to the way it should be. I can't wait.

All of us are facing some pain or some suffering. But be of good courage my friend. It is a big problem - but not one that God cannot and has not already solved.

Allow me to close with one last thought. About 6 years ago when xanga was around (and when dinosaurs roamed the earth) I wrote one of my most favorite journal entries of all time. It was entitled "A Father's Love". Please read it below - it will tie everything together I hope.

A Father's Love - Feb 28, 2006  

Sometimes the deepest truths are learned through the simplest means. A dear older friend once told me a long time ago, that when you become a father it will open up a new chamber in your heart that you didn’t think was possible. I couldn’t really understand what he meant – but I’m beginning to now.  You are given a capacity to love that frankly you didn’t know you were capable of.  


I love my sons. I love them more than myself. I didn’t think that was possible. When I go into Caleb’s room late at night – I’ll just sit and stare at him sleeping. Freaky….I know. Then I’ll tuck him in and whisper, “I love you.” I don’t think he ever hears me but I want him to dream about my love for him. I want him to know me…and I want him to know how much I love him. He can’t do much for me…he’s only three and a half years old. Perhaps grab a tv remote when I’m too lazy to get up, or a pair of socks – but nothing I can’t already do for myself. But he loves being around me and I love being around him. He’ll wake up early in the morning just so he can see me before I leave for the day. He’ll come to the bathroom and after I shave – he’ll want to shave. When I put on my belt he always insists on doing the last part. When I sit on the bed and put on my black socks he’ll sit next to me and do the same – what can I say? He wants to be like me. And every morning as I walk out the garage door he says the same thing, “Ah-bah, be careful. Don’t bump into any cars.” I watch him at the door as the garage door is going down and when it’s halfway down I see him scurry back upstairs – he only came downstairs for me. When I come home from work he runs at me at full speed and laughing to give me a "collision hug" – and no matter how hard a day it’s been – it makes me smile. There is no greater thing than seeing your own children happy - especially when you are the source of their joy. 


I’ve learned so much about God’s love towards me since being a father myself. I’ve realized more and more His love towards me is not conditional upon what I can “do” for him…because frankly, there’s nothing I can do for Him that He can’t already do Himself. He just wants me to know him…and know how much He loves me. He wants me to wake up early and meet Him and strive to be more like Him. He wants me to be happy and I am only completely happy in Him. And I am certain it brings Him great pleasure when He is the source of my joy. The irony is that He gave up His only Son – so that I could be His child…so that I could be with Him. What is love? I’m beginning to understand it…and yet in some ways it has become a greater mystery to me. 
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”  - John 3:16
  • Yesterday's echocardiogram revealed some more fluid build up since last week. Please continue to pray that the fluid would dissipate. 
  • Round 2 with Kim's favorite drug (Rituxan) starts this afternoon at U of Chicago - please pray that Kim would take the chemo well and with muted side effects
  • As always, pray that we see more of Jesus in and through all of this -and that He show Himself strong in our lives.

Awed by Grace,

Peter & Kim


  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing so much with us that we can pray specifically and for blessing us with every word. Jason and I spent some time praying together for you guys last night as you get ready for round 2 with chemo. Even that time we think is for you God chooses to bless us too and our marriage as we prayed to Him together. Continue to be encouraged that God is redeeming this situatioin for his glory in so many different ways and different families.

    I wanted to share Psalm 91 with you from the Message. My deployment to Iraq seems like such small potatoes compared to this. But God chose to reach down to me with specific concern for what I was going through with these verses. How much more will he specifically care for your family in the big stuff!

    Psalm 91

       You who sit down in the High God's presence, spend the night in Shaddai's shadow,
       Say this: "God, you're my refuge.
          I trust in you and I'm safe!"
       That's right—he rescues you from hidden traps,
          shields you from deadly hazards.
       His huge outstretched arms protect you—
          under them you're perfectly safe;
          his arms fend off all harm.
       Fear nothing—not wild wolves in the night,
          not flying arrows in the day,
       Not disease that prowls through the darkness,
          not disaster that erupts at high noon.
       Even though others succumb all around,
          drop like flies right and left,
          no harm will even graze you.
       You'll stand untouched, watch it all from a distance,
          watch the wicked turn into corpses.
       Yes, because God's your refuge,
          the High God your very own home,
       Evil can't get close to you,
          harm can't get through the door.
       He ordered his angels
          to guard you wherever you go.
       If you stumble, they'll catch you;
          their job is to keep you from falling.
       You'll walk unharmed among lions and snakes,
          and kick young lions and serpents from the path.

     14-16 "If you'll hold on to me for dear life," says God,
          "I'll get you out of any trouble.
       I'll give you the best of care
          if you'll only get to know and trust me.
       Call me and I'll answer, be at your side in bad times;
          I'll rescue you, then throw you a party.
       I'll give you a long life,
          give you a long drink of salvation!"

  2. I heard this song yesterday for the first time in years...what a great reminder of God's tender care!

    His Eye Is on the Sparrow

    Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,
    Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heav’n and home,
    When Jesus is my portion? My constant Friend is He:
    His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
    His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

    I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free,
    For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

    “Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear,
    And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;
    Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see;
    His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
    His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

    Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,
    When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,
    I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free;
    His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
    His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

    We are praying for you all today....Love and hugs!

  3. Hey Peter -

    You are such a blessing. I am including what I wrote for our Christmas letter this year - we ended up only sending it out to a couple people, then posting on Facebook for the rest. I debated about whether or not to include it here, but on the off chance that the Lord may use our testimony to reinforce all that you've said and to minister to someone, here it goes. Love you all. (And coincidentally, we made the Chicken Taco Chili recipe for dinner last night that Kim made for us after my dad died. It's a favorite around here. Your woman can COOK!!)

    December 23, 2011
    I was tempted to skip Christmas cards all together this year. That seems to be the “in” thing to do right now, so I thought I could try being trendy and get out of all the work. But I was convicted that I needed to “…make the most of every opportunity…” (Ephesians 5:16), and I certainly have a story to tell. So here it goes.

    As many of you know, one year ago today, December 23, was my dad’s last cognizant day on earth. He was a perfectly healthy 62 year old. He & my mom had dinner with my brother and his wife that day, and had settled in for a quiet evening at home. He built her a fire in the living room fireplace, and went to the basement to check & make sure smoke wasn’t seeping in downstairs. Somehow on the stairs, he stumbled and fell. She found him at the bottom of the stairs while he was still alert but unable to move, and called the paramedics. We were all there within a few minutes time & were able to be together at the hospital to hear the diagnosis. Dad had fractured his neck and was paralyzed from the neck down. He was unconscious and non-responsive. The rest of the next few days were a blur. Round-the-clock juggling between the hospital and home, trying to get my mom to eat and to sleep, doctors and tests and tubes and machines and words I didn’t ever want to hear. Trying to explain the unexplainable to our girls, and trying to give them some semblance of Christmas in the midst of it all. We opened stockings and presents with them on Christmas morning, and then Rob’s folks came to watch them while we went back to the hospital. By then, it was clear that Dad wasn’t going to regain consciousness. The machines were keeping him alive. We were all there with him last Christmas morning when he breathed out his last breath on earth, knowing his next breath in would be taken in the presence of his Lord and Savior.

    I tell you all this so I can tell you that isn’t where the story ends. Yes, it was horrible. Yes, it was tragic. Do I wish it would’ve happened differently? Absolutely. Do I wish that my crazy-in-love parents would’ve had another 25 years together like most people get? Certainly. Do I wish Grampsy could still take my girlies on their weekly dinner date? So much so that I ache. Do I miss my dad and grieve that he isn’t here with us? Every day. And I’m not just saying that. It really is every day that I think of something I want to ask him, something I want to tell him, see something I think would make him smirk in spite of himself, or just feel the emptiness that comes with knowing he is gone. But I have learned some things about God’s sovereignty in all of this, and I had never before felt the closeness of my Heavenly Father as much as I did in the process of losing my earthly one.

    (to be continued)

  4. ...continued)

    Sometimes when people go through horrible things, they get angry with God. They blame Him for all the awful things that happen, and assume that if He is truly good and sovereign, He should make everything right. But they’re missing the important part. You see, God never wanted the world to be this way; full of pain, suffering, sadness and evil. He created a perfect world. But He also created people with the freedom to choose. And we chose. With that first choice in the garden, humans chose sin. We started a long pattern of choosing our way instead of God’s way. We corrupted His perfect world and invited in all the pain, suffering, sadness and evil. We made it this way. And if we got what we deserved, that would be it and we’d be left to our own consequences.

    But that wasn’t it.

    It became very clear to me last Christmas as I stood next to that hospital bed that this was why God sent His Son on that first Christmas so long ago: to make everything right. I knew that my God had made a way for my dad to be whole again. He had made a way for my mom and dad to spend eternity together, worshipping Him side-by-side again. He made a way for us to have the strength to walk through those crazy days and every day afterwards. He gave us hope. And He gave my dad, as my girls have taken to saying, “the best Christmas EVER”, finally seeing his Savior face to face.

    But again, we had to choose. Each one of us, as individuals, had to choose to accept His free gift of salvation. We choose to believe that He sent His perfect Son, Jesus, to live a sinless life and die a painful death on the cross. We choose to believe that He did this to pay the price for our sin, and that He rose again to show that He had conquered sin and death. We choose to believe that He sent His Spirit to live in us and through us, to give us victory over our sin and over ourselves. We choose daily to believe that His Word is true and that He has gone to prepare a place for us in eternity. And one day, He will call each one of us to account for the choice we’ve made. So it begs the question, what have you chosen?

    I can tell you that He has been true to His Word. He has been our Comfort, our Joy, and our Emmanuel, God with Us. Please, if you have not taken the time to consider His sacrifice for you and His place in your life, do so this Christmas. Tomorrow is not promised to any of us. We can surely testify to that. This all would’ve been unbearable if my dad had chosen otherwise. But because he chose Jesus, he is in the presence of his Savior today and we who believe on the strong name of Jesus will join together with him again in eternity. We place our hope in Christ alone.

    Where is your hope this Christmas?

    We love you all. Thanks to all of you who have loved us well and taken such good care of us through all this. If we could give you any gift this Christmas, it would be Christ.

    With much love,

    Jen for the Stotz Clan

    …If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. – Romans 10:9-10

  5. I read this passage this morning while doing my Bible study. Love you guys! Praying fervently!!

    Isaiah 43
    1 But now thus says the LORD,
    he who created you, O Jacob,
    he who formed you, O Israel:
    “Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name, you are mine.
    2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
    when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flame shall not consume you.
    3 For I am the LORD your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
    I give Egypt as your ransom,
    Cush and Seba in exchange for you.
    4 Because you are precious in my eyes,
    and honored, and I love you,
    I give men in return for you,
    peoples in exchange for your life.
    5 Fear not, for I am with you;
    I will bring your offspring from the east,
    and from the west I will gather you.
    6 I will say to the north, Give up,
    and to the south, Do not withhold;
    bring my sons from afar
    and my daughters from the end of the earth,
    7 everyone who is called by my name,
    whom I created for my glory,
    whom I formed and made.”
    8 Bring out the people who are blind, yet have eyes,
    who are deaf, yet have ears!
    9 All the nations gather together,
    and the peoples assemble.
    Who among them can declare this,
    and show us the former things?
    Let them bring their witnesses to prove them right,
    and let them hear and say, It is true.
    10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD,
    “and my servant whom I have chosen,
    that you may know and believe me
    and understand that I am he.
    Before me no god was formed,
    nor shall there be any after me.
    11 I, I am the LORD,
    and besides me there is no savior.
    12 I declared and saved and proclaimed,
    when there was no strange god among you;
    and you are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and I am God.

  6. praying for kim's 2nd round today to be successful!

    Psalm 46:1-3 NASB
    1 God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.
    2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
    And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;
    3 Though its waters roar and foam, Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah.

  7. Amen!

    Chang's are praying for round 2 this afternoon as well.

    Live by faith and not by sight.

    Nate and Annie

  8. Last Sunday, a friend of mine and I taught the preschool class at our church. The lesson was when Jesus calmed the storm. Since the kids had heard the lesson a hundred times, we talked about God having the whole world in his hands. We sang and made a craft about that. Today I was reflecting on that. As I look around and see so many people including you going through very, very difficult circumstances, I am comforted by the fact that God has everything in his hands. I am so thankful we can cry out to a God that is more powerful than we can ever imagine to bring good out what seems bad. May God bless you and your family richly as you go through this very difficult trial.

  9. Peter, thank you for your new post. I will praying for Kim that the fluid will go down around the heart and that the chemo treatment will go well with minimum side effects! But more importantly, I really want the name of the Lord shine and lifted up in the midst of these difficult circumstances. I want our God glorified and his name shine to all that witness what is going on in Kim's and Andrew's illness.

    Andrew was admitted last night for high fever due to extremely low count. He is neutropenic. I had a scary incident last night as Andrew started gasping for air, his heart rate sky rocketing to 185 and his respiration become increasingly rapid! The team rushed in to assess the situation and administer any care needed. It turned out that he had a major panic attack due to many factors, including his high fever (104), weakened state from chemo and other factors.
    I never felt so helpless as I stood back and watched. As a father, I understand a bit of how difficult it must of been for God to see his son suffer in agony. But there is a sovereign plan and I bank on this reality as I try to press on, just as Jesus had a reason to suffer and die.

    I leave you with lyrics from on of my favorite songs by Ginny Owens, "If You Want Me To". The song speaks volumes on how I feel:

    The pathway is broken
    And the signs are unclear
    And I don't know the reason why You brought me here
    But just because You love me the way that You do
    I'm gonna walk through the valley
    If You want me to

    No I'm not who I was
    When I took my first step
    And I'm clinging to the promise You're not through with me yet
    So if all of these trials bring me closer to You
    Then I will walk through the fire
    If You want me to

    It may not be the way I would have chosen
    When You lead me through a world that's not my home
    But You never said it would be easy
    You only said I'll never go alone (yeah oh oh)

    So when the whole world turns against me
    And I'm all by myself
    And I can't hear You answer my cries for help
    I'll remember the sufferin' Your love put You through
    And I will walk through the darkness
    If You want me to

    'Cause when I cross over Jordan, I'm gonna sing, gonna shout
    Gonna look into your eyes and see you never let me down
    So take me on the pathway that leads me home to you
    And I will walk through the valley if you want me to

    Yes, I will walk through the valley if you want me to

    Peter, continue to do what you have been doing! But give yourself grace to vent to our Father. He is big enough to handle what we dish out. Blessings to Kim, you and the kids. Tell Kim that we love her and that we struggle, press on and glorify God in this similar journey of ours.

    By the way, Andrew's hair continues to fall out. I think it's great that you are thinking about shaving your head as Kim loses her hair. I did it for Andrew and it's the best thing I did. Just remember to put lotion or aftershave on after the razoring. And you might yelp out loud like Mccauly Culkin from Home Alone;-)


  10. Dearest Kim and Peter,
    Read this the other day after complaining/worrying.. Thanks for the post and reminder. Praying for you all! Your faith through all of this has been so encouraging!

    Job 42


    1 Then Job replied to the LORD:
    2 “I know that you can do all things;
    no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
    3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
    Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
    things too wonderful for me to know.

    4 “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
    I will question you,
    and you shall answer me.’
    5 My ears had heard of you
    but now my eyes have seen you.
    6 Therefore I despise myself
    and repent in dust and ashes.”

  11. Peter and Kim - i am amazed and inspired by the faith and so absolutely crushed at the discovery of the situation.

    it was b/c my sister, Tammy, posted your blog post on Facebook that i discovered the recent events. i will keep you both in my prayers and know that God is in complete control of everything.

    kenny suh