Why Does God Allow Pain?
Guest post by Neely Beattie
"But the day of my trial would come,
Like an earthquake to my beliefs.
And the doubts I could not outrun,
Brought me to my knees.
And I thought I was done,
And I almost gave up.
When my whole world was crashing down.
Now I can't shake this truth,
After all I've been through somehow,
Lord, I believe in You more now"
- More Now, Carrollton
We have all been through something that has made us feel that way. We have all experienced something in life that has shaken our faith completely and made us fall to our knees asking why.
When I was probably 4 months pregnant, I remember standing in the shower and being overwhelmed with the need to pray for my son to not have Down syndrome. It just hit me out of the blue. “God, please. Please don’t let this baby have Down syndrome.”
Then I remember I felt like that sounded pretty rude, so I quickly followed it up with, “Not that there’s anything wrong with people who have Down syndrome, they’re wonderful people, but just….please don’t let my baby have Down syndrome.”
I didn’t pray for my baby to not have Spina Bifida, Cerebral Palsy, or any other kind of genetic disorder. Down syndrome was the only thing that even crossed my mind. I’m a worrier, so I just brushed it off as me dwelling and tried to go along my merry way.
In June 2010, when I was about 6 months pregnant with our son, we learned my husband had testicular cancer. Our lives had been virtually worry-free up until that moment.
Then in October 2010, just as we were starting to come to grips with cancer, just as my husband was finishing his last rounds of radiation, and just 6 months after I prayed for my baby to be Down syndrome-free, we learned that he did, in fact, have Down syndrome. I wasn’t surprised, but I still fell apart.
Waiting for the results of that blood test felt like an eternity. I knew in my heart that it was going to come back confirming the doctor’s suspicions, but it didn’t stop me from staring in the mirror to find similarities in our features, trying to find reasons why his eyes looked the way they did. Mine are almond shaped too, right?
It didn’t stop me from trying to find any excuse to why his tongue was always protruding.
It didn’t stop me from trying to come up with reasons why he was 3 months old, and he hadn’t smiled yet.
The feeling in my heart, knowing the results were right, didn’t keep me from grasping at straws for any reason why other than Down syndrome. Because my son didn’t have Down syndrome.
This isn’t what we planned.
We’d already been through cancer over the last few months. Surely this wasn’t happening too.
Things like this don’t happen to us.
I was a mess. I was constantly begging God, pleading with Him, to please not let this be so. If it is, please just take it. Change your mind. You’re God. Surely you can change your mind.
This isn’t what I wanted or signed up for. Why are you doing this to us? Haven’t we done everything you’ve wanted? We’re good people; we try to do the right things, and we try hard. Why would you do this?
My eyes were swollen from crying in the corner of our closet. Why our closet, I don’t know. It seemed like the place to be at the time.
When we finally got the results, the doctor told me the blood test came back saying that our son did have Trisomy 21.
I was heartbroken.
I was confused.
But most of all...I was angry.
I quite literally thought I would never feel joy again. And if I’m being honest, I think it almost took me 4 or 5 years to get to that place. I thought it would come naturally. I didn’t know that it needed to come intentionally.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I love my son with every single ounce of my heart and soul. I have never not loved my son. But I did not love Down syndrome and the things that I knew it would entail.
I was mad at God for the longest time for piling all of these hard things on us all at once. Again, if I’m being honest, over the past 6 years I have definitely felt like it has always been something. It has rarely felt like we’ve gotten a break from life.
On Being Tired
In January 2015 I was tired of not feeling happiness or joy. I was tired of being angry. I was tired of feeling resentment, and it seemed like I resented everyone for any reason I could find.
It was exhausting.
Instead of being angry at God, I wanted to understand Him. I wanted to feel like there was a reason for this other than just feeling like He was trying to punish us.
I read One Thousand Gifts by Anne Voskamp, and I felt like I was starting to understand. Happiness and joy are not the same things. Happiness is what is felt by circumstance and situation. Joy is felt despite them.
I didn’t want happiness. Happiness could be lost. I wanted joy. Joy is a decision you make and nothing can take away your decision to be thankful despite hard circumstances. This is also when I decided I wanted to start bible journaling (You can see some of my work here, here, and here).
"So I don't need to understand,
If You pushed me or let me fall.
Or the days when Your tender hand
Was a wrecking ball, oh
The illusion of my control
Has shattered and been replaced.
With a hunger deep in my soul
And a childlike faith"
For the longest time, I tried to figure out why. Why did God let this happen? Did He make it happen? Why did He run this wrecking ball straight through our lives? Is there something that I could have done to prevent it?
But for the past year and a half, I have been in my Bible more than I have been in my entire life and I am slowly, but surely, learning that like the above lyrics state...
I don’t need to understand the details of why or why not. (You can learn more about that in my post all about down syndrome and Jackson.)
I am NOT in control, and I shouldn’t want to be.
I need to replace the illusion of control, not with the need to understand things that I quite possibly never will, but with a childlike faith that God knows what is best for me even when it hurts so bad that the pain can be felt not only emotionally, but physically.
When I hurt that bad, when I’m sobbing in the corner of my closet, He’s sitting there with me, wishing He could take my pain immediately, but knowing this is what is best.
To not be afraid, just believe. (Mark 5:36)
Last July, we very suddenly lost my grandpa to lung cancer.
No one in the world was as proud of my son as my grandpa was. When my grandpa learned that my son had Down syndrome, it broke him too.
He sought out a man he knew who was a preacher, and long story short, he got saved.
I knew the story as it happened, but I was so wrapped up in my own mind that I didn’t see it then. When I heard about the decision he made again when he was sick, it finally dawned on me. My son helped my grandpa get to heaven.
My 3-month old baby was the reason that my grandpa got saved. Down syndrome led my grandpa to Jesus.
And I can’t be mad at that.
As I was listening to this song the other day driving to pick up my son from school, I started crying. I had heard it many times before, but that day every single word just resonated with me (you should totally listen to it, by the way. More Now by Carrollton).
It reminded me of the journey that I went on emotionally with Down syndrome. I wanted to journal it. So I sought out a verse to go with it and immediately found Mark 5:36…
”Don’t be afraid, just believe.”
I feel like those 5 words spoken by Jesus summed up the song pretty well.
"After all I've been through somehow
Lord, I believe in You more"
After all we have been through, there are, of course, times where I still get overwhelmed, but, after everything God has seen us through, it’s getting easier and easier to believe in all the promises that He’s made us.
Without trials in life, hard as they may be, how would we ever grow?
Without the things we go through, how would we gain a reliance on God? If we never hurt, if things were never difficult, there would be no reason at all for us to believe in Him or the things He's said.
Although we may not understand, and even though it seems impossible sometimes, it’s imperative that we allow our struggles and our fears to make us just believe.