Gungor’s song “Beautiful Things” begins:
All this pain,
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way.
I wonder if my life could really change at all.
All this earth,
Could all that is lost ever be found?
Could a garden come up from this ground at all?
Suffering—especially of a nature that is severe, unrelenting, personal, and seemingly senseless—is enough in itself to cast doubt on the character and existence of a God whom Christians claim is good, loving, and merciful. Surely, though, when a protracted divine silence is all one hears in response to his pleas for relief, this doubt can creep towards the edge of apostasy. I nearly lost my balance at this edge, after two years of suffering from a chronic health condition left me wondering whether God was really who we claimed him to be. I had turned to prayer, Scripture, healing, and spiritual counsel for nearly two years and received... nothing, it seemed. In fact, the Church—which, despite its best intentions, remained ignorant and unhelpful—further alienated me from a God whom I tried desperately to trust in spite of the mounting evidence that appeared to weigh against his favor.
But as I teetered on that edge, considering whether I would leave him for good, I felt the cry of my heart which was unwilling to forfeit—at least completely—the hope of a sovereign God. He is, I know, the only way that suffering can ultimately be redemptive. If there is no God, my pain really is senseless; if there is no God, any instance of suffering or injustice in the world is senseless. That which dehumanizes is not made right, now or ever, and there is no relief that something good one will day come out of even a lifetime of toil.
Fortunately, there is an alternate perspective. Philip Yancey proudly admits that a Christian begins with the conclusion that God is good and will restore creation to its original design, shaping all of history to proceed toward that end. If life doesn’t seem to accord with that notion, we must then explore the possibility that there may be a reason which makes sense only in hindsight, when God in his unchanging goodness makes all things known to us in the end (1 Corinthians 13:12).
That’s why the song doesn’t end the way it begins. From doubt and despond, “Beautiful Things” transitions into hope and joy:
Hope is springing up from this old ground.
Out of chaos life is being found in You.
You make beautiful things,
You make beautiful things out of the dust,
You make beautiful things,
You make beautiful things out of us.
Dirt (not soil) is devoid of potential. How can anything come up from this ground at all, let alone a garden?
But when no possibility in this world appears to exist, there is always the possibility of a sovereign God who is able to make beautiful things out of any desperate situation.
This is the hope that I have; it is what keeps me staring at the dirt today, eagerly anticipating a future in which a garden covers it all.