During an especially difficult time in my life, I wondered if the earth was some kind of cosmic prison for the rest of the universe, the place people are sent when they have misbehaved in the rest of the cosmos. Being born black in the South in the 1950s, female, poor, and unattractive by cultural standards meant that I must have been one bad Mamma-Jamma! So much emotional pain and oppression to endure in a short lifespan of three score and ten years, hopefully more, seemed to indicate to me that maybe earth is the place where we are sent to suffer for our forgotten wrongs.
When you have suffered so many assaults to your physical, emotional, and spiritual health, you try to make sense of it all, the pain, discrimination, hate, physical and psychological violence, grief, and an onslaught of medical issues. On Tuesday, I met with my new primary care physician, and he asked about surgeries and other past problems, and by the time he filled one sheet of paper and needed another sheet, he was surprised that I was in reasonably good health and not taking any medications. He asked me, “How are you still alive?” I responded, “By the graceful and mercy of God.”
Yes, through it all, my faith in God has carried me, and I have come to believe that, instead of being a cosmic prison, earth is more of a place used by God for preparing us for eternal life. For Ecclesiastes 3:9-12 states, “What do people get for all their hard work? I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet, God has made every thing beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” And believe you me, pain, grief, and suffering is HARD WORK!
Why do we suffer just to die on earth? Well, a full understanding will not come until we see Jesus in glory, for 1 Corinthians 13:12 states, “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.”
I have learned through enduring and surviving much pain of every variety that we must not think of suffering as punishment from the cosmos and certainly not from God. It does not indicate a lack of faith, and do not let anyone question the level of your trust in God. For those who are teary-eyed from your suffering, remember Psalm 30:5, “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” And on this earth, with all of its faults, morning, no matter how long the night, always comes! Hallelujah!