Seeing God in Suffering
16 Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple.
1 Corinthians 3:16-17
This is the good news of Jesus: God loved us so much that, while we were still sinners, He sent His only son to free us from sin and welcome us home. He came so that we could call on Him with as little as a word or thought and be forgiven. He came so that we, His children, would get to be with Him forever.
Every few years, the Lord reveals the Gospel to me all over again. Although I’ve heard the Gospel a million different times and a million different ways, on some days it hits me more than others. Sometimes it just sticks.
For example, in the midst of belting songs about “Emmanuel” and “God with us”, it never sunk in that God is literally with us. That once I accepted the Holy Spirit into my heart, I became its housing space. Therefore, in every circumstance, God is going with me. Not just metaphorically, but in my being.
As a visual-kinesthetic learner, God taught me this in a way that transformed my thinking. The summer after my first year at Pitt, I served for a few weeks in Guatemala working for the glory of God in Guatemala City and nearby towns. While there, my team leader led us in a group activity in which we drew a moment in our lives when we felt lowest. Coming off of four years of instability within my family and constant change, thoughts about my family situation radiated pain. I chose a time when I felt most out of control: car parked in my church parking lot, my sister (to me, more child than sibling) in the passenger seat, no place to go, no plans on where to sleep. An abrupt breakdown of everything I had tried so hard to hold together.
As someone who likes to draw but doesn’t necessarily have drawing skills, I had sketched out a simple silhouette of my car, my sister, and myself. The drawing wasn’t anything detailed, and anyone else might not even have known what these things were. But to me, the shapes that I had drawn brought back all the feelings of that night in the car. The heaviness and pain I could remember just as clearly.
Then my leader instructed us to draw Jesus there with us. Because, obviously (but not so obvious to me), He was there with us. Not physically sitting in the back seat, as I drew, but present inside my heart and my sister’s. We brought Him into our pain with us. He went through it with us. All of the uncertainty and abandonment were His as well.
And drawing that day, I saw God in my suffering in a very literal way. I understood at that moment that God was not simply an impersonal deity who sent the world spinning and then sat back to watch it all go to hell. No, instead He came down into my mess (and I have a lot of mess) to do it with me. To feel my heartbreak alongside me, to sit in all of my confusion, and to give me hope that the best is still yet to come. The Holy Spirit has been through my worst days with me. God has been there, fighting for me, crying with me, and welcoming me home all along.
--Savanna Lattanzi serves as Cornerstone's University Associate