Being raised in a Christian household growing up, I would have to go to church and Sunday school every Sunday. The message would be the same every weekend… God loves me and sent Jesus to die for me, be nice to people, blah blah blah… Back then, I didn’t fully understand how the Christian faith worked, and I thought all it said was that God was gonna make my life happy with sunshine and rainbows and all that.
As I got older, though, and moved to a new city in 5th grade, my faith was challenged horrendously. I was constantly isolated and uninvited to everything. My classmates would kiss up to me – they pretended to be my friends, but then they used me to make me do embarrassing things.
In high school, I went to my church’s youth group and a retreat, and I often heard people talk about their struggles in life and how God helped them through all of it. They inspired me and showed me how God truly was someone who answers prayers. I thought, “Well, if God made their lives better, then He can make my life better too!” So I prayed more often.
And nothing got better. No matter how much or how hard I prayed, I was still an outcast everywhere I went. I felt like my prayers were never answered and that God didn’t care about me. Everyone still hated me and didn’t want to be my friend or have anything to do with me. I hated going to church, because what was the point of worshipping a God who wasn’t there for me? I constantly thought, “God, why are you there for all these other people, yet you’re not there for me?”
During freshman year of college, I attended a Bible study that went over Matthew 20:1-16, the parable of the workers in the vineyard. Here, Jesus describes heaven like a landowner who hired laborers to work for his vineyard, and went out to hire more every few hours, starting from dawn to 5pm. Finally, when it was time for him to give all the laborers their pay, the workers who started at 5pm were paid the same as the workers who started at dawn. The ones who started at dawn reacted in a way that I was very familiar with:
And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’Matthew 20:11-12 (NABRE)
But the way the landowner responded was what really turned me around:
He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? [Or] am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’Matthew 20:13-15 (NABRE)
“Are you envious because I am generous?” Yes. I realized I was envious because God was generous. I was envious of how God was changing so many lives except my own. I should’ve been happy for them and grateful for God working in their lives, but I was making it about myself instead.
[He] comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.2 Corinthians 1:4 (NASB)
The truth is, God was there for me the whole time, just not in the way I expected. Because of all my suffering, I’m able to have empathy for those in similar situations I was in. I’m willing to start a conversation with someone left out. I love to compliment people and cheer them on. Most of all, I let them know that their struggles are valid, and I’m willing to be there through all their hard times, just as God would be. I thought He was destroying me, but really He was using my suffering for something better.
“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.”John 15:18 (NLT)
After all, the reason God sent Jesus to earth was not only to die for our sins, but to suffer as we suffer and be able to empathize with us. People hated Jesus, even when He was sinless; they felt threatened by Him, called Him names, betrayed Him, and hung Him on a cross! As humans, we all have a longing to be understood, and the one person who can relate to our pain the most… is Jesus Christ Himself!
In conclusion, suffering is hard. It feels like the whole world has turned against you and God doesn’t keep His promise to protect you. But the truth is that God is with you just as much in your suffering as He is with your neighbor in their thriving. He has you exactly where He wants you, and He will do whatever He can to make you the best version of yourself.
Hang in there, friend <3
Malia Sorce is a junior at WKU from Germantown, Tennessee! She is majoring in musical theatre and minoring in Computer Animation, and has attended HFC since transferring to WKU her sophomore year. She is also a vegan, loves the planet, and has a bit of an obsession with Sonic the Hedgehog.