We are working on another song by Stuart Townend in adult choir right now... How Deep the Father's Love for Us. The first time we sang it, I thought it was beautiful, and looked down to see who it was written by...and realized it was written by the same person who wrote my very *favorite* song we have done in choir this year (The Power of the Cross). Not only are both of these songs musical *dreams* for an alto (some beautiful low melody parts in addition to gorgeous harmonies), but the words are incredible. God continues to amaze me with new realizations of the true depth of His love. And He continues to remind me of the *truth* and *reality* of His Sovreignty. I have struggled with the Sovreignty of God this year more than any other, but through those struggles, I have become convinced that suffering is indeed necessary for us to gain a deeper understanding of God's love for us.
"How deep the Father's love for us
How vast beyond all measure...
How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory
...Ashamed I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers...."
(Exerpted from How Deep the Father's Love for Us, by Stuart Townend)
When we first began working on this song, I had just had a conversation with a friend about God's sovreignty and goodness and human suffering. It is hard for us as finite humans sometimes (all the time?) to reconcile the suffering of children with the Goodness and Sovreignty of God. She shared that it was much easier for her to accept the suffering adults experience than the suffering of innocent children. I have struggled with that as well. We have watched a number of *innocent children* suffer...including our own. We watched our youngest go through intense physical suffering during the first 6 weeks of life, enduring medical procedures that send adults into anxiety attacks, and acquiring scars that may be visible for the rest of her life. Our older children have gone through periods of extreme emotional suffering due to various family crises. I have spent a lot of time pondering why God allows *innocent children* to suffer, both before and after the conversation with my friend. I certainly don't have an easy answer. But God has brought me a long way in this area, and because we are dealing with some long term issues involving the suffering of children, I know that He will continue to lead in this area.
One thing I have realized about the suffering of children is this: the suffering of my children gets my attention faster than anything else. God has taught *me* more through the suffering of my children than through any other suffering I have experienced. I have clung to Him more for wisdom and strength in helping my children through their suffering than I ever would have otherwise. And I have learned more about God's love for us as our Heavenly Father through the experience of watching my children suffer.
When Ammah Grace was still in NICU, I had the most vivid realization of the immensity of God's love for us that I had ever had up to that point. She was several weeks old, and it was our first time to actually be *alone*...she was finally stable enough for me to take her into the nursing mother's area and be in the privacy of a curtained cubicle. I was finally able to just sit with my baby and examine all of her little fingers and toes as I had done with all of my other children in the first few hours of life. As I sat marvelling at how tiny she still was...although she had already gained almost a pound by that time...I noticed something I had never seen on my other children. Scars. Little tiny scars, on her hands, and on her feet. Scars from multiple IVs and other tests and procedures I didn't even want to think about. I was suddenly overwhelmed at how much suffering this little girl had already experienced in her very first weeks of life. I remembered the agony I had gone through a couple of weeks earlier, giving permission by phone for her to undergo a spinal tap...not a pleasant procedure for anyone, much less a tiny baby. I remembered having the crazy urge to jump in the van and drive the 2 1/2 hours to the hospital because I couldn't stand the thought of her going through the procedure alone, despite the fact that the doctor had said they needed to do it immediately. (I had gone home for a week or so to get things settled before going back to Little Rock to stay for the duration of her stay in NICU.)
Tears flooded down my face as I ached for the suffering this child had endured...as I contemplated the suffering that could be still to come for her...and as I realized again my complete and total inability to do anything about any of it. In the midst of my tears, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the thought of another Parent who had wept over His Child's scars. God quietly reminded me that He, too, had experienced the pain of seeing scars on the hands and feet of His Child. He, too, had known the pain of allowing His Son to suffer alone...not being there to comfort Him in the worst time of suffering that He...that any man...had ever experienced.
And then He reminded me of this: He didn't have to.
As I struggled with my total helplessness to control the suffering my child had already experienced and would experience in the future, I realized that God didn't *have* to see His Son suffer. He could have, with a word, released Him from that suffering. Jesus Himself could have called "10,000 angels...to destroy the world and set Him free." But...God willingly watched His only Son suffer and die at the hands of evil men...He turned His face away as Jesus took on the sin of the world that He couldn't even look upon...and He did it for *us*. Sinful, evil, miserable, ungrateful people. People that He loved enough to die for. I realized in that moment that there was no one in the world that I could have *willingly allowed* this little girl to endure that kind of suffering for. I knew that I would have done anything in my power to keep her from having to experience the suffering she had experienced.
And at that moment, I realized in a way I had never realized before how deep the Father's love for us...for me...really is. The lyrics of this song express what I felt that day...and what I feel every time I think about those teeny, tiny scars...so perfectly. What incredible word pictures...about an Incredible Love.