When my son, Eric, was young, I asked God many times why he was born with autism. I wondered: why me? And why Eric?
Why Did I Have to Suffer?
I wanted to know why other mothers got to have wonderful moments with their infants, cooing and smiling, basking in all that glorious mother-child love, while my baby was as unresponsive as a sack of potatoes most of the time.
I wanted to know why other mothers of small children got grubby handfuls of dandelions and home-made love gifts, while the only way I received anything like this was if I first explained to Eric why it was important, and then helped him to pick the flowers or make the gift.
Why Did Eric Have to Suffer?
I also wanted to know why Eric had to suffer. I wanted to know why he had to experience all the disappointments and failures that came about through no fault of his own, because he didn’t see the world the way other people do. I wanted to know why he had to miss out on so much that other kids never thought twice about having—the sports successes, the friendships, the appreciation of important adults in his life.
This is why Hannah’s and Samuel’s stories have so much meaning for me. They probably didn’t understand, any more than I did, what God was doing through their sufferings, but their stories were recorded so I could learn faith lessons from their lives. How do I know this? The Bible itself teaches that this is one reason it contains them (1 Corinthians 10:11.)
Why Did Hannah and Samuel Suffer?
What did I learn from their stories? God’s purposes for my life, and for my son’s life, may be bigger than just giving us what would make us happy. Hannah and Samuel suffered so that I, and countless others like me, could learn from their endurance how the Lord uses the lives of those who trust in Him.
They also suffered so that God could bring about His plans for Israel during that period in her history. Their suffering had a purpose. It wasn’t meaningless. It was designed by God to accomplish good, not only in their personal lives, but in the larger world of their time, and as a legacy for those like me who were yet to be born.
Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” As I look at Samuel’s life, remembering not only the great purposes God accomplished for the nation of Israel through his ministry but also the good he did in his personal life through his suffering, I can be confident that God is doing the same for Eric.
God’s Purpose for Eric and Me
Romans 8:28-30 tells us, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, forthose who are called according to his purpose. For those whom heforeknew he alsopredestinedto be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might bethe firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he alsojustified, and those whom he justified he alsoglorified.”
This passage tells us that the good that God is doing in Eric’s and my lives is making us like Jesus Christ, and bringing us to eternal glory in Him. This is the ultimate purpose for which He’s called us to Himself, which He’ll complete when we join Him to live in eternity forever.
Hannah and Samuel died in faith, perhaps without seeing any of the purposes he had for their lives come to fulfillment. Maybe neither of them was ever able to say, “Wow! So that’s why that happened!” But in eternity, surely they know and rejoice in what God has done through their lives.
Similarly, the Lord may call me to die in faith, trusting that he’s fulfilled His plan for my life, even if I still can’t see it at the time of my death. I also may not understand all the reasons he had for creating Eric as he did this side of eternity. If Eric continues to have difficulties throughout his life, this won’t mean that God isn’t doing anything in his life.
The Lord doesn’t have to make Eric a success for me to believe that He created him for a reason, and that He’s doing something wonderful through his life, because I know that God has promised that this is what He’ll do, and He always keeps His promises.