Fearless Questions

Following our Questions to Freedom

Surprised by Tears

I was sitting with a number of men a few weeks ago discussing a Bible passage from Romans chapter 8.

These guys are quite bright and have given this particular section of Scripture a great deal of thought and reflection.

Hanging-out primarily on the first few verses of the passage, we were reminded of the great news that there is no condemnation for those who are a new creation in Jesus Christ.  We celebrated the idea of God’s Spirit ruling over our lives and being free from the limitations found in religious and moral law. 

Even better, some shared about the joy that they experience from facing suffering in this world.  Expecting that God will bring answers in time and that they will have richer experiences later in life for having persevered through the trials being faced while leaning in and trusting God’s goodness.

It seemed like the perfect Bible study…full of truth and Scripture being referenced and reflected on.  Guys who genuinely care about each other enough to gather early in the morning before their busy careers take them in different directions.

So why did I almost start crying as I broke away for the car to leave?

It wasn’t a good cry (the kind of tears that speak of overflowing joy). 

This was a hurting cry.  A cry that didn’t want to cry, but was creeping out nonetheless.

My soul was aching and I was equal parts confused and embarrassed at my state of being.

It occurred to me that the thoughts shared regarding struggles in this world left me wanting.   And lonely. 

So lonely.

I had agreed with the assessments of needing to trust God in our struggles.  Much in the same way that a teenager can trust the voice of a loving parent that the struggle they are going through won’t last forever.

And the suggestion was that when things get too hard, we just have to ‘trust’ God and not try to think too hard.

My push-back was, as I’ve learned over the years, that there are many times someone needs to think more not less.  To think about the deepest truths and the grand meta-narrative that God is telling and inviting the world to take part in.  But thinking more didn’t seem to help in this moment.

Still…my heart ached.

Why still?

Why the hurt?

And it occurred to me…that perhaps these folks have not known suffering the way I have.

Even after typing those words I hesitate…and consider backspacing through the lines.  After all…who am I to judge the severity of suffering others have faced.  Who am I to minimize their stories of broken relationships, lost loved ones, and moments of pain that I know nothing about.

But I can’t delete the words.

I can’t erase the thought.

So I’ll say it again…’I might be wrong on this’….


I’ve never met someone who has walked through great suffering that doesn’t slow down a little when they hear another person allude to experienced pain.

I think there is a knowing…an awareness perhaps…that to hear someone share their pain is to recognize you have been invited to stand on holy ground.

A precious space of heart exposure that commands my attention and silences my tongue.

When the pain is shared…

When the person verbalizes…if only in overtures…their confrontation of suffering…I beg you to listen deeply.

There is pain and evil in this world that I defy you to explain away with the words  “Just trust God”.

Looking in the eyes of a child living off the earnings of recycled materials found scavenging the city garbage dump will violate your heart’s sensibilities of justice for all.

here i am

Looking into the eyes of the parent of that same child who has no other means of providing for life and education than a lean-to shanty in that same garbage dump they call home might just  crumble the foundation of your beliefs of what God is really like.

There is suffering. 

And there is deep suffering.

And there is a profound difference.

One can be bantered about for cause, reason and resolution.

The other stops you in your tracks.  Guts you emotionally. 

And sometimes those suffering people die.

Please don’t tell me it’s time just to ‘trust God’. 

Don’t tell me to stop trying to ‘figure it out intellectually’ either. 

If I don’t think harder, the whole of my belief system is at risk.

If I don’t hear an explanation of a loving God whose story can at least ‘make space’ for the atrocities I’ve seen in this life…then I am lost already.

And while working through our thoughts on suffering helps provide a framework for how we understand this life, we must also realize that our intellectual answers will often be quite unhelpful to those living in moments of darkness.


So it’s like this then…

If you are quick to speak. 

Quick to answer in the face of evil.

I will assume (unfairly or not) that you have not known deep suffering.

At the very least, you have not processed your deep suffering and are living with untold religious coping mechanisms that prevent you from living the truly free life Jesus talked about.

The guys I feel so privileged to meet with are good men. 

Loving friends.

And yet…if you have known deep suffering…of your own…or walked it out with others…

And if that suffering is not acknowledgedyou will feel alone.

And so I weep.

And I am ok.

And when I hear you share your suffering with me…I will see you. 

I will hear you.

And I will hold you.

sit with me

Because sometimes we don’t need to trust more. 

(That will come in time.)

Because sometimes we don’t need to think more.

(There will be time for that soon.)

Sometimes what’s needed most is a physical touch from another human being.

Sometimes we need to hear a human voice whisper in our ear while our head is shedding tears on their shoulder.

“It’s ok.”

“It’s going to be ok.”

“And until then…I’ll stay here with you.”

I will be with you.

About Jeff Blackburn

Jeff Blackburn is a Spiritual Coach and passionate Truth-Seeker. An alumnus of Oxford University, Jeff is someone who advocates for Freedom and Fullness of Life for All. He believes Jesus offers good news for people everywhere today…not just eternity. Jeff is the Executive Director of Fearless Questions, Inc. and has spent the past 20 years working with people searching for God.

8 Replies

  1. Dennis Stranges

    Thank you, Jeff, for prompting thoughtful discourse, and for encouraging my heart to be swift to hear and slow to speak. With regard to those made in His image, may I never read one page and presume to know the whole book!

    1. Jeff Blackburn

      Thanks Dennis. I second your hope of wanting not to presume we know people’s entire story before we even get to know them.

  2. kara

    great truth here. timely as I was JUST encouraging someone who is going through a season of sadness. and, speaking from experience, having a friend just come alongside is the best comfort when words are not enough.

    1. Jeff Blackburn

      Hey Kara…Thanks for reading! Sorry to hear about your friends tough season, but glad that you were able to be there with her.

  3. I recently had a conversation with a friend because I’d become exasperated with all of the political and social discourse, problems, unrest.
    I asked, “What’s the problem?”
    She answered, “The lack of complicated thought.”
    “Everything isn’t simple, every person isn’t simple. People aren’t just all good or all bad. Situations aren’t what they appear in a ten-second clip or sound bite. Sometimes we need to exercise our ability to think in a more complicated way and love the fact that as humans we are able to do that.

    I think this is what Jeff’s fearless questions make us do and I appreciate the reminders to think more complicated thoughts. Thanks Jeff.

    1. Jeff Blackburn

      Thanks Hartley.
      It does seem that things often aren’t as black and white as we would prefer.
      I hope you are able to find others to have calm conversations about politics this season as well…no small task in the current climate 🙂

    2. Janet Lane

      I whole-heartedly agree.
      “Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” John F. Kennedy

      1. Jeff Blackburn

        Great quote Janet! I’ve never come across that before (but I’ll probably use it a lot moving forward 🙂 Thanks for sharing it.