Euodia stood under the cypress tree, hugging her traveling cloak to her body. Still she shivered—neither the heat of the summer night nor that of the raging fire could reach her. But the sound of the blaze insulated her from the gathering crowd. She saw nothing but the fire, watching almost against her will as the flames danced up the side of her home, consuming everything. Everyone.
Atticus. Jace. Jace.It could have been seconds she watched, or hours. And then she crumbled to the ground and let out a single, piercing shriek. It was there, huddled on the ground and silent, that Syntyche found her.
Several years ago, after my 27 year-old brother had been diagnosed with lymphoma and gone through 9 long months of treatment, my sister-in-law asked me to write about suffering. It was a super-hard time for my family, bringing my parents home from overseas for a time. All of us were asking who and where God was and how something like this could happen to someone so young.
Years later, I find myself sitting in a place of a deeper and more sustained type of suffering. One of my long-term housemates has been struggling with chronic, debilitating nerve pain and brain damage since a lightening strike 6 years ago. Both of us have lost our fathers to tragic accidents in the intervening years, and daily I face evil and brokenness as I represent criminal clients.
Juxtaposed with all this distress, I find exhortation from Scripture to "embrace suffering" and to look on it as a gift. In a culture that seeks comfort above almost all else, this Kingdom value is difficult to even get my mind around.
So it's from this place that I am embarking on this new writing project, as yet untitled. It's meant to be a novel, with the dual purpose of exploring issues related to suffering and providing background to the book of Philippians for readers who are unlikely to study the biblical back story before trying to understand and apply it to their lives.
In many ways, this project overlaps with what I have been writing about for the past few years. The question of suffering and evil existing in a world where God is supposed to be good and all-powerful is a question that people ask at an emotional level. Many seek to have that question answered before they can begin to trust Christ. For me, and probably for them, the clipped answers of things like "God is in control" or "God is good" simply don't answer the issues of the heart. And many of my questions are more about what sustainable faith looks like in the midst of suffering - like what does it look like day by day? And how do you go on trusting and walking with Christ when you're facing down 30-50 years of the same type of suffering with no real possibility of relief aside from miraculous intervention?
So I don't know what this is going to look like or how often I'll be able to post meaningfully. I don't know how much of the fiction writing I'll share as compared to the wrestling with the idea and theology of suffering. But I'm going to aim for the once-a-week posts that I've been doing for the last couple of years. And I'm going to experiment with involving you as much as I can as the book develops.
So if you're up for the ride, I'd love to know what you think of the opening scene. What questions do you have about the characters? What do you want to hear about next--where Euodia and Syntyche came from, or what they're going through now?