Last weekend I reached the end of my rope. I found myself sitting on the edge of the bed, weeping tears that were too heavy to spend any time sitting on my cheeks. They had to keep moving to make room for the next set. And boy, like little soldiers, they were marching quickly.
My heart was (is) overwhelmed by the suffering around me. Cancer. Long-term illnesses that breed continued and compounding complications (including my own). Life-transforming injuries. Death. More cancer. Friend, it’s just too much for my feeble mind and heart to understand.
It took a lot of Scripture reading and praying to understand why my heart felt so desperate. I discovered that the enemy had leaned close to my ear, and he was hissing lies — terrible, gut-wrenching lies.
Lie #1: God is not in control.
Lie #2: God is not good.
Lie #3: God is not near.
The sum of these three is the biggest fallacy of all: I can’t trust God.
This topic of trusting God in suffering is entirely too gargantuan to tackle in one blog post. But I want to nestle into the Word and examine what it says about trusting our Heavenly Father, even while walking through the darkest of valleys. Posts that combat each of the lies above are forthcoming.
Recently I began to read A Place of Healing, by Joni Eareckson Tada. In all honesty, the subtitle is the reason I bought the book: “Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God’s Sovereignty.” My soul gasped a mighty yes, and three clicks on Amazon put the book in my hands. If there is anyone who can write with authority about suffering, Joni is the girl.
In the first chapter (through which I wept my way, for the record), JET brings us directly into her own suffering. The voice is raw and authentic, because she chose to write this volume in the midst of per pain instead of glancing at it in her rear-view mirror. She grapples with real fears: “Is my life beginning to unravel? Have I reached my limit in what I can endure?” (p. 30). She describes in detail her current physical maladies. Yet, I never felt as though she is complaining. Rather she is simply opening her life and bearing her heart so that the rest of us in the valley can see the light of Christ.
And she points the reader to Christ with such skill! She acknowledges that, in the suffering, “we are all much more dependent on God for help” (p. 32). She writes of the heart desiring a strong Jesus, as opposed to the “sugary, sentimental images many of us grew up with” (p. 35):
Come on. Admit it: When your heart is being wrung out like a sponge, when you feel like Morton’s salt is being poured into your wounded soul, you don’t want a pale, emotional Jesus who relates only to lambs and birds and babies. You want a warrior Jesus. You want a battlefield Jesus. You want His rigorous and robust gospel to command your sensibilities to stand at attention. . . . You want mighty. You want the strong arm and unshakable grip of God who will not let you go — no matter what. . . . I need Jesus the rescuer, ready to wade through pain, death, and hell itself to find me, grasp my hand, and bring me safely through (p. 35-36).
Yes! Knowing that nothing can pluck me from the hand of God is comforting in a deep, abiding way.
Finally, JET reminds the reader that “these afflictions . . . this very season of multiplied pain — is the background against which God has commanded me to show forth His praise. . . . God bids me that I not only seek to accept it, but to embrace it, knowing full well that somewhere way down deep — in a secret place I have yet to see — lies my highest good” (p. 39).
What a challenge this is to my tired heart! My instinct is to grumble, but no. That will not do! I am to “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, [and] give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for [me]” (1 Thess. 5:16-18). I am to trust that all things are working towards my good in Christ — my real good, not the “good” that I prefer or that feels the best —even if I can’t see it yet (or if I never see it on this side of glory).
Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!
From time to time, I’ll likely whip up another post about this book because, so far, the Spirit is using it to minister to me in such sweet ways. I know myself, so I won’t make promises about a timeline. But I’ll write again soon. 🙂
Soli Deo gloria,
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