EXTRA CHAPTER BY SARAH WALTON
The Burden Makes Me Weary
My heart has been incredibly weary lately. I have struggled to find words that adequately express the tumultuous emotions within my spirit. Daily, I need to fight the impulse to turn inward and disconnect from those around me, as I teeter between pressing on or succumbing to the crushing weight of heartache, pain, and fear.
But I Am God’s Daughter
Months have stretched into years of enduring, waiting, hoping, praying, clinging, and surviving suffering that seems to have no conceivable end. A battle has been waged over my family and me. The enemy seems intent upon turning my heart against the Lord for the pain he has allowed.
I am not the first to experience this:
The enemy has pursued my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead. Therefore my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled. (Psalm 143 v 3-4)
But I am God’s daughter, and I’m trusting with all I have (as weak as my faith may be) that he will not let me go. In my brokenness, all I can do is believe that he will carry me through and prove himself faithful.
It is not a lack of faith to grieve and to wrestle with the deep realities of heartache and loss. We live in a culture that’s so uncomfortable with suffering that we mask our hurt, cover our blemishes, medicate our pain, and explain our confusion away. Of course, pain is not to be glorified either, as though we are holier because we are suffering.
The ongoing reality is that suffering hurts. It’s uncomfortable, it’s lonely, it sends some friends running, and it causes others to judge things they cannot understand and didn’t pause to ask about. It’s un- settling, disorienting, and confusing, and it stirs deep questions of faith that we don’t have to face until suffering forces us to.
But by God’s grace, I’m choosing to face it head on, rather than running from it. We must each choose how we will respond when the heavi- ness of life leaves us feeling joyless, hopeless, and even in despair.
Two Encouragements to Persevere
I have found such great encouragement in the words of Paul, a man whose greatest desire was to love and glorify God, yet who also suffered much as he fought the good fight of faith. I am thankful for the way God used Paul’s devastating circumstances to encourage the Corinthians, and then through the Scriptures to encourage countless others who have suffered through the ages.
For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. (2 Corinthians 1 v 8-10)
1. At the End of Our Strength, We Trust in His
After nine years of fighting an unseen enemy that has wrought unimaginable havoc through destructive neurological behaviors in our oldest son (and therefore in our other children), recent evidence seems to point to Lyme disease as a contributing factor. This means a long, uncertain future of costly treatments without any guarantees of healing. There is no area of our lives that has not been touched by a little tick that bit me and infected me years ago with a disease, which I then unknowingly passed on to all four of my children. Until recently, mysterious health problems had sent us from doctor to doctor, adding financial loss and burden to the many other stresses we were facing, while doctors simply shook their heads in confusion.
Even now that we have identified the problem, treatments are complex. It’s hard not to give in to fear and despair. As a woman and mother who desires to bring order and peace to our home, I fight perpetual feelings of failure over the turmoil that seems constant there. Misguided judgments from people who don’t understand also leave me feeling vulnerable.
But by God’s grace, and despite my ailing, the Lord continues to carry me, change me, and help me press on for another moment. As Paul experienced the complete emptying of his own resources in order to learn to rely fully on Christ, I am learning to do the same. Though I often feel as if I die a thousand deaths every day, I am experiencing greater life in Christ—for the more that I am emptied, the more I am filled.
Are you in this place right now? You may be experiencing far greater trials than I am, circumstances I can’t even imagine. If you are despair- ing of life itself, uncertain whether you can endure one more moment of your pain, remember that the apostle Paul, a strong and greatly-used servant of God, experienced the same. Even more so did Jesus, the Son of God. He sweat blood the night before he died, such was the pressure and the anguish. He bore the entire weight of the world’s sin and the wrath of his Father in order that you and I would always enjoy the presence of, and have access to the resources of, the Almighty God.
2. At the End of Our Resources, We Treasure Christ
Circumstances that feel hopeless magnify the hope of the gospel. Circumstances that reveal our weaknesses magnify the strength of Christ. Circumstances that cause our love for this world to fade cause our love for Christ to grow. Circumstances that bring about the loss of earthly things magnify the glorious riches of eternity. Circumstances that seem to be “a sentence of death”—and may indeed be a sentence of death—“make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1 v 9).
When life is going well, it’s easy to be generally thankful for the gospel, but to not allow the veins of its truth to give life to us. But when disappointment and suffering strike, the gospel becomes our lifeline and empowers us to live victoriously. This has been true for me as I’ve desperately needed the physical, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual strength to press on moment by moment, every day.
When I see pain in one of my children, but feel helpless to do anything about it, I need the reminder that Christ is grieved by their pain and remains Lord over it. When my child is causing deep hurt in another one of my children, I need the love, grace, and patience of Christ to flow through me before I react. When I feel insecurity rise up in me as I see the worry in my husband’s face over finances, I need to remind myself that my true security is in Christ, no matter what happens. When my body aches and I want to crawl into bed and sink into despair, I need to rely on the Holy Spirit’s strength to endure and focus on truth.
When the tenth doctor expresses how perplexed they are and suggests we see someone else, I must go to the Word to remember that God knows all things, and that he is sovereignly working all things out for my good, even when the wise of this world are left baffled.
The hope of the gospel is not just our guaranteed future glory in heav- en. It is the promised power, purpose, presence, and fullness of Christ in every moment of our lives on earth. It is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1 v 27). Because of the gospel, suffering is no longer meaningless, but is wielded by the Lord to be used for our good, to change us into the people that our redeemed selves long to be: reflections of Christ.
Joy Will Come in the Morning
Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning … You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever! (Psalm 30 v 5b, 11-12)
As I write this, I am speaking to myself as much as to anyone else. My temptation is to quit, become a hermit, and bottle up the bitter ache within my soul. But that would allow the enemy to have his way and, by the grace of God, he will not have his way in my life. I am the Lord’s and I know that he will not let me go. Whether I see God redeem this story in my lifetime or not, I know that it will be redeemed.
Whatever your own circumstances, I pray that you will be con dent in this: if you are in Christ Jesus, you are covered by his promises. Though you may feel burdened beyond your strength and in despair, Christ will be your strength. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy will come in the morning. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, maybe not next year. But it will come. Cling to him, cry to him, and one day, he will turn your mourning into dancing, and you will be clothed in gladness, singing praises to his name and giving thanks for all that he has done.
What circumstances have tempted you to despair? What do you do when those feelings arise? (E.g. Pull away from those you love; mask it and pretend everything is okay; or bring yourself to Christ in honest brokenness.)
- What circumstances have tempted you to despair? What do you do when those feelings arise? (E.g. Pull away from those you love; mask it and pretend everything is okay; or bring yourself to Christ in honest brokenness.)
- How have you seen the Lord use your circumstances to draw you into a greater dependence on his strength and a greater hope in promises?
- Which of these truths do you need to nd comfort in today?
Heavenly Father, sometimes my circumstances feel like they are too much to bear. I struggle to understand why you have allowed these trials and how I can persevere through them. But I see now that you allow circumstances beyond what I can handle so that I will learn to rely on you rather than on my own strength and wisdom. Help me not to turn away from you in my despair, but turn towards you in trust and con dence that you will be all that I need. Thank you that one day you will deliver me from this pain and struggle, and bring me into your everlasting presence. Amen.
For further meditation: Isaiah 40 v 31; Isaiah 40 v 10; Romans 1 v 1-21