The other night, my young son’s mental illness flared in an extreme way and, by the end, I was exhausted in every way possible. But my exhaustion paled in comparison to the heartache I felt as I listened to him cry through sobs that his life was worthless and nothing would every change. Though I knew his life isn’t worthless and assured him of it, I couldn’t promise him that things would get easier or healing would ever come in his lifetime.
But do you know the worst part? I feel utterly helpless to help him.
I don’t understand why God has allowed this incredible suffering in such a young child and I don’t understand why he has chosen to not bring any lasting relief. But, oh my word, he has utterly changed our family through it. He has changed our prayers from solely seeking relief and healing to, “Lord, bring healing if you will, but if not, give us strength for every day and use every ounce of this pain to make us love you more and bring glory to your name. Redeem our son’s life for your eternal purposes.” No, he has not brought healing, but he has answered much of that prayer.
I knelt by my son’s bed after our long painful night and I prayed a prayer that only the Holy Spirit could have enabled me to, as if I was slamming a stake of faith into hardened ground. As I left his room, I felt grief, but I felt hope and confidence that God isn’t finished. He reminded me that, although all I can see is chaos and a hopeless situation, he hears our pleas for help, he sees every tear we shed, he has sustained us through countless trials, he has taken up our cause, and he is redeeming our lives.
Friends, my heart for this group is to be real about the struggles of life because, let’s be honest, Christian platitudes and quotes barely scratch the surface of the deep suffering many of us are experiencing. But God’s Word and his promises are the anchor of our hope and the truth we must cling to. Our words fall short, but his never do. When we call on him, he comes near and says, “Do not fear!” Why? Because he is working on our behalf to redeem our hearts to him, bringing purpose out of our pain and using it in ways we cannot see. He will be faithful.
“O how faith can shine and triumph over nature and reason - not just persevere, but conquer and rejoice in tribulation! Faith can make you hard as an adamant stone, like a palm that does not break with the heaviest burdens, or oil that ever out-swims all the water that is poured over it. This is the crown and glory of faith. Faith tackles great obstacles. Small boats do fine in a calm, and ordinary men can stand up to a light breeze, but when a heavy tempest blows, and wave after wave crashes, nature yields, the spirit faints, a heart fails.
To stand up against such storms and to live and reign is the work of faith. This faith has a Word as its compass, and Christ directing the helm. The greatest adversities are but the exercise and lustre of faith.
When a storm rises, immediately run and awaken your sleeping faith. Knock at its door. Do your work, O faith! Consider this medicine for your faith to drink in comfort: not the slightest trouble befalls you without the overruling eye and hand of God. He is not only our wise God, but a tender Father. He knows what you are made of and measures out exactly every cross unto us as a chemist measures grains of medicine.” ~ Samual Ward (Voices of the Past)
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The Bible is full of accounts of God sending his children down paths that they most likely wouldn’t have chosen for themselves. He called Noah to build a massive boat in the middle of nowhere; he told Abraham to leave his home for an unknown land; he anointed David as the next king, yet David then found himself hiding in caves and running for his life from Saul; he freed the Israelites from slavery only to lead them into the wilderness for 40 years; he sent Jesus to the earth to die on a cross after only 3 years of ministry - or so it seemed.
But the truth is, God always had something greater, something beyond what could be seen, something eternal at work.
Friends, we often see only a snapshot in time. Maybe, like Abraham, we only see the unfamiliarity of where we are and miss where we once were. Maybe, like Noah, we feel like God clearly led us into a situation that seems crazy to those around us. Maybe, like the Israelites, God saved us from our slavery only to find our faith tested around every corner. Maybe, like David, we believe what God has promised, but we wonder how and when that promise will come to pass. Or maybe, like Jesus’ death on the cross, it seems like evil is winning and the darkness will never lift.
But today doesn’t tell the whole story. We have God’s Word, which reminds us from a million different angles that God’s ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts. But his ways and thoughts are always trustworthy and always working for our greater good - shaping us into his image bearers, pointing others to Jesus, and drawing us heavenward. One day, Christian, we will reach our glorious home with Christ and these uncertainties, losses, lonely places, and disappointments will all just be a small piece to the greater story being written.
This is the essence of faith - believing God’s promises are true even when we have yet to see them come to pass, believing Jesus is who he says he is, believing he will not let us go despite our feelings saying otherwise, and believing that our current circumstances, suffering, and understanding don’t tell the whole story.
You may not know how this moment, this pain, this senseless act, this struggle, this disappointment, this missed opportunity, or this illness plays a part in the bigger story God is writing in your life, but you can trust that it is all being woven into the beautiful canvas of eternal glory in the image of Christ. Christian, trust him today in what you cannot see by fixing your eyes on Christ and what he says is true. He has already shown himself faithful, good, and sovereign. He will not fail us now.
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Hope When It Hurts - 30 Biblical Reflections to Help you Grasp God’s Purpose in Your Suffering by Kristen Wetherell and Sarah Walton
Hurt is real. But so is hope. Kristen and Sarah have walked through, and are walking in, difficult times. So these thirty biblical reflections are full of realism about the hurts of life—yet overwhelmingly full of hope about the God who gives life.
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It occurred to Pooh and Piglet that they hadn't heard from Eeyore for several days, so they put on their hats and coats and trotted across the Hundred Acre Wood to Eeyore's stick house. Inside the house was Eeyore. “Hello Eeyore," said Pooh.
"Hello Pooh. Hello Piglet "said Eeyore, in a Glum Sounding Voice. “We just thought we'd check in on you," said Piglet, "because we hadn't heard from you, and so we wanted to know if you were okay.” Eeyore was silent for a moment. "Am I okay?" he asked, eventually. "Well, I don't know, to be honest. Are any of us really okay? That's what I ask myself. All I can tell you, Pooh and Piglet, is that right now I feel really rather Sad, and Alone, and Not Much Fun To Be Around At All.
Which is why I haven't bothered you. Because you wouldn't want to waste your time hanging out with someone who is Sad, and Alone, and Not Much Fun To Be Around At All, would you now.” Pooh looked and Piglet, and Piglet looked at Pooh, and they both sat down, one on either side of Eeyore in his stick house.
Eeyore looked at them in surprise. "What are you doing?” “We're sitting here with you," said Pooh, "because we are your friends. And true friends don't care if someone is feeling Sad, or Alone, or Not Much Fun To Be Around At All. True friends are there for you anyway. And so here we are.” “Oh," said Eeyore. "Oh." And the three of them sat there in silence, and while Pooh and Piglet said nothing at all; somehow, almost imperceptibly, Eeyore started to feel a very tiny little bit better.
Because Pooh and Piglet were There.
No more; no less. (A.A.Milne,
Most of us can probably relate to feeling like this from time to time. Though it’s important to take our emotions to Christ and learn to evaluate them with the truth of God’s Word, sometimes we just need to wade through them until the clouds pass and clarity of truth brightens the darkness. What a blessing to have another be willing to sit with us in our day of darkness, giving us the gift of love and comfort through their presence. Good ole Pooh, Piglet, and Eore are a sweet reminder of this.
Friends, who can you call or visit today to give the gift of presence?