“There was a time I could not imagine saying this, but you know, I would not take it away if I could. God has used it for the good.”
“As much of a hard, gut-wrenching time as it was… losing my baby taught me more about God than anything else that has ever occurred in my life. I can’t wish it away.”
“The struggle with infertility, albeit painful, has opened my eyes to others’ pain and made my intimacy with God deeper than I could have ever imagined if He had chosen a different path for us.”
Three friends. One, brutally assaulted in all the horrific ways you can imagine. Another, a child lost. The third, a woman struggling through years of infertility.
”I hope I can take my wheelchair to heaven with me — I know that’s not biblically correct, but if I were able, I would have my wheelchair up in heaven right next to me when God gives me my brand new, glorified body. And I will then turn to Jesus and say, “Lord, do you see that wheelchair right there? Well, you were right when you said that in this world we would have trouble, because that wheelchair was a lot of trouble! But Jesus the weaker I was in that thing, the harder I leaned on you. And the harder I leaned on you, the stronger I discovered you to be. So thank you for what you did in my life through that wheelchair. And now”, I always say jokingly, “you can send that wheelchair to hell, if you want.”- Joni Eareckson Tada, who has spent a lot of her life as a quadriplegic
Without realizing it, our prayers are often centered around one thing: relieving the people around us of temporary discomfort. We pray for the cancer to go away, for the delays to catch up, for the pain to dissipate. We are uncomfortable with the uncomfortable.
In a sense, we live as though suffering is the enemy and easy is the goal.
In ways, we live as if this is our home.
We all know that we are going to die someday. We have been promised that trouble is going to befall each of us. We sing, “Blessed be your name when I’m found in the desert place…” but when we find ourselves actually there, our natural instinct is the pray it away.
“and, knelt down and prayed, (Jesus), saying, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”- Luke 22:42
“For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake.”- Philippians 1:29
Jesus Himself understood it. As a human, He grasped that suffering can be beyond painful. As we are staring at the Easter week ahead, I have been meditating on how much Christ truly suffered. He wasn’t just walking the road of physical, gruesome, martyrdom- He carried with His tattered body the weight of all the sin of all of mankind. One who knew nothing of the disgrace and disgust of sin and death but bore it for us. We hear this, we know this, yet we forget the weight of it. Quite frankly, we forget that if Jesus had been in a prayer group the night before His death, His initial, “Take this cup from me” prayer would have not been answered with a, ‘Yes’. Yet God.
”And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”- 1 Peter 5:10
The truth is, God cares much more about getting you to a place in which you view earth through eternal eyes than He does about relieving you of temporary pain. Does He meet us where we are? Of course. He promises to meet each of us in the middle of all of our struggles-hence, the road to the cross. Hence, the “nevertheless” in His will. Jesus carried it all so that, in your blink of an eye on earth, you don’t have to go at it alone. That’s how much He cares about these fleeting moments! Do I think that He wants us to come to Him and ask Him for all things? Absolutely! Does this healing sometimes occur? Yes! God can do any and all things, and time and time again in the Bible, God was glorified through the physical healing of His children. Yet the key in each and every situation and circumstance was that the center of the story was not the temporary relief- the center of the story was, and is, always God Himself. The faith is always the crux of the story. Sometimes, He is glorified through the power He shows in the earthly healing. Other times, His power is displayed through the faith bestowed in trusting and living each moment in the midst of the struggle. In fact, at times, it takes more faith to believe that eternal wholeness is coming instead of seeing visual proof of it.
“For we live by faith, not by sight.”- 2 Corinthians 5:7
I believe that as we come to Him for all things and lay them all at His feet, He does a work in our hearts that is nothing shy of a miracle. He transforms our minds and very beings to believe it when we say, “Yet not my will, but yours be done”. Instead of praying for ease, we begin to pray for intimacy. We no longer wish for what we think would be best; we humbly accept God’s will in each of our lives, trusting that more of Him is to come. And, as a Christ follower, isn’t that the goal? More of Him?
“And they’ll know we are Christians by our love…”Carolyn Arends
In the story God is writing in our family, we have been loved so well by those around us. We have had meals, calls, emails, texts, coffees, prayers, visits, toys, clothes, money, books, and more brought to our doorstep. Why? Because we want to comfort and embrace those that are walking through hard things. And, I believe that on many occasions, this love is best displayed in the midst of suffering. The world needs to see a people that are not always asking, ‘Why’ and trying to get the pain the go away. The world needs to see a people that understand that there is purpose in pain; that trust and hope in something greater than what this world offers; that have a holy anger for sin, suffering, and death… yet rejoice in the God who has already overcome those things.
Friends, there is nothing wrong with praying ANYTHING. God wants us to come to Him with all things. My prayer for each of us, however, is that we would have the same attitude Christ had as He was about to carry the weight of all the suffering that has ever and will ever occur. That we would be able to say, “God is good!” not only when He chooses temporary healing; but also when His answer is, “Not yet”. That we would have the ability to see the beauty and the fruit of suffering; and that we would walk beside those who are doing so. That we could, as the friends I mentioned above, not fear pain and hard things; knowing that He is with us and nothing is permanently lost or broken when placed in His hands. In His kingdom, there truly are no bad things. I pray the goal would not be temporary relief; and instead, that the prayer would be peace in the storm. Praise God, because of Christ, we do not have to fear anything, for we know it is all filtered through His loving hands and that He has overcome. If He brings it, He is working in it. May we not run to suffering; yet may we embrace Him in the middle of it, knowing His joy is still the same. May His peace and His presence be the center of our prayers. May we live as if our citizenship is in fact in heaven, and may we rejoice in whatever God chooses to do in each of our lives, knowing He is good in all things.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places…”- Ephesians 1:3, emphasis mine