Friday, fear’s flaming tongue licked around the edges of my world as symptoms heralding the potential presence of a devastating disease for one of my children made itself known at a routine doctor’s appointment. Saturday brought with it the news that our other son would also be having his second surgery this summer. Two teenagers with surgery, both with general anesthesia, one with a two week recovery period, the other with a two month one, plus the potential disease. Jesus, come NOW.
By Sunday, my heart was as heavy as it’s ever been.
Our pastor spoke about suffering and trials 1 Peter 5 style, reminding us in verses 9 and 10, “But resist him (the devil), firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.”
I can think of no greater suffering than the sheer terror of concern for the safety of one’s own child, but two children? Last week, I had just wrapped my brain around the surgery for my one son… to have the threat of additional disease plus the other son’s surgery was about to put me over the top. And if you remember from last week, I’ve been begging God to teach me how to have joy in the midst of all this.
So Sunday, when our pastor had us get into small groups to pray before communion, I couldn’t. All I could eek out was, “Heavenly Father…” and I wept. I joined up with some older people at the church, and of course they prayed thankfully with gratitude.
I wept more.
And when we got home from church, I changed clothes, skipped lunch, and left for the barn.
On the way, I listened to my favorite Christian radio station, Star 93.3 FM. Not surprisingly, all the songs seemed to be directed at our circumstances. And there was a brief story about a little boy with a heart condition who nearly died, but kept saying, “I am not afraid, Jesus is with me,” over and over again.
He was speaking.
Through my tears and aching heart, I was trying to listen.
I wept and drove and prayed for the 25 minutes it takes to get to my friend’s house and her barn, where she lets me lease her horses. As I rounded the corner, I started into my own little pity party (sorry I didn’t invite you) about how lame it is that we can’t actually own horses and land and a house in the country… Instead of being grateful for the home we actually have AND the opportunity to ride, I fussed to myself (and Him) about how life would be so different if we actually owned horses… that the relationships that are possible with these amazing animals would be so much deeper if they were mine and I saw them more than a few times a week… how if I actually owned my own horses, they would come running towards me when I came to the barn to ride them… but that will never happen because we just can’t get to a place with leased ones where it would even be possible…
And so my lament went.
Stopping at the barn, I remembered His Word, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
I complained about that, too – “I’ve been looking to You for everything, You have all of me, and You know I’d do anything You asked me to do, but I don’t know how to find delight in the midst of this. If one of them dies in surgery, I know where he’d go, but I don’t want to think about waiting for decades to see him again… I’m not there yet. You give and take away, and I understand and am reverently fearful of You, but my faith is not big enough for this.”
After the song ended, I got out of my van.
Then I began to weep for a new reason.
The horses had seen me – and were galloping towards me… for the first time ever.
I threw my arms up in the air, crying out, “You love me!” as much as to Him as to them.
I didn’t know I even wondered.
My heart felt so full with delight I thought it would burst, and I sensed His presence so strongly I felt my body could not contain Him.
And the fear left, taking its friend, doubt, with it. Trust joined me for the rest of the day. In fact, it’s taking up permanent residence.
That night, while watching the first episode of “The Bible,” series that we recorded, God reminded me through the story of Abram that He tests our faith. If you aren’t familiar with the story, Abram and his wife, Sarai waited 25 years for Isaac – then God tested Abram’s faith by telling him to sacrifice this son. The directive flew in the face of everything Abram thought he knew about what God had told him up to that point, but he took the boy on a journey, built the altar, and nearly plunged the knife into his beloved son’s chest before God stopped him, knowing his heart was truly His. And then we watched Moses being beaten, and the Israelites suffering. I recalled Job, how he lost his entire fortune, his family, and nearly his life, but remained faithful, as did the rest of the “greats” in the Bible.
And I knew this level of faith was not something any human could do on our own, but rather a gift of God Himself – a thing He does within us.
So this morning, as I am about to set way too many doctor’s appointments, I remember these things. And I thank Him for the trust He gave me in Himself. I repent of my fear, and take my thoughts captive as I continue the journey, only knowing the next step, and having that be enough.
God gives grace to the humble, and so today, I’m giving thanks for the trials. For the surgery, for the struggles, for the stress, for the potential problems. And that other guy is far from me. Dare you today to give thanks for your problems, even the ones with your marriage – regardless of the circumstances you are in. Beg Him to reveal His joy in the midst of difficulties. And expect suffering – it’s His way. Be thankful for it. Trials grow mature faith and dependence upon Him. And as we grow in our walk, He will bring us blessings in the midst of sufferings – blessings that are unexplainable.
Like galloping horses, He will run out to meet you with them.
And His light will shine through your life to others.
“No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Joshua 1:5
“O Lord Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you.” Psalm 84:12
As for me, I believe this is the place His strength in us starts. Thanking Him for suffering, seeing the blessings He gives to a heart yearning to learn and obey. Dare you to beg Him for this humble attitude in your life. I know I’m praying for it myself. The second thing I”m doing is confiding in my believing husband – I tried to bear this burden alone with God, and He wants us to do things in community. I’m starting with my husband, then I’m sure we’ll ask for prayer (and help) from our church body.
Glad you are on the journey with us.
Love to you,