4 1/2 weeks after surgery and on the hard road back to becoming able bodied, I have a richer knowledge of what it is like for all those who are suffering bodily disability. Its long, hard and tough to get through the days where you feel like the current into depression and hopelessness is peeling your hand away from the rock that is keeping you from being washed with the debris downstream. I feel like I am clinging with all that I have onto the Rock that is keeping my soul from despair. Really, my plight is so small compared to what some have to endure. But thought this small trial of mine I am reminded of some solemn warnings and priceless truths.
It is easy to turn from suffering and become hardened. I don’t like this limitation. It isn’t pleasant and I can find so many reasons to be angry with the situation I am faced with. But I have a choice. God hasn’t allowed this suffering so that I can learn how to be better at being bitter against Him and hardened towards others. He turns suffering on its head and wields it as a divine instrument in His hand to sculpt and shape the hearts of His beloved. He squeezes it so it becomes soft and mailable towards Him in the brokenness of it all. That is the path to glory.
I see two choices infront of me today as I walk this long road. I can be like mud; when the sun beats down on it it hardens and cracks. Or I can make my heart as ice; when the sun of suffering beams down on it it melts under its rays. I can turn harden my heart towards God and allow my heart to dry and crack. Or I can, by faith, be assured of His never ending love towards me and say to the enemy of my soul “you mean this trial for evil, but God means it for good” (see Gen 50:20, Romas 8:28-29). I can remember Jesus on the cross. The most brutal act of suffering known and experienced by a man, a man who had no sin in Him; betrayed by friend and foe. Who turned and said ‘Father, if it is your will let this cup pass from me. But not my will but yours be done’ (Luke 22:42). Jesus laid it all on the cross and He is the One who strengthens me now. He knows. He is with me. He will not leave my side.
Jesus made it clear to His disciples that before He was to receive the glory that was coming to Him, He must endure suffering on the cross. It is true for His sons and daughters and all who wish to follow Him. For whoever should come after Him must pick up their cross and follow Him(Luke 9:23).There is no other way, we must go through, we can’t go around it, escape it, avoid it. We just end up awfully lost that way and the only way back to the path is retracing our steps right back to the point at which we started. Avoidance does NOT get us out of having to go through it. It just makes the refining process it longer and harder. God knows there is a lesson to be learned, branches to be pruned, fruit to be grown and dross to be melted, all require a measure of either discipline, pain or patience. When God allows suffering and pain come into our lives to have His desired effect on us, there is no other way to the glory beyond it, other than through; facing it head on, with courage, in His strength, trusting in Him, keeping the faith.
He wants to use my suffering. I must let Him and not allow myself to be deceived that I can use my pain as an excuse to sin against God or others. For sure, suffering brings temptation right into my path. But I must keep my eyes focused on Jesus and not stray – for sinning in the middle of suffering inflames the pain and doubles the burden.
I must use my momentary pain to reach out of myself in His strength, despite the suffering and pain (inward or outward) that I am wrestling with. That is the way. I am to use it as an excuse to forget myself and trust God and cry out to Him for strength as I use the time to patiently learn all God wants me to learn in Christ’s school.
So, this is my prayer:
Oh Lord God, keep me from waisting this time which you have ordained that I encounter a trial. Use it, let me learn from it and may it be the resistance my faith needs to grow stronger. Lord God, day by day may I leave nothing on the track, may my energy be utterly spent as I cross the finish line as I run this race with all I have, trusting you as I run my hardest. This is the race, and you will give me the rest and replenishment I need after I have endured. And I can persevere in faith knowing it will end. The pain will lift, the trail will end. Lord God one day it will end. and you will give me the strength I need to endure until you say enough! And when I fail the test you put in front of me, when I refuse to allow this trial to work for my good, O Father forgive me. Do not let that stop you from working this trial to grow my trust in you. In your kindness and grace allow me to get up and give it another go. Despite my failures, my mistakes, my weakness and proneness to sin and defect, to give up; Lord God in your grace give me another chance to get up and re-join the race that I momentarily rejected.
Dear sufferer, It is a long road to glory – to the place where God in His fullness awaits for you. By giving up you turn away from Him; in the very moment where you need Him most. In our deepest, hardest temptations and let us not reject our Maker and our Strength.
Strengthen us on this road to glory, Lord God, for your names sake, strengthen us to spend all we have to gain a prize that will never fade.