God’s Strength & Goodness in Suffering

“When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned,
the flames will not set you ablaze.”
Isaiah 43:2 (NIV)

I would not choose to walk through waters, to pass through rivers, and I would never ask to walk through fire.

It is only through God’s promises and the Lord’s presence in our lives that we can endure in the things we would never willingly choose to go through.

We all experience things that stop us in our tracks, that completely derail the direction we are moving in.  There is chaotic destruction that leaves us wondering if we will ever survive, let alone recover.

Those middle of the night calls come in.  The door slams.  The devastating news breaks.  The earth shakes and the waves come crashing in.  The fires burn what we have built.

Death.  Sickness.  Loss.  Ended relationships.  Hurt.  Destruction.  Ruin.  Failure.

None of us makes it through this life unscathed by the broken world we live in.  The suffering comes at us at different times, varies in duration and magnitude, and often crashes in without warning.

In grief and loss we cry out that we can not do this, that we don’t know how to go on, and we wonder if we are alone in it all.

It is only through God's promises and the Lord's presence in our lives that we can endure in the things we would never willingly choose to go through.

The night of February 1st I received one of those calls, the death of a parent.  No advanced warnings.  Just gone.  Like an earth quake whose epicenter was located on my family.

In those first few days I found myself crying the words of Psalm 55:4-8 (NIV)

“My heart is in anguish within me;
the terrors of death have fallen on me.
Fear and trembling have beset me;
horror has overwhelmed me.
I said ‘Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest.
I would flee far away and stay in the desert;
I would hurry to my place of shelter,
far from the tempest and storm.'”

How do you walk through the days when you do not know what to do?  When you don’t think that you will make it?  When you have absolutely no idea what lies ahead?

I can not tell you the number of times I have asked those questions in the preceding days.  This is the verse that the Holy Spirit kept prompting me to.

“God is our refuge and strength,
an ever present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.”
Psalm 46:1-3 (NIV)

When the earth give way, the mountains fall into the sea, the tsunami rushes in, and devastation remains, the Lord is ever present.  He is a refuge and strength.

Eternal might and provision.  Always available.  In the darkness of the night, in the desperation of the early morning hours, He is available to be fully attentive to the smallest needs.  The Lord’s watch over us is unending.

As I sit this morning, I want to go back to bed.  I want to pull the covers over my head.  I want to cry myself to sleep.  I don’t want to think about doing laundry or balancing the checkbook or what activities are on the schedule for the week.

“God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at the break of day.”  Psalm 46:5 (NIV)

God is with me.  God is for me.  God is with you.  God is for you.

The Lord wants us to see His goodness.  Our Savior wants us to know His strength.  Especially in times of hurt, pain, devastation.  His compassion is drawn towards that brokenness.

I have only made it through the past few weeks because of the strength of the Lord and because of His goodness.  And from the support of brothers and sisters in Christ whose love, prayers, and service has ministered to my family in ways great and small.

Sunday, I was finally able to make it to the worship service at our church.  Eyes closed and tears rolling down my face I worshiped with all that I had, my God who is so very good.  When I was overcome, I went forward for prayer and was surrounded & ministered to in such a tenderly supportive way.

Tears streaming and nose dripping like a faucet, I was met with such graciousness.  As they prayed, I thought of Psalm 139:5 (NIV), “You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.”  I was hemmed in, tightly tucked between these wonderful believers holding and supporting me.

I could scarcely take it all in and I have been in wondrous awe ever since.  Because it wasn’t just all of those standing around me physically in that moment.  It was that I could envision all of those who love and care for me despite the distance between us.  Layers of reinforcements surrounding me in that moment.

God’s hand was certainly upon me, I have no doubt in that.  I was on holy ground and so tangibly aware of His presence.  It was like breathing in the breeze of heaven.  As I exhaled it was like my breath was crying out how good the Lord is, but I wasn’t speaking.

Somehow despite the pain, the hurt, the fears, the exhaustion, the tensions in my mind, there was joy and I was richly strengthen by it.  “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”  Nehemiah 8:10.

I’m not talking about a happiness over these painful circumstances or delight in what is going on.  If I could capture that feeling, that experience, and let you drink it in, I would completely because my words just aren’t even beginning to do it justice.

It was not about me, but it was about the Lord and the perfect goodness of who He is.  When the prayer for me was over, when the hugs were given, and I returned to my spot I raised my hand and worshiped in my off key, tone deaf, best that I could, hand in the air reach out to the One who reaches out to me.

I am so grateful!  I am so thankful!  I am so appreciative!  I don’t have to walk this painful path alone.  This love is so amazing.  I want to walk in it and to do a better job moving forward of giving love & support to those going through hard times.  I know I am still a messed up sinner, but what I have received encourages me to give what I can with the time that I have.

Live It Out

I do not know what pains and struggles and sufferings you have faced or what you are facing right now.  What I do know is that the Lord is good and loving and wants to meet you right where you are at.

If you are in broken devastation, He will meet you there.  If you are in the midst of exhaustion, He will come along side of you.  If you are in the flurry of hustle and bustle of working, raising a family, tending to your list of responsibilities, He will walk with you.

I am not saying it is easy or that the pain goes away.  Life is still complicated, difficult, painful, exhausting, and an emotional roller coaster.  But there is a strength, an ever present help in trouble, that helps get us through – through the waters, through the river, through the fire, through the wreckage.

Pray Through It

Beloved Lord, 

Thank You so much for being near, for providing strength, for offering support, for pouring out Your goodness in so many ways through the hurt, pain, suffering, and anguish of this life.  

Lord, I don’t know what I would do without You.  Right now I just want to cling to You and not leave that place of Your presence.  Yet, You keep giving me strength and the nudge to keep going.  Hemmed in You call us all onward.  You give us those supports that we need, hands to hold on to as assistance to keep going.  

Lord, please pour Your goodness and a fresh infusal of Your strength into each individual who reads these words.  Let them to feel Your hand upon them in a holy way.  Reveal the joy that is innate to Your character in an intimate way so they could experience Your goodness, even in pain and suffering, that would leave them in awe. 

In the name of Jesus, who faced a level of suffering we can’t even imagine, to make a way for Your goodness to come upon us, amen.  

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