The “look”. I’ve seen it dozens of times. A look of helplessness on the part of someone who cares. The struggle is almost visible behind their eyes as they search deep within for something to say, but in a moment they’ll silently shrug, or smile, or simply lay a caring hand on my arm. It is the dilemma that one who seeks to minister to the chronic sufferer will work through repeatedly.
When they have stepped away I am left with my struggle. It is hard to continue at times. I pray for deliverance, for healing, for temporary deadening of the nerves…anything really. Recently I lay down for an afternoon nap. When I woke up, I felt as if I was in no pain. I wondered if this moment might be the moment when all the prayers were answered. I had a lady lay hands on me and pray over my back. Was it her prayer that God heard and answered? I swung my legs off the bed and stood, gently, as if that would matter. Pain is cruel. It will disappear and give false hope before rushing back with a vengeance. The hope is ripped away and the jagged edges of chronic pain continue to grind away at what is left.
What do I do when hope slips through my fingers? When it seems as if nothing will help, and as if God is silent? Does God really care about the situation I find myself in?
I will often grab my bible and just begin thumbing through tales of suffering: Hannah, Job, the Psalmists, the tribes scattered abroad. I see God working in their situations and witness how it works out to glorify God. It could be the severity of the difficulty that catches my eye, the misunderstanding of those around the sufferer, the longevity of the suffering or a variety of other details – but ultimately I come to focus on the character of God.
My theology drives how I live with discomfort; it must, or I would go nuts. And then I read Romans 15:4. I just had one of “those’ moments when I caught it in a off topic side reference. It says:
For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
All those bible stories were given and preserved just for me in my current situation! Given to instruct me on how to respond, on how to trust, on how to interact. I see God there and know he is here. I persevere and receive encouragement as I read. But I don’t do it in my own strength – which may have been something I had been trying to do.
Verse 5 of Romans 15 says, “Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement…” God not only has interacted with these historic sufferers, recorded the events for me, uses them in instruction for my benefit, but will enable me to persevere and be encouraged because of my relationship with Jesus Christ!
Oh how I trust him! I am working through my theology like never before in the history of my life. Since 1998 I have been filling my head with Truth and now I am beginning to see what it “looks like”. Its the most “frightened” I’ve been in my relationship with Christ. But I am receiving tremendous comfort at the same time.
Chance to Interact: What accounts of suffering in Scripture have brought you comfort from your personal study?