A week ago I received an e-mail from Mary, whose husband is languishing under the agony of advancing cancer. “Don‘s pain is excruciating. I don‘t know which way to turn. The burden is too much. Please pray.”
To add to their stress, Mary serves as Don’s “nurse,” all the while doubling as mom and dad to their four kids, who range in age from 10 months to 15 years.
Yesterday when I visited them, Mary greeted me with red and tear-filled eyes. Ten minutes after notifying Don of my arrival, he haltingly entered the room. Shoes untied. Gaunt.
Unshaved. His cancerous right arm seemed awkwardly “pinned” to his side. Faintly, he managed a smile.
While Mary served tea, Don offered, “Dwight, I find myself deeply disappointed. Nothing makes sense any more. So much of what I taught from the Scriptures about God doesn‘t equate with what I am experiencing. I am struggling with depression. I am learning something about losing everything for Christ. (Philippians 3:8) All I have left to hold on to are God‘s promises.”
“Don,” I asked, “Do you think that the source of our agony lies in our assumption that if we keep our end of the bargain, (obedience, etc.), God is obligated to keep His by guaranteeing us health, fruitfulness, a fulfilling job, etc.? When life doesn‘t play out that way, we become disillusioned?
“Yeah… Dwight. I think that is our problem.”
We then read over 1 Peter 4:12, 13a: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering as though something strange were happening to you… ” And we both admitted that we are surprised at suffering when it comes! It is “strange”. We feel it is unfair! And we feel we deserve better!
The passage goes on: “But rejoice that you [are now participating] in the sufferings of Christ.” Now that seems a bit heavy. When we committed our lives to following Him, we did not anticipate that level of pain… or identification with Christ. And to “rejoice” in it? It is humanly impossible without Divine help.
My friend, I don’t know what trial you may be facing today. Perhaps like Don, you are discovering that there are no pat answers to life’s vexing questions. But one thing we do know with certainty is that in eternity, our good and just God promises to “wipe every tear from
[our] eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain… ” (Revelation 21:4a) That is our eternal hope.
QUESTION: Today, amidst your “painful trial” are you choosing to trust Him — with or without the answers? If your decision is “yes,” then you are experiencing hope, rather than paralyzing despair.