Living happily ever after is a hope that is hard to come by everywhere but fairy tales. Living happily each day, though, is possible. Many times I have heard and read, “don’t waste your suffering.”
God intends for our deep joy and intimacy to be in suffering; he sets the table in the valley, not by the still waters or the good grass. 1
But how do I do this?
Two people who lived in different times with chronic pain and illness offered me hope and help for living through the darkness infirmity is.
In 1895 Andrew Murray was in England suffering from a terribly painful back, the result of an injury incurred years before. One morning while eating breakfast in his room, his hostess told him of a woman downstairs who was in great trouble and wanted to know if he had any advice for her. He handed her a paper he had been writing on and said, “Give her this advice I am writing down for myself. It may be that she’ll find it helpful.”
This is what he wrote:
‘In time of trouble, say, ‘First he brought me here. If it is by his will I am in this strait place, in that place I will rest.” Next, say, “He will keep me here in his love, and give me grace in this trial to behave as his child.’ Then, say, ‘He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me lessons he intends me to learn, and working in me the grace he means to bestow.’ And last, say, ‘I am here by God’s appointment, in his keeping, under his training, for his time.’” 2
Almost one hundred years later, a friend wrote an intimate reflection of her coping with Multiple Sclerosis :
anything but that
“Send anything but that,” I cried,
and still the thing I feared did come;
I watched its shadow rise
and shrank in terror from the blow:
“Oh, Lord, this thing I cannot bear!”
And yet Thy tender love did send it me
in answer to my prayer.
My prayer! My cry Thou heedest not
and leav’st me sick, in pain.
And still Thy presence sears and binds –
is all my praying vain?
And still it comes, this fearful dark;
I cannot stem the tide.
“No more,” I cry, “I know my strength!”
And then, Thou, God replied,
“Thy frenzied strength thou knowest, ah
but thou dost not know Mine.”
1991~ Barbara Black
Suffering, pain and chronic illnesses are some reasons that we turn from God, concluding He has no power to help. Some say they prove no such being exists – Life is hard and then we die.
Shocking words, which, alas, appeal to more and more people who have let go of God, calling the idea of Him a delusion, especially when deliverance did not come.
Yet, in the times in which we live, when suffering, pain and losses overwhelm, others of us have turned what we can’t explain, or bear, over to the God who is. Finding relief, purpose and power in Him who never leaves or forsakes those who cry out to Him is a daily choice. God help me is a great prayer. So, too, is God I believe; Help Thou my unbelief!
2 Calm My Anxious Heart by Linda Dillow, p. 171