Mired in the quicksand of despair, sucked under a little further each day, I struggled to find something to hold onto, something to convince me that life could be bearable. Joy could be found again, hope reborn.
Weeks, months of chronic pain wears on a body, and a soul.
The reaction of some well-meaning friends and acquaintances was not always helpful. Those who didn’t say much, didn’t come around much, leaving me to wonder if I was overreacting and not handling things as well as I should. Those who said way too much, professing that prescribed prayers surely would be the way to healing and in the meantime, the way to live thanking God for my agony. Those who seemed to believe the intensity of my pain somehow was much greater in my head than in my reality. Those who simply didn’t know what to say . . . .
But this is not about them, it is about me. My inability to believe I could bear the brunt of consuming pain for more months. My inability to trust my Lord to care for me, and to carry me on those days I could not carry myself.
Sure, I knew the Scriptures about God as our Rock, our sure footing, our strength. God as the one who upholds us with His righteous right arm, holds us in the palm of His hand, and carries us as a shepherd carries an injured sheep. On some days the comfort found in those verses was enormous. The provision for my soul was enough.
Yet other days, not so much. My foggy pain-induced thought patterns disabled my ability to concentrate. Hope was hard to come by. Shadows fell over my soul. I could not feel my Lord’s presence with me. I could not be strong, and was tired of appearing strong on the outside when my insides were falling apart. I didn’t want to praise God anyway, thank Him for (even in) all things. Rejoice in suffering. Or be an overcomer. I wanted relief.
I was tired. I hurt. There was no healing nor answers in sight. The darkness was winning. And I yearned for something to make a difference.
I wondered if I was loosing my mind . . . until one day when I stumbled upon a couple of verses in chapter one of 2 Corinthians. A chapter often referred to in light of God’s compassion and faithfulness. Words written by Paul, the one who was beaten, imprisoned and in chains, singing and praising His Lord. Paul, the one who walked miles and miles in order to tell the known world about a Savior. Then walked the same roads again, in order to return and strengthen churches begun under his leadership.
Paul, survivor, servant, soul-winner, mentor, teacher, prolific writer. Paul who had an unwavering faith in the Lord Jesus and an unquenchable passion to share Him with others.
Maybe that is why these words were strangely like a salve to my soul. They gave me a different perspective on Paul. A window into the reality of his humanness as he spoke of the affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves in order that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God . . . 2 Cor 1:8-9
Those words let me know I no longer had to feel alone. I no longer should feel guilty for doubting God’s provision. And I no longer felt mired in hopeless. I released myself and my feelings to my Savior even as Paul must had done. My pain and my fears were validated.
Oh friend, God’s word provides many things for our souls, including validation for our struggles. God’s word reminds us that even giants of the faith struggled, sinned, made mistakes, and lost hope.
Oh, how God’s word gives me hope. Shows me there are others who understand. Reminds me that I can tell God whatever it is I feel or struggle with on a given day. I can wrestle with God. I can be angry with God for the healing that does not come.
I can cry out to God and believe God hears. God knows my struggles. God weeps with me. God may heal, intervene, and God may not. But no matter God’s perceived action on my behalf, I believe with every fiber of my being that God is with me in all situations, on all my days.
And that makes all the difference . . . .