Some of us know the depths of depression and despondency. Some of us know the lack of physical healing or the pain of incurable disease. Some of us know the sorrow and grief of losing a precious loved one. Some of us know family dysfunction. Some of us know abuse that no one else can see or fathom. And we question how this could be…
How could a loving God leave us in pain by not healing us, even after much prayer? How could a loving God allow so much evil to go on all around us? How could a loving God allow the senseless shooting sprees that kill our innocent children? How could you do that to us God?
But, it’s not God who does this to us… with Adam and Eve came “the fall.” The perfect first couple failed to heed God’s words, listening instead to the guile of sweet flattery from the serpent. Ever since, we and this world around us have been living with sin and its imperfections. We tend to put ourselves… our wants and desires… first.
I remember many years ago leaders in church saying that if anyone was discouraged or depressed, they must not be a true believer in God. How wrong and presumptuous to think that the difficulties of life can’t and won’t weary anyone, including a hearty Saint! We’re human, as were the best examples in Scripture who dealt with their own failings and weaknesses which brought them to their knees. Like King David’s psalms of poetic devotions which vividly show his laments and pleadings, they also show his rejoicing in God’s guidance, protection and provision. He was no different than us. We all express our sorrows and laments as well as joy and thankfulness. Yet, it could also be asked, where are we in bringing aid and comfort to the one who has been wearied by the blows of life?
David begins Psalm 55 by sending up a prayerful plea: “Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea; hear me and answer me. My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught at the voice of the enemy, at the stares of the wicked; for they bring down suffering upon me and revile me in their anger.” Yet, as verse 22 attests, David confidently reminds us to whom he could turn despite his troubles by saying, “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you…” A sentiment confirmed by the bold and outspoken Apostle Peter who said to “Cast all your anxiety/cares on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) And this from the man who three times denied he ever knew Jesus, his Lord and closest friend!
The difficulties we face do not mean God doesn’t hear our cries, our pleas, our prayers. Though His answers may not be what we want or expect, He will answer in His time and in His way… for He alone knows the best way to meet our needs. His answer to our prayers may not come immediately. Sometimes, it’s not until much later that we look back and say, “Oh! So that’s why things happened that way!” In allowing difficulties to come into our lives, God quietly gives us an opportunity to grow. By seeking our Lord’s will through it all, we mature in faith.
Even the Apostle Paul dealt with a “thorn in the flesh.” Some have thought it might be poor vision after the brilliant light that temporarily blinded him on the road to his conversion. We don’t know his exact problem, and it really doesn’t matter. Paul felt it was given to him to prevent his becoming conceited. Three times he asked the Lord to remove it from him, to heal him; but, it was not removed and he was not healed. Instead, what Paul heard in his heart was the Lord saying, “…My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (II Corinthians 12:9 NIV)
In the days that seem so dark, so dreary, so difficult and painful… know that you can find comfort from those around you… a spouse, a child, a dear friend, your church family, or friends within your community. They will be there to comfort you and see you through, and point you in the right direction for help. Assistance may even come through professionals who can provide counseling, medical care and medication. But, also know that there is another who will be there, one who will come alongside, hold you up, and carry you on those days when you can barely manage to move forward – our Lord. I know, because He’s been there for me, for us, through dark and difficult days, with a peace I can only describe as an overwhelming warm blanket of comfort… for “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7 NIV)
There’s an old song I like by Rich Mullins, “That Where I Am, There You May Also Be.” I especially appreciate the chorus, “In this world you will have trouble but I leave you my peace…” It’s based on John 16:33 where Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
As proofreader, my husband, Ed, commented, “It’s a feeling of complete and unexplainable tranquility knowing that nothing can shake you anymore, that God has your back whatever comes at you. It’s knowing that you have Jesus and that He died for you; and, when the end comes, that you’re going where He is and there will be peace forever with Him.”
It is this overwhelming peace that I have felt as our Lord wrapped His loving arms around me while in prayer, thanking Him for blessings through difficult days... in our daughter’s passing, in my husband’s blindness and extensive health issues, and so much more. Do I always remember to pray right away, to thank Him, and ask for His help and guidance? No, unfortunately, I don’t. Sometimes it’s later that I think, once again, why didn’t I go to God first? I know I need to ask Him to help change my heart just as much as I know He is there waiting for me to draw near to Him, telling me “I’ll be there…” Just like the words we say to a friend in need - I’ll be there… as we become Christ’s hands and feet for others.