Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Dazzling Glory

Orange and pink sunrise with treetops and fence link silhouetted along the bottom

Are you suffering? Are you weary under a heavy burden of trial upon trial and struggling to hope that it will get better? Does your pain feel pointless?

I have been hearing from many, many beautiful people with chronic illness and disability (or household members with health struggles) who are feeling worn out and discarded by society in the mad rush to return to 2019 normal. Our normal didn’t look like everyone else’s before the pandemic, and other people’s normal is leaving us behind and isolating us in the 2022 phase of the pandemic. I am reading comments like, “This is so hard. I feel like I’m the only one. Is anyone else still ________? I don’t know how much longer I can keep on like this.” Maybe you aren’t in that group but are feeling those same things about whatever your current heartaches are.

Beloved crumble, I’m so sorry you’re hurting. I feel your weariness and the heavy brokenness of our groaning world. I can’t give assurances that it will get better soon or even that it won’t get worse.

However, I can offer you this:
  • Your pain has purpose in God’s hands. God’s glory and your future rewards are at stake. “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16‭-‬18, ESV).
  • You are never, never, never alone or abandoned in your pain. Jesus promised never to leave us or forsake us. He promised to be with us always, even to the end of the age. The Lord God Almighty tells His people of all generations, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah‬ ‭41:10‬ ‭CSB).‬‬
  • Your pain does not and cannot repel Him or turn Him away. Not even your ugliest ugly cry. “The Lord is near the brokenhearted; he saves those crushed in spirit” (‭‭Psalms‬ ‭34:18,‬ ‭CSB).
  • I don’t know exactly what you’re going through, but Jesus does. “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering who knew what sickness was. He was like someone people turned away from; he was despised, and we didn’t value him. Yet he himself bore our sicknesses, and he carried our pains; but we in turn regarded him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted” (‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭53:3-4,‬ ‭CSB).‬‬
  • Your pain will not last forever, and in the end it will be worth it. We can hope now because of the promise of good beyond imagining then. “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12, ESV).
You may have some idea of what specific purpose God is accomplishing in your life in this hard time, but most likely you don’t. Some of His particular reasons for your particular trial may unfold in this life, and some we may never understand, even in glory. We can pray things like, “Lord, I don’t understand. This hurts. It doesn’t look like it makes sense. But You are on the throne and rule every aspect of my life, even this hard, hard thing. I don’t understand, but I trust You. Keep me trusting You, Lord. Hold me fast.”

In the recent conference held by Revive Our Hearts in Indianapolis and online, the inimitable Joni gave a moving talk that included a story of a desperate night when she needed help and no one came or seemed to be able to hear her. For hours in the darkness she shouted out, with all her strength, every promise she could think of, until finally help arrived. That was a very small-scale illustration of how she relates to God in the very large-scale sufferings of paralysis, chronic pain, and cancer. In sufferings big or small, His promises sustain her soul. Her whole talk was beautiful and helpful for our painful seasons, but I will offer one thought for your encouragement:

"Suffering really does raise the stakes on God's glory, because the harder it is to trust God in great pain or affliction, the more glory you give him when you appropriate his promises. All of heaven and hell are aware that when you are hurting bad, it is no small matter to believe God's Word. But oh, does it raise the wattage on his glory! It makes his glory absolutely dazzle and shine when you live on his promises."

~Joni Eareckson Tada, True Woman '22

If you don’t yet know the Lord, the first promise to run to is John 3:16 or one of the many other offers of salvation to those who trust in Jesus:

“For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
‭‭John‬ ‭3:16‬ ‭CSB‬‬

If you do know Him, ransack His Word for as many promises as you need to make it through today. Just today. Then do it again tomorrow. Ask Him to bring them to mind as you need them. Hide them away in your heart. Post them on the cabinets, mirrors, doorposts of your house. Put them on your phone’s lockscreen and computer lid. Keep pointing your soul back to Him and encouraging your soul in the Lord.

Also, there is no sin or shame in asking for help from a friend, a pastor, a counselor, a physician, a mentor. Asking for help is actually a very brave way to hold onto hope. And if you are in any way considering self-harm, please, please, please call your region’s suicide hotline or mental health help line. In the US, you can call 988 or 1-800-273-8255. In the UK, you may call 0800 689 5652. In Canada, call 1.833.456.4566.

Your life matters. You are precious to God. Your suffering matters. Your pain has a purpose and will not go to waste. Courage, dear hearts.

(Archived recording of Joni's full talk is available at truewoman22.com. Revive Our Hearts ministry is also leading a free Cry Out Prayer Challenge starting October 2. Visit https://truewoman22.com/cry-out/ to register.) 

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Thank you for sharing your day with me! Your presence here is a gift. *You* are a gift. Right now I am unable to reply to every comment, but please know I read and pray for each and every commenter. Grace and peace to you in Christ.