“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8 (NIV)
These verses hit me in an unexpected way last week. As I heard that word “witness,” I found myself responding with a grumpy, “Witness? What do I witness to except to pain?”
Have you realized that no question is off limits with our Lord?
Just then a rustling in the bushes not 5 feet away from me caused me to look up. The first red finch of the season sat perched on the top of a plant, and he drank the early morning dew from the tips of the leaves. The hardness of the moment before melted with the tears that streamed down my cheeks. I heard another rustling. This stirring was in my heart, as the Lord whispered:
Yes, my daughter you are a witness to the pain. But you are a witness to the Beauty of Love from within the place of pain. And I will be glorified there.
A few weeks ago, one of my friends remarked that she could see a difference in the way that I approached suffering. She asked me if I would be willing to write some thoughts telling where my view of suffering now lands.
Where can I begin?
When pain swallows my nights
How can I then sing?
What shall I speak?
If I must open my mouth
Would only pain leak?
From the time I first asked Jesus to cleanse away my sin, I rejoiced that He had given me a clean heart. I knew that it was not of me to be clean, but only His gift to me. I rejoiced as I pictured the living water flowing over me and washing all the ugly sins away.
But when chronic illness caught up with me, the body that held my heart suddenly became ugly to me. What had once been a beautiful offering–to give Him my heart–had become muddied by an ugly covering. Instead of seeing Jesus as my covering, I allowed myself to get stuck in the outward trappings of my illness and pain.
When pain shouts
When grief screams
When lament falls
Where will a way be found?
Ahh, in the very place of lamenting He gave His voice to me, and He transformed my view of suffering. It wasn’t that the pain lifted. No, it often seemed to get worse. It wasn’t that I suddenly had a message of cure waiting for me. No, there was no cure in sight.
Except for the SURE and FULL cure that He offered in Himself:
For now my place is in him, and I am not dependent upon any of the self-achieved righteousness of the Law. God has given me that genuine righteousness which comes from faith in Christ. How changed are my ambitions! Now I long to know Christ and the power shown by his resurrection: now I long to share his sufferings, even to die as he died, so that I may perhaps attain as he did, the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:10-11 (Phillips)
It is in the embracing of suffering that we are allowed a share in the fellowship of what Jesus bore for us. We are covered, and our most broken parts themselves are fully held by our Lord who tasted every drop of every suffering that every person could ever bear.
So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. Hebrews 4:14-16 (NLT)
One of the first hymns that I remember being able to read by myself, is one that has stuck with me through decades of changes. And yet, the truth of the words have remained unchanging: HE is the one who still leads me.
Who will see the face I know?
If I stay silent when darkness falls
Who can find His beauty’s flow?
I will spend the rest of my days
being a witness to the beauty He brings
in the darkest of days.
In the deepest suffering
He carries me closer
than I could have dreamed.
Over this past month, I had the honor of being part of a book launch for a beautiful book, “Loving Your Friend Through Cancer,” by Marissa Henley. If you have a friend or family member who is walking through the scary days of a cancer diagnosis, I highly recommend this book. Marissa herself is a cancer survivor, and she shares from her own experience the ways that God brought friends and supporters to walk with and to encourage her along the way.
From practical helps to intimate spiritual thoughts, Marissa has written a book that gets to the heart of the matter for anyone who longs to bless their friends who are walking a dark path. From the point of view of someone who lives with a daily chronic illness, I could identify with much of the wisdom that she shared. I pray that the Lord will bless the launch of this great book. “I received a free copy of the book from the publisher, and this review is my honest opinion.” You can find it at Amazon by clicking here.
Are you, or someone you care about, facing a pathway filled with pain? Will you join with me in prayer today?
“Dear Lord Jesus,
We come before You now with many questions raging through our souls. We confess that suffering has brought us to our knees in weakness. Will You open our hearts to find the place where You dwell with us, in the midst of our pain? And will You help us to lay that pain before You as an offering of worship? We long to see the beauty of what Your suffering has accomplished for us. And in that beauty we are stirred here to open our mouths in praise. Even that praise is a gift from You! Thank You for the gift of Your Presence in our lives. Thank You for the strength that only You can fulfill–You are the Joy of our hearts.
In Your precious name we pray,
“Being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.” Colossians 1:11-12 (NIV)
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