The day was grey and rainy. Perfect for staying in bed and shutting out the world. No way did I feel like running towards life with a big enthusiastic grin on my face, eager to take on all its challenges. Due to extensive pain, I could barely move. It was a time in which I would have appreciated all the sandpaper people in my life to leave town. Why didn’t God’s plan line up with mine?
MY GOD IS A STEAMROLLER
Isaiah 45:2b-3 describes some of God plans for me: I will go before you and make the rough places smooth; I will shatter the doors of bronze and cut through their iron bars. I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden wealth of secret places, so that you may know that it is I, The Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name. (NASB) My God is a steamroller smashing those things that cause me terror in the night. He is a Bulldozer with a plan, despite my pain.
I ARGUE WITH GOD
Yet, it is disconcerting when I look at the last part of this passage. Verse 9: What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?’ That’s my whole attitude in a nutshell. I argue with God when I don’t think that things are going my way. I accuse God of bad planning. I have forgotten Who He is.
WHY DOES GOD ASK ME TO PERSEVERE
I don’t want to go through seasons of darkness; those times when life seems filled with more than a soul can bear. Those periods when one’s faith (or lack thereof) is stripped to the core. Why does God ask me to persevere? It is His promise: I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden wealth of secret places, so that you may know that it is I, The Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name. There are untold riches that can only be uncovered by walking through the depths; through those seasons when we just don’t have any more strength, any more smiles, any more anything.
I TRULY GET TO KNOW WHO GOD IS
These difficult seasons are when I really get to know Who He is. When I come to the end of myself and stop pretending that I am strong, smart and resourceful. That is when I truly get to know God. The Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name. Wow – He knows my name and He calls me even though He knows how frail I am. The journey may not be pretty and the landscape may appear bleak, but I dearly want to know this amazing God, regardless of the pain and discomfort I will meet along the way. He really does have a plan. I guess it is worth getting out of bed after all.
A classic book that may lift your spirits: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=tramp+for+the+lord+corrie+ten+boom+book
A podcast that may open your eyes: https://compelledpodcast.com/episodes/todd-nettleton
My responsibilities were exploding on my calendar. How could I keep up?
When I entered this past September, I experienced great deal of panic that I couldn’t keep up with life or my schedule. I was still dragging from the pulmonary embolism. My responsibilities were exploding on my calendar. How could I keep up? I honestly looked at the month and quaked with fear. Facing my anxieties and handing all those commitments over to God, I entered the month. I expected to end the month alive…..but barely.
THE GOD MOMENTS
This morning, Sept. 30th, I was taking a tally of the number of God moments which happened during the month. I was honestly blown away. God was my Provider, Sustainer, Fortress, Savior, Father, Comforter, Strength-Giver, and Source of all wisdom (besides many other things).
I FELT LIKE I WAS PLAYING PING-PONG
One of my greatest concerns was that it was my month to I begin leading a new Writing With God session. Every Thursday evening we would meet for class. By the following Tuesday each participant was to send me their completed assignment. I would then write in possible edits and notes and send a return email. They often would send me a 2nd draft. I read that submission and emailed back more possible changes. And so it went. One eager participant loved to send me many drafts. I felt like I was playing ping-pong. It took a lot of thought, time, and grace to encourage and correct at the same time.
WHEN I FELT MY WEAKEST, GOD STOOD FIRM
God was there. Every moment. Each week. I was blown away at the gifting of the new participants and the growth in my regular students. Their stories made me laugh, cry, and rejoice in their honesty. What works of grace I was able to read and be part of. To be able to witness growth in others is always such a bonus. For me, the greatest miracle was that when I felt my weakest, God stood firm.
I AM HAPPY TO BE WEAK
I can bear witness to the testimony of the Apostle Paul. He was undergoing a severe health issue which he repeatedly asked God to heal. Paul wrote that in response to his prayers: He (God) answered me, “I am all you need. I give you My loving-favor. My power works best in weak people.” I am happy to be weak and have troubles so I can have Christ’s power in me. I receive joy when I am weak. I receive joy when people talk against me and make it hard for me and try to hurt me and make trouble for me. I receive joy when all these things come to me because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (II Corinthians 9-10)
I testify that for me this past September, I was weak, but God came out strong loud and clear.
This ordinarily would not be that big a thing, but I am on blood thinners for my pulmonary embolisms. Bleeding out internally is always a danger.
The series of unfortunate events began Friday. We found ourselves again in Urgent Care because Bill’s blood pressure was spiking for unknown reasons. Immediately I commenced sending out distress texts to my friends who know Jesus. They prayed. The hospital eventually released Bill. This time we got to drive home together, rather than the previous time when they kept him overnight for observation.
I AM ON BLOOD THINNERS
The next day was Saturday. We stopped at a roadside stand. Who would have known disaster could strike at Meck’s Produce? While I was looking around outside, Bill was already inside the building. As I went to enter the store, there was an older lady with a cane trying to exit. I stepped out of her way, clueless that directly behind me was a pallet of pumpkins (or large gourds). I tripped and fell headlong into the display. Did you know that the necks of pumpkins can be rock hard? One of them gave a direct hit to my ribcage. This ordinarily would not be that big a thing, but I am on blood thinners for my pulmonary embolisms. Bleeding out internally is always a danger.
WHAT TO DO?
The pain was intense and I hobbled into the store. Happy shopper Bill had missed my pumpkin collapse. He looked up and quickly got us into the car. I didn’t know whether to go to the ER or to go home. The pain was about a level 15 on the scale. What to do? I needed help. Immediately, I sent out more distress texts, especially since the next day I was scheduled to give a speech for the bride at a wedding reception.
I JUST HAD TO WHISPER “HELP!”
My friends were praying, but even more powerful is that the Holy Spirit was already praying for us. Romans 8: 26-27 has some wonderful things to say about these prayers: Now in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. I didn’t have to text the Holy Spirit. I just had to whisper: “Help!” He knew what to pray for even when I had no clue. He interceded for us.
THE ICING ON THE CAKE
Right now, Bill’s blood pressure is getting better. I am no longer in excruciating pain, consumed with fears of bleeding out. Best of all, today was the icing on the wedding cake – God gave me exactly the right words to speak at the reception.
HE KNEW HOW TO PRAY
I didn’t know how to pray. I cling to “for we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us.” Without even a text, He knew how to pray, even during a series of unfortunate events.
I shared with her briefly about the pulmonary embolism. Her eyes kind of glazed over and she changed the subject
Recently I was talking with someone I had not seen for quite a while. In the course of the conversation, she asked me how I was doing. I shared with her briefly about the pulmonary embolism. Her eyes kind of glazed over and she changed the subject.
WHY DOES PAIN FRIGHTEN PEOPLE?
Why does pain frighten people? Are they afraid of asking an awkward question? Are they fearful of not being able to come up with the right words? If the person is a believer, are they nervous regarding a God Who will permit a great deal of pain in another believer’s life?
THREE GROUPS OF PEOPLE
I have come across at least three groups of people. There are those who back away quickly from pain being experienced by others. Then there are those who are like the disciple Peter. When Peter witnessed the transfiguration of Christ, he kind of flew into a panic and decided to build little houses for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. That was kind of weird, but Peter thought he had to fill in air time and be busy. Then there are those who enter the pain of the other person and encourage. These are the warriors. They have chosen to obey Galatians 6: 2: Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.
YOU ARE NOT THAT IMPORTANT!
Don’t forget the zinger written in verse 3: If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. Do I consider my schedule so important that I can’t talk to someone who is in pain? Am I willing to go beyond my comfort level when I feel at a loss to help the other person feel whole? My God is big enough to handle my fears regarding situations filled with pain.
THE GOLDEN TICKET
For a believer entering into such conversations in which the other believer is in pain, we have the “Golden Ticket” from Jesus as promised in John 14: 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and remind you of all that I said to you. 27 Peace I leave you, My peace I give you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, nor fearful.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE AFRAID
If you truly are a believer in the words of Jesus Christ and consider them totally true, then you don’t have to be afraid of those awkward conversations. It isn’t just you and the other person. It is you, the other person, and the Holy Spirit. What a lovely set-up for what could be a life-changing encounter!