As I read a Seedbed devotional this morning, it led me to some memories from this past week from a conversation regarding suffering in my Bible study.
Someone this week asked me what I’m saying to God in the midst of my suffering. She actually said, “I hear words coming out of your mouth, but I don’t understand them.” I sat there stunned by her words, that in any other circumstance, coming from any other mouth, would evoke a knee-jerk sense of defensiveness in me. But this wonderful, prophetic lady stopped me in my writer-brain tracks as I used big words like “grief”, “lament,” “juxtaposition,” and “in tandem” to simply say that I was suffering, weary, and lonely.
She wanted my heart, not my intellectual writer-style wording. And my heart needed to be heard. Yes, I am isolated by COVID as an extremely vulnerable member of society, I am suffering alone, and I am weary.
“What do you seek from the Lord regarding your healing?” was her real question in light of my admission to a group of women from the church in which I am the pastor’s wife. How honest can a pastor’s wife be? As honest as possible. Vulnerability is key, and sweet Klinell invited me into a space of authenticity.
With five (I’m leaving some of them out) invisible illnesses piled upon one another, my suffering is still great despite the smiling “healthy looking” pictures. That doesn’t negate the victories, but is simply the reality of my life: suffering and joy. (The joy is real, and so is the reality of my chronic illness.) And I often feel the burden to wrap my complaints up in a pretty package of unnatural rose-colored wrapping paper of pretty words.
I thought for a moment after this compassionate soul asked me what I am saying to God in the midst of my suffering, loneliness, and exhaustion, and I landed on Jesus’ prayer in the garden before His crucifixion (not comparing myself to Jesus, just trying to live my life in His light).
The night that drops of blood poured like sweat from His brow, He declared, “Father, if it is possible, remove this cup from me (I would love it if there were another way to save the world), but nevertheless, not my will, but yours.” (This is my paraphrase of Matthew 26:39).
I answered her question with this picture from the garden. This is my stance every morning. “Today would be a great day to be totally healed, but I surrender my body, mind, and spirit to you, Daddy. I am Yours.” Or as Melissa Helser, a dynamic speaker and worship leader with painful chronic illness claims in her story, “Every day I wake up with the question to God: ‘Is today the day you will heal me? I’m ready!” But she continues worshipping, faithful obedience, and experiencing the miracle of climbing the steps of the stage, pouring out her heart in word and song, leading while still thick with physical pain and suffering.
Some would say that I’m not “claiming my healing.” Some on the other side would say that I’m living in a dream world. But this is my best understanding of total surrender to the One who has so beautifully carried me through every single day of suffering, every single walk through the valley of the shadow, and every moment I thought I could not go on another moment in a painfully broken body. The miracles are many, though they may look different than we expect.
This is surrender, not resignation.
It is surrender, not ignorant optimism.
It is the path I choose because as far as I can understand at this point, it seems to be the path that my Lord took during His days on this earth; And my goal is to walk in the footsteps of my Savior.
We don’t have to fear suffering.
*I’m not saying that Jesus’s mission and my mission are the same. He’s the savior of the world. His cup was the heaviest cup ever. What He carried in the garden no human ever has to carry again. I just want to walk like He did while on earth.