March 20, 2020
Author: Andrea Maher
There are so many people I know that are suffering under difficult conditions—from various forms of cancer and sickness, to wayward children, to untimely deaths. And for all those suffering in the in-between, let us remember that pain is pain is pain.
It’s very difficult to console that which feels inconsolable. I know because I’ve been there. I have sat perplexed in the sick room with a child, felt the desolation of viewing my son in a casket, and been emotionally derailed after my son egregiously took the life of an innocent man in a drunk driving accident. I have been to the Valley of Humiliation. I have felt the haughty stares of those in authority, as I regularly stood in a visiting line at a prison. There were more than a few times that I wondered if I could ever survive.
But I learned many things in the Valley of Despair and foremost is to not stay there too long less I get lost and can’t find my way out. For the Christian, when our sorrows are surrendered to the God whom we trust and believe, the broken road should eventually lead us to a fork in the road. It is there that we decide whether to follow the route to the High Places or stay buried in our languished circumstances.
An Old Seaman once said, ”In a fierce storm we must do one thing, put the ship in a certain position and keep her there until it passes.” For the believer that means that whatever cross- winds, waves, thunder or lightning is headed our way – we must hold fast to the confidence we have in a sovereign God.
There are no textbooks on how to suffer successfully, but there is the “Good Book” that can give us the spiritual footing we need to stand through our trials. And let’s face it, as women, it may take us a bit longer to overcome emotional traumas. Experiences become more readily embedded into our brains and it will only be through a constant “renewing of our minds” through the Word of God that we will come out on the other side—albeit bruised and scarred– but alive. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).
Joni Erikson Tada inspires as she writes, “Yes I pray pain be removed, that it would cease, but more so, I pray to bear it, the grace to benefit from it, and the devotion to offer it up to God as a sacrifice of praise.”
Pain can be either a bruising or a blessing. It depends on whether we bear it in our own strength and allow it to crush us, or we operate in God’s strength and allow it to serve as a platform to lift us up. We must always fall back on hope. Hope is not wishful thinking, but a spiritual confidence in God, that is not rooted in our circumstances, but rooted in Him.
I don’t think I ever heard God more clearly than when I was in the darkest places of my life. It is in the bereavement, loneliness, betrayal, and sickness that He speaks things in the night.
It is during those times that He allows our eyes to be temporarily blinded on this earth, so that we might behold heavenly things. He puts our ears on high alert in order to detect the undertones of His still small voice, which is often drowned out by the noise of this earth.
When we have survived our storms, we have an opportunity to call back to someone else who is in the eye of their storm. We can declare God’s purposes through it all. We can share the reliance we learned on God, the comfort we felt in the night, and the Hands that held us in precious arms.
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Andrea Maher is the former editor-in-chief of PARENT ABC’S a monthly magazine. Her writings have been featured in local newspapers and parenting publications nationwide. She is the author of SLAMMED: Overcoming Tragedy in the Wave of Grief, and had her book selected as FAITHBOX book of the month.
She is the executive director of the Be Still Foundation, a ministry that disseminates hope and encouragement to families in crisis. She has been married to her husband John for 43 years and has four children, and 8 grandchildren.