This past week I had to be hospitalized as an unidentified virus was breaking down the muscles in my legs. It brought both severe pain, leaving me virtually unable to walk, and fear, as the unknown infection threatened to enter my bloodstream.
By God’s grace, the infection subsided and I have improved physically each day. In God’s grace, He was near to me and drew my heart to Him in my pain. Those days in the hospital bed were my most spiritually focused times in recent memory. C. S. Lewis was right: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains.” God was kind not only in seeing me through the pain but also in bringing me to it.
I’d like to share some of the spiritual truths I learned in my pain in hopes that you too will be encouraged in your suffering.
1. I am astoundingly weak, frail, and dependent.
Ugly thoughts and attitudes had crept into my mind. I was getting more opportunities to preach and teach and people were heaping praise upon my abilities. Our church had just finished our second year of growth and, again, I was receiving praise for it. And I loved every second of it.
But do you know how weak I am? How fragile? An unidentified, microscopic bunch of cells can enter my body and take away my ability to walk, leaving me in incapacitating pain. I had to have someone else preach for me that Sunday and had to cancel an engagement to teach in a local university while in the hospital. And God, in His grace, was shouting at me, “You are weak, dependent, frail, transitory, grass, a vapor, an evaporating mist. And it is good for you to know this.”
Paul boasted in his weakness because it was in his weakness that he came to know the full power of God. God loves us too much to let us be self-reliant.
2. God’s goodness is a rock in times of suffering.
Often when a person is suffering, well-meaning encouragers speak about God’s sovereignty. “God is in control. He knows every molecule of your body.” But in my suffering, these things brought me no comfort. God sovereignly allows tragedy on a daily basis, even amongst His children. His sovereignty is no guarantee of recovery.
What was sweet to my soul was knowing that God’s sovereignty is wedded to His goodness. Even if that infection had entered my blood stream, God would bring good through it. Even if I am confined to writhe in pain, God is doing something good in me, for me, through me that, were I to see it, I would sing joyfully for billions of years. And He is doing the same in your pain as well.
3. The highest earthly treasure that I possess is Beth, my wife.
Still yet more ugliness had become comfortable in my life. I would sometimes come home, after Beth had dealt with our four daughters all day, and retreat to the bathroom (the one place in our house where there is (usually) privacy) to read on my phone. I was robbing her of the relief my presence should afford. Other times she would talk to me while I was engaged in something else and I would half listen or demonstrate with my tone and demeanor that I wished not to be bothered. I was robbing her of the place of primacy she should hold in my attention and affections.
Yet in my pain, there was Beth: arranging things for the kids, getting things in order for Sunday, bringing food, and sitting with me for hours just so I wouldn’t be alone. Beth handled the situation with a grace, patience, and strength that melted my heart in love to her all over again.
I stop to pray now, as I finish this post, that God would speak to you in your pain. He has wonderful, glorious, heart-lifting truth to implant to you in your suffering. And may He receive all the glory in bringing us to and bringing us through every painful thing until we are safe in His heavenly kingdom.