Giving up my rights, it seems
Denying my desires and dreams
Is what the Lord requires of me
Dying to all hidden pride
And self-delight that seeks to hide
In secret places deep inside
Holding nothing as my own
Empty, I approach His throne
All confidence in self is gone
See the white flag lifted high
My surrender signified
Let all of self be crucified
Until it is not I, but Christ.
I woke up this morning with a heavy heart. I was glad it was Sunday, happy to be able to go to church. I cried through most of the early morning prayer service, and a few times in Sunday school. I knew that I desperately needed to hear from God, and He did not disappoint.
When my pastor got up to speak, his text was 2 Corinthians 1:3 – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.” I was able to receive a more God honoring perspective of my suffering and was greatly encouraged. During the altar time after the message, we sang a song with a simple yet powerful message. I’m sure you know it:
Jesus loves me, this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to Him belong
They are weak but He is strong
Yes Jesus loves me
Yes Jesus loves me
Yes Jesus loves me
The Bible tells me so
God is faithful and I have been sweetly comforted.
There are times when life becomes painful, seemingly beyond what you can bear. Circumstances beyond your control insinuate themselves into your life and as your mind is reeling over your inability to fix things and your heart is churning with emotions that threaten to overwhelm, you wonder how you will make it through this.
This is a description of my life today.
I don’t think I have ever felt myself to be in such a helpless position as I am right now. At times I have felt like all I can do it sit and stare at the wall. Incapable of acting, incapable of thinking and often incapable of praying. Sometimes there just aren’t words.
The tendency of my personality is to get lost in my own thoughts, a futile replaying of events, which always leads to despair. I have felt myself drifting that way and I know I cannot go there. I must be able to pray. I must be able to get the ear of God. But how? How can I reach so high when I am so low? So weak? So helpless?
“Though the Lord is on high, yet He regards the lowly” Psalm 138:6
“The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart” Psalm 34:18
“Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy.” Psalm 33:18
What a comfort this is to me! What a source of hope! I may be helpless, but I am not hopeless. My God has not promised to make everything in my life the way I would like it to be, but He has promised that throughout the duration of it, He will be with Me.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
Right now I am utterly and completely weak. But He is always infinitely and eternally strong. This is truth that brings rest to a weary soul.
“But the salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; He is their strength in the time of trouble. And the Lord shall help them and deliver them; He shall deliver them from the wicked and save them, because they trust in Him.” Psalm 37:39-40
The pain remains great, but His word brings hope that it will not always be like this.
Several years ago during a very difficult time in my life a friend shared this story with me:
When French impressionist painter Auguste Renoir was confined to his home during the last decade of his life, Henri Matisse was nearly 28 years younger than him. The two great artists were dear friends and frequent companions. Matisse visited him daily. Renoir, almost paralyzed by arthritis, continued to paint in spite of his infirmities. One day as Matisse watched the elder painter work in his studio, fighting torturous pain with each brush stroke, he blurted out: “Auguste, why do you continue to paint when you are in such agony?”
Renoir said: “The pain passes but the beauty remains.”
Those words touched my heart in a profound way as I realized that my pain, in the hands of my God, was producing a beautiful brokenness. I have never viewed suffering in the same light since then.
“The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit.” Psalm 34:18
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart – these O God, you will not despise.” Psalm 51:17
If brokenness brings the nearness of God, why do we fight against it so much? This pain is not a master sent to rule over us, but our servant, sent to work in us that wonderful work of conforming us to Christ.
How insignificant our pain will be when we see it as the hand of the Potter, gently sculpting, meticulously crafting a vessel of honor fit for the Master’s use. Those scarred and broken places in my soul, they are covered with His fingerprints.
The pain passes, but the beauty remains.
Life involves pain. No matter how much faith you have, or how deep your love for and trust in God, you will experience pain. Some pain is minor and easily forgotten. But there is other pain that is so deep that you carry the ache of it with you in your heart. During the busy events of the day it isn’t always at the forefront of your mind, but as soon as there is a moment of quiet, the ache returns. Seasons of deep pain bring us to a crossroads in this life of faith. Will we turn from Christ and seek solace elsewhere, or will we throw ourselves upon Him in greater dependency, knowing that our only hope is in Him?
I am in one of those seasons of pain. Life has taken an unexpectedly difficult turn and may yet become more difficult before it gets better. I carry the pain of it with me and tears are a frequent occurrence. I am anxious for a change in circumstances that will alleviate this pain.
But in the midst of this pain, does God have a work He desires to do in me? Absolutely. And God has mercifully allowed me to see some of the beautiful fruit of it. I would choose fruit without pain. But God knows that the sweetest and most enduring fruit is that which is born through tribulation. His wisdom is beyond my understanding.
But as for me, I have made my choice.
“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.” Psalm 121:1-8