Someone recently asked me, “What’s the hardest thing for you right now?”
It didn’t take me long to answer.
“The choice I make every day to wake up and live.”
There is a deep loneliness in suffering. Whether it’s a terminal disease, a chronic illness, the loss of a child, or the irreparable severing of a relationship, suffering brings with it an otherness. Perhaps that is both the burden and the gift. For in this lonely place we learn how to keep company with others who find themselves there.
It’s easy to assume that life comes back once the crisis is past. But life never comes back. New life can grow, and I see evidence of that fact. But new life can grow only as it is watered by grief’s tears.
I’m going to tell you something, and you won’t like it any more than I do. But we both need to hear it.
God’s presence is where the pain is.
He’s in the losses and diseases and questions. He’s in the plans that fail and relationships that refuse to heal. He is with you when you hurt and cry and pout and walk away. And if you and I want to be with Him, we need to stop raging long enough to hear Him whisper into the wound we so desperately want Him to heal.
Recently I read an article by pastor John Piper that spoke healing and hope to my empty heart:
“God is glorified in worship not only by those who come full, but also by those who come desperately needy and pinning all their hopes on meeting God. The same heart of worship that says, ‘Thank you,’ and, ‘Praise you,’ when full also says, ‘I need you, I long for you, I thirst for you,’ when empty. It is the same savoring, the same treasuring.”
There are days when God seems hard to find. I weary of the search and want to collapse beneath a bush and dream of heaven. On these hard, hard days, I can’t always feel Him. Pain, on the other hand, is impossible to miss. It’s as close as my neighborhood or the nine o’clock news. As close as my own throat every time I swallow.
In those moments, I want a God who shows up in earthquakes, wind, and fire. I want a God of fireworks in the sky and visions of Jesus on my toast. I want the sensational and spectacular, some- thing bigger and more powerful than all the pain.
And yet I suspect God knows better than to give me such experiences. We have a way of worshiping things that never last. And the one who holds this crazy world in His hands knows we need far more than a fifteen-minute light show to get through the hard reality of everyday life.
We need a person … A person who holds us even when we can’t see Him.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” Jesus says (Matt. 11:28).
Life is more than we can handle. And although some days you and I can do little more than collapse onto the floor, there is one who whispers in our ears. He’s not always showy, but He’s always rock solid. I sink into Him, stop the running and rocking. I decide to hide myself in this cleft in the rock, right here, in the middle of the storm.
Look at My face, He says. I’m not afraid. You’re going to be okay.
And the last thing I think as my soul slides off into peace is that, perhaps, this is why He allowed me a life that is far more than I can handle.
That way I’d know—and finally believe—He can handle every bit of it.
But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me. —Psalm 13:5-6
This is beautiful, Michele. Thank you for sharing your heart with us. My word for 2019 has been TRUST … and it has served me well! My daily mantra has been — Jesus I trust in You! You are my Savior! This has been a difficult year for my family: ongoing chronic illness and disability, major surgery, the rising tide of mental illness … so many hardships and afflictions and yet — Trust! Trust in the Lord for He is good. His love will never fail.
I love this, Penelope. Trust is a good word … and one I needed reminders of on a regular basis. Thank you for sharing part of your journey with us!
I love this Michele. I found out yesterday that very close family member (with whom I communicate weekly) had no idea that I spent two years of my life in bed and three years unable to walk or see. When others are not there to witness your suffering, they have a hard time “seeing” it. Your words on the feeling of “otherness” hit home. I know that although we feel this, we also understand it. I’m so thankful to have found other “others,” like you. Have a very blessed week and Christmas season, my friend!
Oh my gosh, I so get this, Linda. I was just with some very close friends last week. I happened to mention that I was having a hard time with pain management right now. One of them said, “Pain? What pain?” And it, again, hit me hard that there is a gap between my reality and others’ perception. Most assume that since I’m moving forward, the suffering and challenges have ended. They have no concept of my reality. I know it could be much worse, and for that I’m thankful. But that “otherness” can sometimes be challenge in and of itself.
I am so appreciative of your new book and these weekly Advent emails. Only 8 weeks ago my granddaughter finished 2 years of chemo and the tumor is growing again. How much can a child endure? She has been in treatment since age 4. She is 10 now. My heart breaks. I keeping praying that she has stability and can live without this tumor growing.
This is just what I needed to hear. Thank you, Michele. ❤️ I’m so sorry for the pain you suffer, and wish you a good day with all my heart.
I’m so glad it encouraged you, Susan. Merry Christmas!
Hello, I’ve subscribed to Michele’s blogs and I must have an account since I’ve purchased before gifts and books for myself and others. I’m trying to purchase 6 of the gift packs and am having a hard time logging in. I’ve tried to reset my password; I’ve used both my emails, I’ve tried to checkout as a guest. Nothing is working!!
Please help or advise!
Thank you, Keri Jacobs
whoops, I think I’ve used the wrong part of the site to submit the above customer service type comment!!! I love Michele’s books and blogs! You don’t have to publish this or the one I just submitted. I really need help ordering and can’t figure out where to submit a request like that. Thank you.
Hi there, Keri! So sorry you’re having trouble with the store. Shoot me an email at michele(at)michelecushatt(dot)com and we’ll get you taken care of ASAP. Thanks!
It’s obvious to me when I read this that you have been comforted by God. I too, have had to lean into God with all my weight. And while our pain may differ, the one who comforts remains the same. I also believe that God allows more than we can handle in our lives. But as you said, it’s so we lean on Him. So we see that no matter what we go through, He is there with His outstretched hand, offering us his incomprehensible comfort. Sometimes when I hurt God gives me poetry. I find in pain, I see Him the clearest. Maybe because he promises to be near the broken hearted. And He has been with me through each and every loss I’ve sustained. He’s been right here.