God Promises a Safe Landing,
Not a Calm Passage
Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
This earth is a wonderful place to be. God has provided breath-taking beauty and the opportunity to live an abundant life.
I often look in wonder when I see the Cascade Mountains from my home in Oregon. Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters, all still covered with snow, are all in view on clear days. Every time I see them, I think of the awesome power of God, and yet I also see His fine-tuning of our earth for us to enjoy.
He wants us to love our earth and to enjoy our days, but He does not promise us a rose garden. Sometimes we have to face trials and afflictions that put us on the edge of questioning God’s love.
Suffering and pain are everywhere is this world. Why would a loving God allow this? Are we doing something wrong? Are we being punished for some sin we’ve committed? After all, He allowed millions of His own chosen people to be put through torture and death during Hitler’s time. Why would He allow all that to happen?
Pain is no stranger to me. I have faced numerous times when pain and suffering tried to control my life. Let me briefly explain some of the pain God has allowed me to have:
- A double ruptured hamstring with internal bleeding causing pain down my entire left leg.
- Double mumps as a child so bad that at one point I could hardly breathe.
- Apnea, so I sleep with a mask that helps me sleep more deeply.
- An ulcer that kept me on baby food for a month.
- Pneumonia that had me down for long time.
- Both ankles badly sprained, severely damaging tendons.
- Hearing loss that requires hearing aids in both ears.
- Throat constriction so severe that I wear a medical alert bracelet to warn doctors about putting tubes down my throat.
- Neck surgery to relieve severe and constant pain in my right arm.
- Quadruple cardiac bypass surgery.
- Gall bladder surgery, prompted by severe abdominal pain.
- Back surgery because my spine had narrowed (stenosis) so badly that I had numbness down both legs, including my feet.
- Achilles tendon surgery.
- Skin cancer surgery.
- The embedding of a pacemaker to keep my heart beating properly.
- I had a kidney stone rip through last week.
- Three other minor surgeries.
Eighteen incisions—and counting. (Of course, that doesn’t include the unseen scars from my bouts of depression.) The bright side is that there aren’t too many places left to cut for surgery. (OK! I know there are many more places, but I am trying to trick the doctors who may read this.)
Pain comes knocking at my door, lets itself in and stays—sort of like relatives who say they’re just popping in for the weekend and end up staying for more than a month.
People have asked me how I have managed to stay positive during all the times of discomfort.
What they didn’t realize is that not all days have been positive. I have dealt with depression and my own doubt that God loved me during these times. I am like any other person on this earth. I understand the anxiety and depression that can set in during times of pain.
Even Paul had some hard times with trials. He talks about a “thorn in the flesh.” Perhaps it was some kind of physical ailment.
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me,
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
2 Corinthians 12:8–9
I have prayed many times for all the pain to go away, but I sense God saying, “Lean on Me and you will survive.”
Another version of the Bible words the above passage, “My power works best in your weakness.” God uses those who are afflicted to help others who are in similar situations. We can relate to their pain and suffering if we have gone through it. And because of that, they will listen.
Another person may try to help, but they do not know the pain. They do not know how depressed a person gets during a time like this.
I can truthfully say to them, “I’ve been there and done that.” What a blessing that is. They’re more willing to talk freely and share their deepest feelings, and I can help them by sharing what God has done for me during similar times.
Once I tried to help a friend who was working through issues I had never faced—nothing even close. His response was that I had no idea what he was going through and to back off. He was right. All I can really do for him is continue to pray for him and be there when he wants to talk. And keep my big mouth shut until then.
The all-time winner for having pain—both physical and mental—has to be Job. He had 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 1,000 oxen, 500 donkeys and many servants to take care of them. In one day:
- 1. all of his oxen and donkeys were stolen and all but one of his servants caring for the animals were killed
- 2. his sheep and all but one of the servants herding them were destroyed by fire
- 3. all his camels were stolen and all but one of the servants tending them were killed by the marauders
“Enough,” we would say. But then a messenger came to tell him that all ten of his children had died when the house they were in collapsed in a windstorm.
Most of us would be yelling at God and wondering why He allowed all of this to happen. But in all of what had happened to Job “did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing” (Job 1:22).
This infuriated Satan, so he asked God for permission to test Job further by afflicting him physically with “painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head” (Job 2:7). The litany of my pain that I shared in this chapter doesn’t begin to compare to what Job went through.
Even though his wife suggested he simply curse God and die, Job responded with a question: “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2: 10).
Job went through some depressing times, and even questioned God as most of us would do under similar circumstances. But in the end he never turned away from God. Because of this God gave him back much more than he had before, including children.
The key to all of this is what Job said: “Shall we receive only pleasant things from the hand of God, and never anything unpleasant?”
God is powerful. He could destroy everything in an instant. We expect Him to always protect us from harm and hardships. In the case of Job, God allowed him to be tested, and Job became even stronger in the end.
God allows us to be tested. We should look at pain, suffering and hardships as God’s way to make us stronger, like Job. Through trials, we learn to rely more on God. We sometimes move Him out of our thinking process when everything is going smoothly. So He may use pain to get our attention back on Him.
Many of those who survived concentration camps have said their faith in God became even stronger while they were going through the torture. They had only God to cling to. That was the only way they had been able to stay strong from day to day.
Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
“Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.”
– M. Kathleen Casey
Praise God under the worst situation you are going through, and He will bless you far more than you could ever imagine. Try it and see how He puts His arms around you and holds you through the storm.
Something to ponder
Isn’t it funny how God is always there no matter what you’re going through?
* Excerpt from: Signs of Hope: Ways to Survive in an Unfriendly World.