How Long, O Lord?
I have a friend, a dear "mom" in the faith to me, who suffers from chronic pain. Though some days are better than others, she lives with a baseline of palpable discomfort. And while the empowering grace on her life to persevere in joyful faith is a powerful testimony to many, compassion in me often prompts the lament of the Psalmist, "How long, O Lord?"
Recently, my prayers for her have been shaped by I Peter 5:10, "And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you" [NRSV]. The Passion Translation of that verse beautifully highlights the fact that God himself will attentively nurture those who suffer both "personally and powerfully."
As I lingered over that Scripture, a question bubbled to the surface of my mind. "Just how long is 'a little while?'" For one who is usually healthy, a "suffered for a little while" experience may seem like a mild inconvenience. But for those for whom pain has become a long-time companion, I can't imagine just how distant the phrase "after... a little while" must feel.
Continuing to reflect, I thought about the courageous woman who approached Jesus in Luke chapter 8. Imagine the endless litany of doctor visits, awkward conversations, exams, procedures, and bills... with no results for an entire year... and then another... and then another 10 on top of that. How could you not be emotionally and physically spent after suffering chronically for 12 years?
"And what about the woman in Luke 13 who was doubled over for 18 years," I wondered. "How can you breathe when your face is caked with the dust stirred up by the feet of those scurrying around you?"
As compassion percolated in my heart, I thought about the man in John 5, crippled for 38 years. How do you endure the pummeling discouragement of healing always being just out of your reach, but not out of your sight as you witness others experiencing the very thing you long for?
And yet, in the face of these mounting questions, a joyful truth displaced an undercurrent of despair. The restoring, supporting, strengthening, and establishing presence of Jesus Christ stepped into each life! And in God's omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent grace, these who suffered knew that they "had not escaped notice" [Luke 8:47 NASB].
Beloved, hear the good news afresh. "The God of all grace" can, indeed, heal 12-years of relentless illness, redeem 18 years of twisted brokenness, and break 38 years of crippling addiction. And this, I believe, is true not just for individuals, but also for local churches. This God of all grace can settle a 12-year conflict, untangle 18 years of dysfunction, and awaken 38 years of drowsiness.
Perhaps as you are reading this, you're in a season of long-suffering. The Psalmist said, "This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life" [119:50 ESV]. Hear God's promise today. "When you're in over your head, drowning in physical pain, I'll be there with you. When you're in rough waters, navigating the well-intentioned, partially-sighted-yet-confidently-expressed opinions of those around you, you will not go down. When you're between a rock and a hard place of conflicting medical diagnoses, it won't be a dead end - because I am God, your personal God, the Holy of Israel, your Savior" [Isaiah 43:1-3 MSG].
Take a moment now and allow the Lifter of your head to gently raise your gaze toward His. Hear Tender Mercy speak, "Do not yield to fear, for I am always near. Never turn your gaze from me, for I am your faithful God. I will infuse you with my strength and help you in every situation. I will hold you firmly with my victorious right hand" [Isaiah 41:10 TPT]. Exhale and selah. (Go ahead... pause and calmly think of that). Now inhale and receive God's sustaining, empowering, and transforming grace that supplies "strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow" [Thomas Chisolm].
Precious one, as you journey through the unmeasured time of "a little while," know that you are seen, you are known, and you are loved. "The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms" [Deuteronomy 33:27 ESV].
And if I may, let me add this final word of hope. Should your "After you have suffered a little while" come on Heaven's side of eternity, you can rest in the assurance that there will indeed come a time when "God will wipe away all tears from their eyes. And there will be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; neither will there be any more pain" [Revelation 21:4 NMB]. Amen. Thanks be to God.
And now, in the meantime, Beloved. "May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace in your faith, that by the power of the Holy Spirit, your whole life and outlook may be radiant with hope" [Romans 15:13 ESV]. Shine on, Beloved. Amen.
Sometimes when we "selah" and process the things that God is showing is, it helps to have music to displace the distracting noises of the world. This Youtube resource has been helpful in my own journey. You might also enjoy my instrumental project designed just for this purpose called Lakeside. Here's a sample entitled Serenity.
If this blog has been meaningful to you, I invite you to do two things. Subscribe to the blog. You will be one of the first to receive a heads-up via email when a new entry is posted! Then, I invite you to share this blog with your sphere of friends. You never know how God might sustain the weary through a simple word of encouragement!
Cover image credit: https://instagram.com/jdylanw20/