I’ve shared over the last year how I was surprised by the trials that have reared their ugly heads and screamed at me. It didn’t take long for me to realize that life didn’t always unfold as it ought to unfold (in my mind). As a result, even though I had resolved myself to follow Jesus as tightly as I ever had… and even though I wrestled in prayer to the point of exhaustion… I was surprised by the pain I experienced down to the core of my being. Here are some snapshots of a few of the raw prayers that exploded from me during this last year:
- "Lord, where are you?"
- "Jesus, I’m here to serve you and do what you want, so how about some help here!"
- "God, it is not fair for my precious child to get sick like this!"
- "A trap is being set for me, God. Don’t let this happen!"
- "That’s it, God, I’m done. I don’t care anymore."
- "How many times do I have to ask for the same thing, God? Are you playing a game with me?"
- "Give me strength, my loving Spirit, I am at my end."
- "Catch my foot, God. I don’t know where my step will land."
- "This hurts, God. Do you hear me?"
Looking back, I am surprised by how much pain there was. I really
didn’t know my family was capable of facing so much
outer-and-inner-struggle. I’m proud of how well my family did through
all of it. We actually consider these last 12 months to have been sweet. Bittersweet. But sweet nonetheless. In the surprising season of pain, we found deep-rooted joy. In fact, we found Jesus in vast measure. We learned to hold his hand and squeeze it- even as his roughened callouses and horrific piercing enveloped ours. And as we learned to walk more with him, more like him, he warmed us to appreciate the pain.
Sounds crazy, I know. Even reading what I just wrote looks so strange to me. It challenges my logic. But it’s what so many others have discovered. It’s how CS. Lewis could write a heart-wrenching book about pain and title it "Surprised by Joy." It’s how the mystic monk John Tauler (c.1300-1361) could say:
Never can suffering, be it ever so small, befall you that God has not noticed from eternity, loved, and intended it; and so it comes to you. If your finger hurts or you have a headache, if your feet are cold, if you are hungry or thirsty, if someone saddens you by word or deed, or whatever might happen to cause you distress- all this molds you and serves to make you a noble and joyful person."
James 1:2 says: "Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow."
Thankfully, today, I’m praying differently. This last season of turmoil seems to have subsided. But another one will undoubtedly come again. I see so many friends and loved ones suffering right now- and I pray hard for them. It’s an awful awe-full prayer… but I pray for joy in the surprise of pain.