A little over two years ago we returned home.
November 21, 2014, I shuffled out the hospital sliding doors, wearing the same black Birkenstocks that I had worn when I was admitted into Toronto General hospital almost three months prior. The final heat waves of the summer had long faded, the crisp golden days of autumn had blown away like the fallen leaves, and we drove home to a world blanketed with snow that had descended upon us layer upon layer like a cold, thickening darkness. Winter storms hit early that season.
We were ecstatic to all be together once again. We hugged each other tightly as tears welled from deep inside and flowed like a river without a dam. We tripped over the 50 feet of oxygen hose that trailed behind me; the reality of the frailty of life ever before us. There were tears. Tears of rejoicing, yes! There were also tears of uncertainty, frustration, distress, turmoil, and anguish.
The strain of scarcely making it through high-risk open-heart surgery, living 80 crazy days in cardiovascular ICU, setback after setback, being separated as a family had left me cast down. Wave upon relentless wave had battered us. There was still so much hard yet to come.
We took one slow step at a time. There is no doubt that dark, uncertain days and hard and heart-breaking circumstances will come.
But, we must not lose heart. The way forward is to: Trust in the Lord.
There is hope for our hearts in the midst of hard days.
Yet, how do we deal with adversity and distress, pain and suffering? How is it possible to flourish like a tree planted by water when faced days of drought?
The apostle Paul desired to know Christ, and that he might “know him and the power of his resurrection, and [that he] may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,” (Phil 3:10)
It is through suffering that Paul could say in Romans 8: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us . . . we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son . . .”
The good that God is working out all things for those whom he has called and that love Him is that we will be conformed to the image of His Son.
Suffering, we see is a gift as it conforms us into the image of Christ “being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory”. (2 Cor 3:18)
So, how do we handle the adversity and distress that does come into our life without becoming despondent? How do we yield to this working out through suffering?
Oh, there were days, I cried out to God in my distress and all I seemed to hear was an echoing silence. But I firmly believed that God was with me and had me in that place. He was continuing to teach me to be content in all circumstances. I trusted.
In those days, something I had read years before would soothe my weary and worn soul.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones was a medical doctor, yet traded His medical bag in the late 1920’s for the privilege of preaching the message of the Bible. His wise counsel as he preached from Psalm 42, to those who were wading in dark waters was this:
“I say we must talk to ourselves instead of allowing ‘ourselves’ to talk to us. Do you know what that means? . . . Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?” . . . “You have to take yourself in hand, address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say ‘Why art thou cast down?” . . . “You must turn on yourself . . . condemn yourself, exhort yourself and say to yourself ‘Put your hope in God!’ . . . And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, What God is and What God has done and What God has pledged Himself to do. Then, having done that, end on this great note – defy yourself and defy other people and defy the devil and the whole world and say with this man, ‘I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.'”
Do you speak truth to your soul? Do you trust in the steadfast love of God? Do you treasure Him above all?
The father of lies would have us believe we cannot endure, but we must trust in the Lord and His faithful promises and throw them against the despondency.
It is a fight of faith and in enduring we grow in Christ and we become conformed into His likeness to the praise of His glory.
When we endure difficult circumstances and preach to our souls the goodness of God, His Gospel, His glory, we will rejoice in suffering and give thanks to God in all things.
When the storms come, we are held by his steadfast love and anchored and secure in His faithfulness.
As we look away from our troubles and unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, we see Him and our hearts adore the One who suffered the greatest agony and is worthy the greatest glory.
And we find that our hearts are home, right in the hollow of his hand.