I would like to share a truth the Lord gave me early on in my illness. It’s a truth that can seem difficult to understand because it deals with the mind and heart of God, but which can, when understood, transform our perspective of suffering. The verse the Lord gave me is Psalm 84:11,
“For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honour. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.”
No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly? I definitely had a big question mark there when I read that. At the time I felt like one thing after another was being taken away from me. I was in pain constantly and this was at times terrible. My body was becoming weaker and weaker and more and more fatigued. Doctors appointments and tests were becoming more and more frequent. It was getting increasingly harder to keep up with my busy life. I had to give up a lot of the ministries I was involved in and loved and had to say no to a lot of new opportunities that were offered me. I was soon spending days on end in bed and a lot of mornings I was too weak to get up. As far as I knew I was walking closely with the Lord. In fact, I had been seeing Him really work in my life and was excited about new opportunities that might be ahead for me. But what was this that had just come marching into my life to turn it upside down and inside out? How could THIS possibly be a good thing?
Well, outside of the Lord it’s not. Suffering and pain are terrible things. Perhaps there is one reading this who knows far more of what pain can do that I. My heart goes out to you. Take comfort, friend, in knowing that God is not the cause of suffering. No, suffering and pain are the result of sin. We feel them because
“… the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” Romans 8:22-23
Here also did I find much comfort – in knowing that suffering is only for a season. One day Christ will come and take His children home. Our weak, pain-filled bodies will be replaced with perfectly heavenly ones and we will dwell with Him in indescribable bliss for eternity.
No, suffering in itself is not good, but we have a God who is. My friend, there is a God who is bigger than the greatest amount of pain and suffering we could face on this earth, who suffered far, far more Himself, and who can redeem our suffering and use it for good in our lives.
At the time I could not see how this illness that was stalking me could possibly be for good. I could not see it for the longest time. Even now I can only see a tiny part. I am not through my illness yet. I cannot even see the end, but looking back over the last two and a half years I’ve been sick I can see some of how my faithful God is using it for good. Perhaps sometime I will share some of those things.
I love the story of Joseph in the Bible. Joseph had a very hard time of it. When he was only seventeen his brothers, who hated him, sold him to traders who took him to Egypt where he was sold as a slave. He worked hard and gained honour and a good reputation, but was falsely accused and thrown into prison. He was there for years and probably wondered if he’d ever get out. Illness can sure feel like a prison too.
You probably know the rest of the story, how there was a famine in the land and Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to buy food. By this time Joseph was second only to Pharaoh and in charge of distributing the food. The amazing thing is, that instead of being bitter at his brothers or God, he recognized God’s goodness in the midst of his pain. He said, in Genesis 50:20,
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
He recognized that what was meant for evil in his life, God had used for good as he trusted Him and remained faithful to Him.
Well, what about all the good things He is supposedly withholding from me? Here we must differentiate between good and best. There are many things that are good, however they may not be what is best for me in this season of my life. That is where I need to trust the perfect wisdom of my Father. He is not withholding anything that is good for me right now. The best thing He has given me is Himself and He is something that can never be taken away from me. I have been given the inestimable privilege of sitting at His feet and learning from Him, and of knowing Him, blessings that are of far greater value than anything on this earth.
Friend, know this, that if you are walking rightly with Him He will not withhold anything good from you. Yes, you may need to let Him redefine your definition of good because His ways are not our ways, not His thoughts our thoughts (Is 55:8-9). They are so far beyond ours, so much bigger, so much better. Get into His word to understand what His thoughts are. God is not so much concerned with our comfort as He is about our relationship with Him. His desire is for us to know Him intimately and often trials are His chosen means for doing that. He knows what we need. He knows what is best for us. He calls us to draw near to Him and to trust Him.
If you are struggling through long term illness or some other difficult struggle, take heart my friend. You are not alone. If you are His then He is the strength of your heart and your Portion forever (PS 73:26). I had to come to the place where I realised that He alone is better than good health, better than service for Him, better than human relationships, better than anything I could desire on this earth. Friends, we actually have it better!! (Ps 73:25) If perspective is a struggle for you, I encourage you to spend time in His presence and ask Him to open your eyes to see His perspective. You will find that your discouragement fades away and is replaced by His joy. 🙂
Know also in closing, that there is no path we walk that our Shepherd has not walked first (Jn 10:4), and there are many, many saints both past and present who are well acquainted with the path of suffering. You are not alone in this.
I want to share the concluding verse of Psalm 84 because it sums up what our heart attitude should be towards our wonderfully good God,
“O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!”
Amen. Let us give Him our wholehearted trust. He is worthy of it!
With love, ❤