I love writing devotions. It gives me a chance to share with you the things I have been pondering with God.
They are never written with the intention of having all the answers. Instead, I come with some thoughts and suggestions to inspire you to go and chat with Jesus yourself.
Sometimes it’s important to be vulnerable and share stuff that’s a little more personal. Today is one of those times.
You see, as I sit at my laptop — poised to write — I find myself drawing a blank.
I live with daily chronic pain and tiredness which at times flare up into severe fatigue and widespread pain. Today is one of those days.
A handful of diagnoses and ongoing investigations suggest that the issues I have are not problems medical professionals can solve but tensions I must learn to manage. This week, the reality of that, alongside my experience of our fractured NHS, has overwhelmed me as I navigate my commitments and disappointments.
Finding reasons to smile
Most of the time, I count my blessings and live on the bright side of life. Despite the challenges, I find many reasons to smile.
Incredibly, I have been able to raise a family, serve with MAF, train for ministry and plant a church. I am a worshipper through and through and often praise God in song and deed. The ongoing graces of God are the tangible wings on which I travel.
But, as I read the Scriptures, I notice that God’s people ‘kept it real’. King David’s Psalms are full of lament. After his great victory against the prophets of Baal, Elijah sat under a tree and asked to die (1 Kings 19).
The apostle Paul — no stranger to suffering — prayed three times for the thorn in his flesh to be removed, but to no avail (2 Corinthians 12:1-10).
I wonder if we do ourselves and each other an injustice when we pretend that everything in life is rosy when it’s not. Perhaps, by being real, we can help others to feel less alone in the things with which they wrestle.
Wrestling with God
There are many examples in God’s Word of people wrestling with Him. John the Baptist, having declared that Jesus was the Lamb of God, later questioned whether Jesus really was the Messiah and sent his disciples to ask if He was.
Simon Peter, who was praised for recognising that Jesus was the Messiah, later denied knowing Him.
The disciple Thomas is famous for doubting Jesus’ resurrection.
It is easy, in the midst of a battle, to question in your heart what you know to be true about God. I know He is a healer, yet I remain unhealed (at least physically, for now).
I know that He is all-powerful, yet the world is in a sorry state. But reading the stories of others who doubted, yet continued on their journey with the Lord, brings comfort to my weary soul.
Pete Greig, from 24-7 Prayer, wrestled too with his faith as his wife Sammy was diagnosed with a brain tumour not long after the birth of the worldwide prayer movement and their second child.
Despite successful surgery to remove the tumour, Sammy continued to suffer from severe epilepsy. Interestingly, it was Sammy who encouraged Pete not to walk away from God when both needed Him more than ever.
Pete later went on to write God on Mute, a book about his own experiences of the miraculous power of prayer alongside the pain of unanswered prayer, and the common human struggle to find faith within that paradox.
Finding Jesus amidst the pain
Whatever our pain might be — the loss of a loved one or a job, physical or mental health challenges, disappointment or regret — if we lift our heads up and open our hearts, we will see that Jesus is right there with us.
He brings revelation and direction, comfort and kindness. He weeps as we weep. Psalm 56:8 reminds us that He keeps track of all our sorrows.
He collects our tears in His bottle. He records each one in His book. He walks with us as we process and adapt to a new way of life. He holds us when we cannot stand. He picks us up when we stumble.
I know that I need to journey through the loss of what was and learn new ways to find joy in what is. I need to pace myself, focusing on what I can do, and not get stuck in the grief of what I can’t do anymore.
I do that still believing that God heals, that He redeems. I know that I will be fully restored one day — whether it’ll be this side of heaven or not.
So, today I will rest. I will keep it real and I will keep practising what it means to live within the grace of each day.
Perhaps you’re struggling with ill health or some other form of loss. I want to say from the bottom of my heart that I am so sorry. I hope this devotion brings some encouragement to you.
Please keep pressing into God. Read or listen to His Word, searching out the stories of others who wrestled, and finding comfort in the fact that their stories didn’t end in the valley. Yours won’t either.
If you would like us to pray for you, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Alternatively, if you know someone else who is struggling, why not forward this devotion to them in the hope that it might help them in their pain?
Never give up hope!