After a two-year stint with the Federal Government in Washington, D.C., I transferred to that agency’s Phoenix office. I found a small apartment and tried desperately to bloom in the desert.
Blooming is difficult when living alone. I missed the fellowship of the on-fire youth group of small-town Nebraska, and I had a hard time finding anything comparable. I was in desperate need of spiritual feeding, and my vine was starting to whither.
Added to the loneliness and spiritual hunger was the relentless physical pain. Following a bout of (misdiagnosed) rheumatic fever in Washington, the pain had intensified. The facial pain had spread to my neck and shoulders, and doctors were unable to tell me the cause. The migraines which have marched dutifully down my family’s lines had also begun to take up residence. Even though I would spend hours with ice packs and heat wraps, the pain was often so intense that I was nauseated for hours and sometimes days. Doctors offered little help other than aspirin, which was no help at all. I was not having fun. I was finding it more and more difficult to be the dependable employee I longed to be.
Of course I prayed for healing. Let me reword that. Of course I begged for healing. Countless times I was on my knees or flat on my face before my Lord imploring Him to remove the pain. My God was silent.
What is your response when God is silent? I’ll confess; I handled it poorly. I got angry, really angry. “Where is this ‘Great Physician’?” “Where is the ‘God of the impossible’?” “You can do it, so why do you refuse?” “Am I unworthy?” “Am I not your child?” “Why me?” “I can’t live the rest of my life with this pain. I just can’t!”
I began having thoughts of ending my life.
About the same time, another heartache hung over my head. My precious niece Tami had been suffering for years. Born with birth defects, she was a faith-filled child who exuded the love of Jesus. Years of earnest prayer went out for this adorable child’s healing. We witnessed miraculous comebacks time and time again. At the age of nine, our angel died anyway.
Enough! Why pray? Why hope? What’s the point? As far as I was concerned, there was no reason good enough for a nine-year-old child to have suffered all her life, only to die anyway. There was no acceptable reason for me to face a future with debilitating pain. Why pray if God doesn’t answer? Why hope, only to be crushed by disappointment and despair?
I walked, no ran, away from the God of my salvation. I put up the largest physical and emotional barriers I could muster between myself and all things spiritual. What followed were years of debilitating depression. I was literally paralyzed by it. Those of you who have experienced the downward spiral know what I mean when I say there is no darker place.
“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.” (Luke 15:4-6)
“…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)
Oh the joy in the promises, truth, and security of Scripture. Those of you who have walked closely with the Shepherd know that He pursues His sheep from those lost places. He completes us for His good pleasure. Yes, He rescued me. In spite of myself and through unfathomable circumstances, He rescued me. Did He heal me? In the way I needed most, absolutely. While chronic pain is still my constant companion, I’ve never been more whole. My joy has never been more complete.
Do you feel like you’re failing the test? Journey with me. Identify with me. The Shepherd is merciful, patient – and waiting with open arms.
Joy in Jesus,