I used to hear that question echo in the recesses of my heart a lot. Whenever I would pray,
God, I will do anything for You
There was always a deeper echo that would follow, a hesitation, an ache:
But please don’t ask me to go through that.
Do you know what I mean? Do you have a “that“? You may be 100% committed to Jesus, no turning back, but there’s always that one thing your scared to lose. I’m so used to hearing stories of the best people going through the hardest struggles, the deepest griefs, or the longest battles. Our society loves to ask “why would a good God let His people suffer?” I’m not old by any means, and I have a lot to learn, but in my short time on earth I’ve learned that everyone suffers, the good and the bad; so, maybe that isn’t the right question.
But I too asked that question over and over again, even as I prayed, just phrased differently:
What if? God, could I actually endure that suffering?
Today I don’t feel chained to that question anymore. Of course, I don’t want to suffer, or lose people, or struggle, but if I have to face it, I know that with my precious Jesus I could endure. I would survive.
How can I say that so confidently? Especially when in the past I would have been too scared to admit it in case God decided to test me on it (that’s not how He works, for the record)?
Hold onto your hats here, cause this might be a big shock. I suffered. A “what if” happened. Specifically, my baby was born with a complication so rare the experts and specialists who see the “one in a million” hadn’t seen it. My husband and I entered a whirlwind of unknowns and we almost lost our son. All in the middle of a pandemic, a move, and a major shift in our work and ministry lives. But by God’s great mercy our son lived; and you know what? Today I was able to tell a sweet woman who asked to walk with me on the bike path because she was afraid to be alone in her crippling anxiety that I know God was with us in the hardest of times and my son was a testimony of His faithfulness. His giggles and coos from the stroller were an extra expression of God’s glory!
There are moments of my life I would never wish on anyone. But those same moments, every one of them, are moments that I look back on now and see God with me.
And I hesitate here, because I don’t want you to think that God is a terrible being, inflicting pain on His followers. I don’t see Him as the one who caused my deepest sufferings, not at all. He didn’t. A few of them I caused myself, and the rest simply happened because I live in a world that is ravaged by sin and bad things happen.
But even so, He never left. He was always loving and good, always protecting and providing. In those hardest trials, I found out that God is so much stronger and faithful than I knew Him to be before. Now, every time I look at my son it’s a reminder; a living and breathing testimony of His power, and even more, so His presence. In the midst of the trial I didn’t feel like a storybook Christian who knew God was with me and everything would be fine. I felt like a human, and I believe that’s exactly what God expects of me. He loved me through it all the same. The power of the Gospel is that God came to be with us. Emmanuel.
Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being, praise His name.
Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all His benefits–who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. He made known His ways to Moses, His deeds to the people of Israel.
The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse, nor will He harbor His anger forever;
He does not treat us as our sins deserve, or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on His children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust. The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.
But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children–with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts.Psalm 103 1-18
I’ll wrap up with this: it’s okay if you’re scared. I don’t think I could have ever overcome the chain of my “what if” on my own, surely I tried. God in His great love stayed with me even when I held onto Him with shaking hands. Because He is a faithful and loving God. If I could only tell you one thing, let it be this: when all else fails, He really does remain. He is good.