Another sleepless night last night. I heard Annie crying in frustration early this morning as she wrestled with pain and tiredness. I don’t know if it’s the radiotherapy, the illness or something else, but she is experiencing an almost incessant pain in her lower back and very restless legs. She looked desperate for sleep this morning. But before her reflexology appointment this morning she was able to get a couple of undisturbed hours on the couch and a great release from the pain. I might like to think this was down to my back massaging skills, but I believe it was all those ladies praying for her this morning at their monday morning prayer time that they started in response to Annie’s diagnosis, almost two months ago now!
When we hear what the Lord is doing among those ladies during their prayer times and following it just fills our heart with joy! A couple of weeks ago a sister came up to me and was overflowing with all that God had been doing in her life since she started to join those ladies for prayer. She stopped herself mid-oe’rflow and said: “I feel like I should apologise because I should be encouraging you as a result of these meetings…” I assured her there could never be a more superfluous use of an apology! As she shared her testimony, she was filling both Annie and I with great encouragement!
Lord’s willing, this coming Sunday we are running a Q&A event for our young people and their friends at a coffee house in the city centre. It’s a great venue and the event is always well attended because, well, every teenager has questions and if they don’t, they love free coffee and pastries! I know that during the evening one of the questions that will be addressed will be one of the most commonly asked questions:
“If there is a God, how come there is suffering in the world?”
I think it’s a good question and a presumptuous question all at once. You see, that question assumes that God owes us something. It assumes, if there is a God then we deserve better in this life. It assumes that this life is all and everything. Well, I am looking forward to how our panel addresses this question but for Annie and I we can personally testify that we already see how God uses our suffering for greater things.
I was having hot chocolate this evening with a few friends and Annie shared something I’ve heard her say before. I’ve heard her say it since the first bout of cancer. I’ve heard her say it during the healthier and better days in between round one and round two with cancer. Better yet, I’ve done more than hear it from her, I have seen it in her. These are Annie’s words.
“If God gave me the chance to change the last few years for better health, I wouldn’t trade. He has drawn me so much more closer to Him through it.”
I don’t know if you have ever heard of a woman named Joni Eareckson Tada. In 1967 Joni sustained a very serious diving accident during her youth which left her a quadriplegic. For the next two years Joni struggled with life, with her paralysis and with God. In 2010 she was diagnosed with cancer. Since her accident, her personal relationship with God through Jesus has not only helped Joni accept her disability and overcome her struggles but has also allowed her to reach thousands and thousands of people with the real hope that Jesus gives to those who trust Him and follow Him. If Joni was at our Q&A event on Sunday, I think there would be a conclusive silence among the questioners and our panel!
“God uses suffering to purge sin from our lives, strengthen our commitment to him, force us to depend on grace, bind us together with other believers, produce discernment, foster sensitivity, discipline our minds, spend our time wisely, stretch our hope, cause us to know Christ better, make us long for truth, lead us to repentance of sin, teach us to give thanks in time of sorrow, increase faith and strengthen character.” – Joni Eareckson Tada
The Apostle Paul was also no stranger to suffering. He knew that God was able to use his suffering and weaknesses to achieve greater things in the world, among God’s people and for the cause of the gospel – for God’s glory!
I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory. – Ephesians 3:13
And he used the extra time that he might have otherwise spent despairing, to rejoice!
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; – Romans 5:3
I continue to pray that God would heal Annie. Annie continues to pray that. Many of our close family in Christ continue to pray that. But our prayers are on the basis of what the Apostle Paul says:
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. – Philippians 1:21
In Him and For Him,