Sunday, February 12, 2017

God Is Sneaky...

     I have spent quite a bit of time lately writing blogs and erasing them. I get about halfway through writing what I believe God is placing on my heart, and then my mind goes blank! I was beginning to wonder if my blogging days were over. As I prayed about this, I heard God say, " Why don't you write what's really on your mind."  I closed the laptop and replied, "I can't do that. It wouldn't be encouraging."  As I sit here typing, I'm not sure where sharing what's on my mind will go. However, since God keeps bringing it to my attention and I am getting tired of being stubborn- here I am!

     I have been frustrated with God because of my mom's suffering. She's been through a lot of suffering...five years worth to be exact. Throughout these five years I have consistently prayed for her healing. At times healing came through the doctors God led her to, and the three years of physical therapy that it took to regain most of the use of her arms. There was one time that God healed her chronic digestive problems without doctors, simply by the power of the Holy Spirit. I am thankful for these things, but there is still so much more that she needs to be healed from. She suffers from chronic pain that leaves her with little sleep. Her physical problems make her unable to drive and cause her to be alone more than she would probably like. These things limit what she can do with her grandchildren and often make her feel like a burden to others. She has suffered one thing on top of another and just when she seems to get a slight reprieve... another trial begins. Recently, the skin graft she had last year opened up and she needs to have a new one done. In addition to this she is experiencing problems with her lungs and awaiting test results for that.Will it be just a lung infection? Or will it be yet another long term illness? She handles all of this with astounding grace...and it leaves me dumbfounded. It leaves me dumbfounded because I feel like I am running out of grace. I have been frustrated with God, not so much because He isn't healing her but because He allows suffering upon suffering in her life. I struggle to see His goodness and His mercy in this. I keep thinking of Psalm 27 :13, "I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living." My frustration with God over the suffering He allows in my mom's life, has brought me pretty close to a feeling of despair in recent weeks. I know that I need to learn from her. I want to follow her example, in the way that she still has faith that she will see His goodness no matter what trials may come.

      I can only remember three times during this long period of suffering, that my mom expressed discouragement or weariness...but never despair. Even when she did talk about these feelings, she would always end with the words, "But I have to be thankful because..."  The things that she would say after that word "because" were not big things. They were often words like; "because I was able to dust today" , "because I got four hours of sleep last night instead of my usual three", or "because I was able to fold the laundry".  They were not the big things that I had been praying for. I long to hear her say, "because I had no pain yesterday", "because I slept eight hours last night", or "because I got complete use of my arms back".  The things that seem little to me, are big for her. All of those little things are still answers to her prayers. They are still the ways that God hears her, loves her, and provides for her. This is how she keeps from despair...by counting the little things.  She doesn't lose hope because she has had to learn to depend on God in order to do even the smallest of things...and He continues to be faithful. His faithfulness encourages her to believe that she "would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living." She's anticipating His goodness no matter what lies ahead, because she's experienced it in the smallest of things.

     The next verse in Psalm 27 says, "Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD."  There is an expectancy in this verse. I see it in the words, "Let your heart take courage". It's as if the person is waiting in anticipation of what God is going to do.They chose to believe that they would see the "goodness of the LORD in the land of the living". They are not in despair. They are encouraged. I have a hard time waiting, especially when it comes to seeing the ones I love suffer. I didn't realize it until recently, but I tend to wait with an expectation of God's goodness showing up exactly the way I asked for it...in the end result.  I suppose in this case that would be my mom being healed or at the very least receiving a long reprieve from any additional suffering. This is probably why I have been frustrated with God. In looking for His goodness in the end result or in the big things that I am asking for, I overlook the fact that His goodness has never truly been absent. It's been right there in the grace that He gives my mom to get through each day. It's been right there, each time she was joyful about being able to dust, sleep one more hour, or fold the laundry. His goodness even extends to me as I have questioned it...in continuing to patiently teach me through the way my mom journeys through her suffering. Mother and author Kristen Welch writes, "God is using my story-the dreams and detours and dead ends to influence my children's story, but if I'm too afraid to go, they may be too. Our kids don't need our protection in the unknown half as much as they need to see us persevere in the known."  When I read this quote, all I could think about was how blessed I am that my mom is showing me how to journey through suffering. She's not protecting me from the unknown. We will all face suffering at various times in our lives. She's teaching me how to "persevere in the known".

     There it is. In the midst of my frustration with God, and the questions about His goodness... He sneakily and graciously shows me. It was never absent. He sneakily tells me to write what's on my mind, knowing I'd discover that His goodness can be found MORE in the midst of our suffering. He uses my mom to teach me that the darkness of suffering only serves to illuminate (clarify) the many ways He loves us. Ways we would never have spoken of as signs of His love or His goodness...like being able to dust, if we had not known suffering. And yet...they were there all along!

(Note: I began writing without a title. After I realized what happened as a result of writing, the title was a no-brainer!)