Thursday, September 10, 2009

When Our Broken Lives Are Not Repaired

A while ago a person spoke to me about some health issues. These were nothing new -- old problems that were growing increasingly worse. This person is not old and none of the issues are terminal or fatal in and of themselves, but together they represent a heavy burden to everyday life and a major obstacle to the full and happy life we as people seek.

"Will these things ever go away or find resolution?" There it was -- the awful and terrible question. This Christian is not speaking of heaven and its blessed release from such burdens. This Christian was not asking to die and leave behind the tears and wounds of this mortal life. This Christian was not rebelling against God and demanding that God do something and do it now. It was a simple yet profound challenge. "Will these ever go away?"

Maybe you know of someone or you yourself carry such a burden. It is a burden of sadness for those who know and love someone with chronic pain, depression, loneliness, and health problems. The person I am speaking about has seen sight fade away into a darkness that is only occasionally shattered by bursts of light. The person who asked me this question feels the pain of deteriorated joints due to rheumatoid arthritis and has felt mobility slip away into the prison of a home, a chair, and a bed. Without the distractions of familiar hobbies, this person is left to focus solely on the pain, the loss, and the disappointment.

Yet within that pain and loss, is the lonely but powerful vigil of faith. It is this noble trust that remains even when broken lives are not repaired, when hopes and dreams are not realized, and when wounds and pain are the companions of everyday life. This person has been set free from nearly all of life's moorings and yet is not adrift but securely anchored in Jesus Christ.

This person knows what it means to share Christ's suffering -- not suffering meant to redeem but the suffering of the redeemed who stand with Christ in faith, wearing their pain not as shame or embarrassment but as the victors in Christ's victory. They stand in Christ even as Christ stood with them in love... who endure not because they see the end coming but because Jesus is there even in the midst of their brokenness and pain. Like Job of old, they proclaim by their faith and endurance "I know that my Redeemer lives..." And truly they shall like Job "see Him with their own eyes..."

Job was not alone in Scripture and there are many Jobs around us today. They are the heroes of my faith -- these saints who endue in suffering and are not overcome. I confess that too often my little pains are lamented with far more regret than the painful wounds these Christians bear every day. They know with much deeper insight what it means to possess the grace sufficient for each day and each trouble. They have said to me so many times that I should know it as well as they, "It is enough, Lord, that Thou art with me... Thy rod and staff are comfort to me..."

So I say to those who like me have been spared these physical and emotional agonies, give thanks to God and make room in your heart to be a companion in suffering with those who bear such burdens. And to those who bear these burdens, mostly in silence, let me say "God is with you." God does not wait until our brokenness is healed to tabernacle with us and in us. God embraces all our weakness, all our pain, all our brokenness, and all our wounds. To you so acquainted with grief, I speak to you Jesus who was acquainted with the greatest grief all out of love specifically for you. And if you stand in Him, you stand. Period. And the gates of hell, the stinging arrows of the devil, the wounds of this world, and the pain of this moment will not overcome you.

Job is no philosophical or academic pursuit of the purpose or place of pain in the life of God's people -- it is the personal story of the love that comes down from above that endures in the heart of His own to sustain them in their struggles not with words of explanation or the hope of a date when these struggles will end... no, He sustains His own by being wounded for them, grieving with them, embracing their wounds and hurts as His own... and giving them the peace that passes understanding and guard their hearts and lives in Christ to eternal life.

“Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope (Romans 5:3-4)

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