I sat down at the front of the chapel, alone, except for the worship team who was warming up. It was my turn to deliver a devotion to the college, yet I had nothing. After a few weeks of winter sickness hitting our home hard, I had nothing left. For devotions—or anything else, really.
Like most winters, our family was all under the weather. Living in a college community doesn’t help with sickness, either. This time, however, my husband, already immuno-compromised, suffered a bout of debilitating migraines as well.
I sat at the front of the chapel, almost feeling sorry for myself. My voice still sounded hoarse, my husband’s head was still groggy, and I just felt drained. The last thing I wanted to do was to compose myself to give an encouraging devotional message to the college I work at.
Sitting there, desperately trying to pray for some quick inspiration, I listened to the musicians warming up. As they sang about God’s faithfulness and goodness, I found myself fighting back tears. The sense of overwhelm from my situation was met with the simple acknowledgment that though pain and suffering are real, God is good. He is faithful. He walks with us through it all. As I sat there, I sensed the presence of God all around me, comforting me.
As I watched my husband suffer day after day, it hurt. His pain was raw, and after more than 15 years of walking alongside this man, it hurt to see him suffer physically. I had so many questions and niggling fears weighing heavily on my mind. Will he ever know what it feels like to be physically healthy? Will he have relief from pain? Why do some people suffer more than others? How would I cope—mentally, spiritually, financially, in the event of loss? Will my daughters ‘inherit’ their father’s health issues?
A lot of worries overwhelmed me and I carried them with me to the chapel that morning. But as I sat there and silently wept in my seat, the lyrics of the song resonated deep inside. I’ve walked with God for many seasons now. Some seasons have been easy, and praising Him has come naturally, quickly, matter-of-factly. But there have been many times when life hasn’t been easy, and it’s through these challenges I am learning. I wish I could say this in the past tense, but I’m a forever work in progress. Yet He is faithful.
These past weeks, I have found myself regularly in the Psalms, resonating so strongly with the psalmists who experienced the full spectrum of emotions. Lament, fear, joy, sadness, bitterness, happiness, awe, anger, melancholy, depression, wonder—it’s all there. The psalmists hold nothing back with their words and their emotions; I think the reason I love the psalms so much. A deep well of emotions, I’ve struggled with many church messages over the years that have vilified emotions. I’ve often felt there was something wrong with me, for simply feeling things so deeply. As I get older, I’ve come to realize these emotions, this sensitivity of mine—it’s how God made me. This sensitivity, often labeled a weakness, is in fact what makes me sensitive to His leading. And I can feel these emotions deeply, but my hope and intention are they will always follow the truth.
Just like the psalms I pour over, drawing strength in my weakest moments, my prayer and hope is that every challenging situation will end with a declaration of praise to my God. I loved reading Kathryn’s recent blog post “I’m not depressed, but…”, where she states this same sentiment, “Feel your deep feelings, but always end by reminding yourself of the hope found in our God”.
As I stood at the lectern to give my devotion, I knew the tears would accompany my hoarse voice and weary self. But I also knew the words I shared would be from a place of authenticity and vulnerability, not hiding my struggle, but also not hiding my choice to worship God. A sense of how I felt is summed up nicely by Timothy Keller in Walking with God through Pain and Suffering, “It is our nature to be strong and independent. Yet, there is no room for the ego in suffering. This stripping of my ego opens the doors to authentic relating to others. As I am drawn closer to others, I am experiencing God in the here and now.” I love that—experiencing God in the here and now.
Through tears, I ended my devotion to the college by reading aloud Psalm 145. Unlike many of the Psalms which start in lament and end in praise, Psalm 145 is a complete hymn of praise. Reading this aloud in the midst of struggle is special—it’s almost like declaring, “My situation is telling me one thing, but I’m choosing to praise God anyway.”
I don’t know why my husband’s health is poor. I don’t know why he suffers regularly in his physical body. But I do know his faith has grown stronger through the process. I do know he holds dear the promise that one day—whether this side of eternity or not—he will be free from pain and suffering.
In the meantime, in the here and now, we continue to declare God’s goodness and faithfulness. We commit to be people who will tell the next generation of His glorious splendor and proclaim His awesome deeds.
Friends, if you find yourself in a place of struggling today, can I encourage you to join the company of the psalmists, who allowed their whole selves to pour out before the Lord? Dive into the psalms, check out our Psalms Study, or listen to them sung (I love this rendition of Psalm 145 by Shane and Shane below). Let your suffering, whether mild or acute, be an opportunity to draw near to Him.
I’d love to finish by simply sharing Psalm 145—may it encourage you towards the Lord today. In Jesus’ powerful name, Amen.
I will exalt you, my God the King;
I will praise your name for ever and ever.
2 Every day I will praise you
and extol your name for ever and ever.
3 Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.
4 One generation commends your works to another;
they tell of your mighty acts.
5 They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
6 They tell of the power of your awesome works—
and I will proclaim your great deeds.
7 They celebrate your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your righteousness.
8 The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.
9 The Lord is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made.
10 All your works praise you, Lord;
your faithful people extol you.
11 They tell of the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your might,
12 so that all people may know of your mighty acts
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures through all generations.
The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises
and faithful in all he does.
14 The Lord upholds all who fall
and lifts up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food at the proper time.
16 You open your hand
and satisfy the desires of every living thing.
17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways
and faithful in all he does.
18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
he hears their cry and saves them.
20 The Lord watches over all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.
21 My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord.
Let every creature praise his holy name
for ever and ever.Psalm 145 (NIV)