By Hillary Dickey | November 2019 WBS Devotional
Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey…” –Exodus 3:7-8 (ESV, emphasis added)
“She’s not going to make it.” Those words rang in my ears over and over as my dad, my brother, and I sat in the consultation room with the doctor. We had been in the hospital for what felt like months, although it had been only a few hours. The only world I had ever known was coming to a complete and forceful halt. Normally I could coach myself and tell myself that the Lord is sovereign and in control, but in that moment and in the days and months following, I didn’t feel like He was.
Suffering. It isn’t something many of us would raise our hand for and say, “Sign me up!” No, suffering, if we are all honest, is something we wish we could avoid at any point in our lives. Suffering means pain, unfamiliarity, and being uncomfortable. In most cases, suffering doesn’t seem fair.
Three and a half years ago, the Lord placed me (and my family) on the road of suffering. My mom suffered a massive brain aneurysm. It was sudden and unexpected. It felt chaotic and surreal. But what was more unexpected were the weeks and months following where what I knew—the unwavering truths about God—and what I felt— anger, frustration, fear, sorrow—would go head to head with each other.
Anger and fear were the two emotions I felt the most after things started to settle. I was mad that my mom, who was 60 years old, died before she got to help me plan for a wedding, see her future grandchildren, or even help me with that hard recipe one more time. I was mad that God could heal her here on earth but chose not to. I was mad that I knew that nothing was impossible for Him, yet it seemed like He turned a deaf ear to my prayer. I was terrified that I was going to lose my dad or brother tragically. I was scared that I was going to be left alone. I was even fearful that I had disobeyed the Lord and He was trying to get my attention somehow.
Insert grace. I could have stopped right there. I could have stayed angry and fearful, and, honestly, I felt I had the right. Through the lens of Christ, however, there is a glimpse of grace. When I feel anger, fear, or any other emotion, yes, I can be assured the Lord still loves me, but it is also a chance to give those feelings to Him. This is where grace and suffering meet.
Even the secret sorrows of God’s people are known to Him. – Matthew Henry
There are days I have to fight to see, but there is grace in the midst of suffering. How? Because He sees, He hears, and He knows our past, present, and future suffering. In the middle of my suffering, God gave me Himself through His Word, His people, and even through His creation (Matt. 6). Every time I asked, “Why?” or “How come?” I was answered with, “I AM.” I didn’t always get answers to my questions, but instead my eyes were opened to my Creator (Job 42:5)—the only reliable source and foundation in the rockiest season of my life. What began with wanting this season to end turned into wanting more of the Lord—the very purpose of trials.
That isn’t to say that this season has been easy. Suffering is hard and painful. Just six months after my mom died, when my uncle passed away due to the same thing, an aneurysm, I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath. There have been an array of other things I have had to grieve since then. But I’ve learned to wrestle with God in the middle of my sorrow, and that, too, is grace. Being laid bare and being vulnerable before Him does not go unnoticed by Him. Hear me say this: it is not uncommon to feel hurt, anger, or pain during the grieving process, but don’t stay there.
Lean into what those feelings are revealing. Allow God to create margin to move. Every time God commands us not to worry or be fearful, there is always a solution—Himself. He is giving us a chance to give up that fear or worry (even if you have to bring it to Him again minutes later) and replace it with the truth of Himself. He doesn’t leave us to the captivity of our feelings. Our feelings and circumstances do not determine who God is. We can choose to believe truth, or we can stay in our feelings. When we feel these emotions and then begin lining them up against the Word, we will wrestle, and that is a good thing. Wrestling with truth and our feelings creates margin to grow our faith.
Suffering causes us to become broken and bare before the Lord, but His grace in the midst of it is putting together a beautiful mosaic of His mercy, goodness, and sovereignty in our lives. He sees the bigger picture, and when all the pieces are put together, we will see, though there may be many broken pieces, that He is creating a beautiful masterpiece for His glory.
As His Word promises, He is Immanuel (Matt. 1:23). He will never leave (Josh. 1:8-9). He will be our peace (Micah 5:4-6). He is trustworthy, and He is our refuge (Ps. 62:8). Nothing is wasted in His hands (Job 23:10; Ps. 138:8; Rom. 8:28; Phil. 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:6-7). You are held by Him. You are seen by Him. You are heard by Him. What seems dark to you is light to Him (Ps. 139:12). Our comfort in suffering isn’t that God will remove us from it, but that He is with us in the midst of it. This is grace.
Lord, thank You for being sovereign over every circumstance that comes my way. Thank You that You and You alone are able to meet me in the middle of my suffering with grace. Help me fight to see the grace around me every day. Remind me that You are always with me, You are for me, and You are working all things for my good but also ultimately for Your glory. Remind me that my feelings are real, but You are more reliable. I give you my feelings today. Help me to turn them into opportunities to trust You and learn from You. Thank you for being a gracious Father.