What do you lean on when the pain won’t go away? What do you do when you can’t help the pain go away for someone you love? What do you do when suffering seems to saturate your life, seeping into every circumstance?
Six years into my wife’s struggle with brutal and sometimes crippling chronic pain, I’m still surprised by how often I find myself grasping for promises and hope because I’m suddenly (sometimes without warning) shaken and disoriented by the sorrow and frustration I feel.
Often God meets us and sustains our brokenhearted faith, and even helps us “rejoice in our sufferings,” knowing it produces a tested, genuine, and precious faith (Romans 5:3–4; James 1:2–4). But the reality remains that pain changes things, and pain that doesn’t go away has a persistent stealth to sneak up and bite us with the poisoned fangs of doubt, depression, anger, and uncertainty.
Frail, Fleshly Feelings
I have learned at least one thing when I find my soul and my wife’s countenance swerving from faith into the ditch of despair: We cannot simply rely on our feelings to tell us the truth about our suffering.
Satan roams about trying to destroy faith (1 Peter 5:8). And he knows our fleshly tendency to doubt that God really cares for us, and to want comfort and ease more than Jesus.
In these moments, if my faith in God were dependent on feelings, the battle would be lost. Still less would I trust my own willpower to cling to the beauty of Christ in these times — the pain is too real to block out with mere mental effort. Our feelings and our own power are weak defenses against the pain of this world, but Christians are never without a source of hope. God has given us tailor-made promises to cut through the weary emotions of our weak flesh and the lies of the devil.
Light in the Dark Sky
Recently, at another appointment, I was praying for healing. I also was praying for God to help steady our souls so that if healing didn’t come, we could still rejoice in Jesus and live in a way that pointed to his worth.
I found myself tempted to believe the subtle lie that God was really not in this with us completely. And I was tempted to believe that earthly comfort and health are worth more than the treasure of Jesus. Satan was prowling, and my flesh was weak and tired. In that moment, God was sweet to provide me with ammunition from Romans 8:32 to shoot through the soul-numbing despair that was coming on from believing those false statements.