When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. – Isaiah 43:2 (NIV)
I met the most extraordinary man last Saturday.
A multi-published author, Mike Dellosso not only taught a workshop on finding the time to write, but also gave the keynote speech at the beginning of the one-day writing conference I attended.
In his address, “Becoming Unstoppable,” Mike talked about how to move forward toward realizing our goals despite – or because of – the roadblocks that slam down in front of us. He spoke of the roadblocks of fear, failure, and suffering. And he spoke from experience.
You see, Mike grew up with a profound stutter. Yet I could detect only a slight hesitation and an occasional stutter as he spoke and taught for a total of two hours. He certainly could talk of fear and failure with firsthand knowledge.
But overcoming such a profound disability isn’t the only thing that amazes me about Mike.
Eight years ago, at the age of 35, this husband, father, and teacher was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer.
Yet there he stood before us, the picture of health, revisiting that time of intense suffering and uncertainty when life was reduced to nothing but pain.
Have you ever been there?
I have. In 2011, pain from four bulging neck disks was so excruciating, so debilitating, I spent my days on the love seat with a heating pad on my neck and Tylenol with codeine coursing through my body. Yet it barely took the edge off. I was that way for six months until surgery relieved the pain.
“Suffering,” Mike said Saturday, “clears away everything in life. There’s nothing left but the suffering, the pain. The way we get through it is depending on God, running to God.”
Suffering, he said, brought his relationship with God’s Son in clearer focus.
“I never had – nor ever since – felt the presence of God so strongly. I’m almost afraid to admit it, but sometimes I almost wish I could go back to that time of pain just so I can have the presence of God again like I did at that time.”
A purpose for our pain: a clearer focus on the God who calls us, loves us, gave Himself for us.
Where is God when you hurt?
Right there beside you, with you, surrounding you, in you. Calling to you. Holding you. Soothing you. Loving you.
“Do not be afraid,” He says, “for I am with you. Fear not, for YOU ARE MINE” (Isaiah 43:5, 1 – emphasis mine).
Remember, dear one, you are His: “The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).
In your suffering, listen for His song.
Thank you, Father, for Your abiding presence in my life. Thank you, Jesus, that You suffered more than I, even in my most intense pain, cannot even imagine. Yet You did it for me so my sin could be removed and my eternal life with You secured. May my pain remind me of Your suffering for me. Amen.
Extra tea: Read and meditate on Isaiah 43:1–7