Where Is God When I Hurt?

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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.”

Wow.

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

 

Click here to visit Mike Dellosso online. 

Getting to the Bottom of It

Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. – Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)

 
The rash developed last month. It flared on the inside of both my wrists and itched like hives.

I smeared hydrocortisone cream on it several times a day, but it blistered, seeped, scabbed over—and spread. Assuming it was eczema, I bought a tube of eczema relief cream—not the cheap stuff, either. It didn’t help.

Could it be an allergic reaction?

I’d had a persistent rash last year, too, that disappeared when I stopped eating foods containing gluten, a substance in wheat, barley, and rye.

I’d recently been eating a lot of bread, pasta, sweets—not a good thing. I discovered 20 years ago the ill effects of those foods on my body—the fatigue, the weight gain, the inbreadability to lose it, the brain fog. All those foods contain gluten. When I eliminated them from my diet, I felt better.

But like the author of Proverbs wrote, “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly” (Proverbs 26:11).

Over the years, I yoyoed between eating refined carbs and avoiding them. I felt good when I didn’t eat them, but then I’d convince myself just a little taste wouldn’t hurt. And the little taste became a bigger taste—until I went hog wild eating bread and pasta and overwhelming my body with what’s essentially bad for it. Which is what I did last month.

I researched online, typing “rash on the inside of wrists” in my browser. I really didn’t expect the long list of web pages relating to gluten-causing rashes.

So, once again, I eliminated gluten from my diet and began scrutinizing labels to make sure there was no cross-contamination at the manufacturing plant.

In a week the rash calmed down and faded.

You’d think I’d know better.

Isn’t sin the same way?

We know, in our heart of hearts, it’s bad for us. But we dabble in it because we’ve convinced ourselves “just a little won’t hurt” or “it won’t affect me.”

But we’re dead wrong.

There’s no difference between sinning a little and sinning a lot. Sin is sin, and its effects are the same: it separates us from a loving, holy God; it corrupts and contaminates that which was good and pure; it entangles us (Paul often uses the analogy of slavery when he refers to sin); it brings sorrow; and it affects not only the sinner, but also those who are innocent.

There is no salve we can put on to make it go away; no medicine we can take will cure it.2000px-ProhibitionSign2

To get rid of the rash, I first had to admit gluten was causing it. Then I had to eliminate all gluten from my diet. I must be vigilant to make sure it doesn’t sneak in by the back door of a seemingly innocent food.

So it is with sin. We must admit we’ve sinned (Romans 3:23), confess it to God (1 John 1:9), and, with the help of the indwelling Holy Spirit, recognize it when it tries to sneak back in (John 16:13).

My rash has almost disappeared. I have more energy, I’m thinking more clearly, and I’m sleeping better.

Remind me, Lord, when temptation comes, that nothing sin can give me is worth what it takes from me. Provide me with the way out (1 Corinthians 10:13). Amen.

Extra tea: Read and meditate on James 1:13–18