A television in the far corner of the waiting room adequately occupied most of the people. The remainder thumb-punched their cell phones quietly. The weatherman said wind chill temperatures were dangerously below zero and echoed obligatory warnings that come with such a forecast. I looked out the window and watched a woman make her way across the parking lot. She put her head down like a bull charging red and leaned forward into the wind-whipped bullets of snow. The tail end of her scarf escaped and flew horizontal behind her, but her gloved hand quickly grabbed the front of her hood before it followed suit. The other hand did its best to seal her coat shut while she inched her way across snow and ice covered pavement. Someone should be at the door with awards and hot cocoa for everyone that arrives safely.
I zipped up my own coat and realized the inadequacy of my battle garments for a polar vortex warzone. If the Lord didn’t call us to this place, my flesh would jettison to the Carolina mountains or find a hurricane-less beach. I slipped the CD of my MRI results deep inside my purse and realized I almost wanted to stay in the hospital more than go back outside. Battlefield versus infirmary. Warfare versus rehab. I realize that the Lord is in charge of both in our lives.
“To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to heal,
A time of war,
And a time of peace.” Eccl. 3:1, 3b, 8b
As I shivered safely into the driver’s seat, cranked on the heater and defrost, a seeming knife shot down my right leg at the same time a fiery burn percolated in my hip. Well, there’s that disc problem the doctor told me about.
A couple of days later, driving to see a Godsend of a friend and alternative medicine doctor, the word “chronic” kept floating through my thoughts. Four different specialists have given me chronic disease diagnoses so far, and now my back has decided to join the personal club of affliction. It must be prone to peer pressure from the rest of the body. I repositioned my numb leg at a stoplight and prayed, “Lord, I think “chronic pain” just must be part of the contents of this cup You’ve entrusted to me. Or maybe it’s a thorn? But since You promise adequate strength and grace for my days, could You give me the gift of “chronic joy” with this chronic pain? Could you grant me a heavy dose of infectious joy, contagious laughter, and the gift of encouragement for others despite how I might feel inside?”
That prayer sounded impossible to me as I prayed it. And yes, I realize that joy is a fruit of the Spirit to every Christian, but my heart didn’t ask permission before the request flowed to its Maker. To bring Jesus glory, there must be the power of the Spirit…not my determination or strong will or natural disposition. And when I hurt, I can be very quiet, or cranky, or quick with my tongue or give a look that makes others walk on eggshells. Trust me, anything opposite of this is entirely grace, completely Jesus, and a flak jacket of safety for others.
As I pulled into the parking lot, I thought of 1 Corinthians 15:41, “There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory.” Stars are hidden from view during daylight, but bring on the darkness with an amplifying telescope, and it is easy to view the Creators magnificence. So it is, when a Christian’s life is cast upon a heavy black background, God desires to amplify that life which can uniquely reflect the brilliance and glory of its Creator.
I personally have always been stunned by those who have joy amidst pain, but maybe you need prayer for chronic patience in the midst of bone-wearying circumstances. Maybe your black canvas is at a job filled with chronic temptations, so you need daily doses of self-control. For the one who is flooded with rejection or hatred, may the Spirit overflow you with divine love and kindness that actually protects you while wrestling with your persecutors.
Whatever may be your cup, your thorn, your battlefield, or your affliction; there is a chronic, recurring river of life-changing, mercy-sustaining grace available to everyone. And it can only bring glory to the Lord when we swim in the fulness of it.
Just like the woman I watched through the hospital window, put your head down in prayer, face the firestorm of adversity, and wrap yourself tightly in the full armor of God. There’s a prize waiting at the entrance of heaven for everyone who makes it.
For I am the Lord who heals you. ~ Exodus 15:26
He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds. ~ Psalm 147:3
Behold, I will bring it health and cure, and I will cure them, and will reveal unto them the abundance of peace and truth. ~ Jeremiah 33:6
The LORD will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing: thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness. ~ Psalm 41:3
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. ~ Galatians 5:22