Last summer was very difficult . . . I was sleeping maybe one night in three. I simply could not get comfortable at all . . .
Financial pressure finally drove me back to work. One day, after having been awake all night feeling horrid, I went to work. The night before had been pure misery ladled out to in continuous spoonfuls. All night long I groaned and gagged, trying to find rest. It was hell on earth. When things get that extreme I just lay there and, ‘have it out’ with God. (Who else is there to talk to at 3:17 am?) The questions crowd in like a thundering avalanche at night, threatening to bury my faith under the unbearable weight of pain I just lay there wondering. Wondering how this could serve His purposes . . . Wondering if the fault was mine. If only I had enough faith I would instantly be healed . . . Wondering all kinds of things . . . Fear, anxiety, stress, and sorrow foremost on my mind, my body a burden and a prison. Feeling abused and defeated, my life a useless waste of breath and air to myself and those around me. In the ‘morning’ I went to work in a fog. A haze of pain and nausea, an indescribable narrowing of awareness until all that I felt was the load. To lift my arm was like lifting a heavy weight. I Just want to spin my head all the way around to try and relieve the broken glass in my neck.
It was a bleak, stark, day . . .
I went through the day in a gray haze, just surviving each moment, trying to stay safe. Simply trying to endure each moment. Hoping desperately that the ‘rapture’ would happen.
Finally I was able to stop for a lunch break. I pulled the truck over by a church and sat under a shade tree in the ninety-degree weather.
Desperately . . . Grimly, I got my Bible out and tried to read something.
I Earnestly prayed in despair, “God please give me some true bread from your word.” Flipped here and there reading a bit here, there, nothing leaped off the page at me. It all seemed like dead, dry religious hokum.
Giving up completely I lay back on the grass with my Bible open on my chest and tried desperately to relax. “Why won’t He at least speak to me? Why won’t He deal with me?” “Either deal with me or leave me alone . . . Why must I be his testing ground?”
With a sighing sense of defeat and despair, feeling as if God Himself had turned His back on me, failure and heaviness overwhelming every fiber of my being I just lay back on the scorched brown grass and groaned.
Into this situation God’s precious Spirit spoke quietly in my heart. “Count to sixty, then read.” “WHAT?” I thought. “Count to SIXTY? This doesn’t make any sense.” Without the ability to hop up and play tennis at the nearby court this seemed my only option. So I began counting.
As I counted a little breeze began blowing the pages of my Bible whispering back and forth. Feeling like a fool I finished my count, then read this.
Isaiah Chapter thirty-five . . .
“The wilderness and the desert will be glad, And the Arabah will rejoice and blossom like the crocus. It will blossom profusely and rejoice with rejoicing and shouts of joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They will see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble, Say to those with anxious heart, Take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will come with vengeance; the recompense of God will come, but he will save you. Then the eyes of the blind will be opened; and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb will shout for joy. For waters will break forth in the wilderness and streams in the Arabah. And the scorched land will become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; in the haunt of jackals, its resting-place, grass becomes reeds and rushes. And a highway will be there, a roadway, and it will be called the highway of holiness. The unclean will not travel on it, but it will be for him who walks that way, and fools will not wander on it. No lion will be there, nor will any vicious beast go up on it; these will not be found there. But the redeemed will walk there, and the ransomed of the lord will return, and come with joyful shouting to Zion, with everlasting joy upon their heads. They will find gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”
I cannot describe the lifting and encouraging this Scripture, coming in this way, blown to me by the ‘pneuma’ wind from God, had on my spirit.
I would love to say that I felt physically better but I didn’t. Nothing had changed. I was still grinding through the pain, yet a great many things changed on the inside as I let the incredible ‘hope of glory’ come to a more complete life in my spirit.
I just lay back on the grass, choking on the pain still, but an incredible sense of ‘being cared for’ was driven home to me.
Think of the truth of this Scripture . . .
The desert will be glad, the exhausted and blind, the lame and dumb will dance and leap, shouting at the top of their lungs and I will be right there.
I WILL BE RIGHT THERE!!!!!!!!
This is the ‘hope of glory.’ This is the ultimate hope. This hope cannot be removed from anyone through any circumstances whatsoever. This hope is more secure than any other truth to ever see the light of day.
“EVERLASTING JOY WILL BE UPON THEIR HEADS . . .”
Everlasting Joy . . .
Just think of it.
Let your mind dwell on the implications of everlasting joy.
My oldest son Kyle expresses his frustration with trying to grasp eternity by saying, “I feel as if I am going to faint thinking about how God has always been alive and that he will always be alive without any ending, ever. It frustrates me and scares me like I don’t want to go there.”
He is only twelve years old and already the issues of mortality and eternity are mystifying his mind. Kyle loves Jesus and wants to do what is right but eternity . . .. (Of course he is afraid and frustrated by the mystery, by the unknown, by the ‘otherness’ of it all.) When he arrives at that gate (hopefully after eighty or ninety good years) and the true nature of heaven becomes apparent to him he will dance, shout, and sing.
The comfort for the chronic sufferer in all this is, not the ‘otherness,’ the unknown, not the spirit realm itself but the fact that sorrow, and sighing will flee away and be replaced, displaced like air is displaced by water in a glass.
Completely, irrevocably, replaced by everlasting joy.
My friend Ken, leaping and running, laughing and shouting as he leaps higher and stays in the air longer than ‘Air Jordan’ ever even thought about it.
My mother, who suffers from a degenerative nerve disease, finding gladness and joy and a complete healing.
My own self, full of boundless energy climbing Mt. Everest in the new heavens and earth, completely restored. Experiencing the power and glory of a brand new body.
First Corinthians chapter fifteen is an exciting ‘prevue’ of what we will all someday become . . .
“How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come? Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain, perhaps wheat or some other grain. But God gives it a body as he pleases . . .. 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. So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in Incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in Glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in Power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a Spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. It is written, The first man, Adam became a living being. The last Adam (Christ) became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second man is the Lord from Heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly man . . .. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised Incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on Incorruption, and this mortal must put on Immortality. So when this corruptible has put on Incorruption, and this mortal has put on Immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.“ O death where is your sting? O Hades where is your victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of death is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”
I love this scripture. It contains such a wonderful message of hope for the hurting. No matter what comes, we shall bear the image of the heavenly man. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in Strength and Glory. What incredible joy this is.
Everlasting joy . . . The very quality of existence in eternity . . .
BUT, the now . . .
The now when the pain grips and refuses to give ground. The now, when all seems dark. Where is our refuge? How can we so assimilate this ‘Immanuel,’ God is with us promise so as to survive and in some fashion triumph?
I’m starting to feel a strange detachment to my suffering. A deadness to it all as if my life is already over . . . That the essential part of me that feels enjoyment has been amputated, is gone, and will never return in this life.
“Why, Why, Why, Why, Why? It just is.” Says Van Morrison in one of his songs . . .
And now all that is left to me is usefulness. Not by any means to myself. Rather a usefulness to others . . . This writing for example, does nothing for me. My prayer is that it is bringing hope and help, understanding and grace to you. That you as you suffer find this useful. Psalm seventy-one says, “I have become a portent to many; for thou art my strong refuge.” Perhaps you will see His strength in me and take heart, take hope, mostly that you will ‘partake’ of His life.
I am finding incredible . . . Fun . . .? No . . . Enjoyment . . .? No . . . MEANING AND HOPE, in doing the things that I can do.
The giftings in my life released for God to use to his glory. Playing my soprano saxophone with all of my soul in church and the doors of worship God opens in the hearts of others through my music . . .
To write as honestly and openly as possible with my heart and soul positioned in worship . . . To follow him whatever the cost, and to find meaning and hope in the struggle, in the with-ness of the Holy Spirit.
To hug my wife and children and to pray with all that I am . . .
To not put a limit on what God is doing in and with me just because I am hating life in this dungeon. But to grimace and grin, to weep and pour my heart out like water in his presence, pursuing this relationship I have with God.
I want to be a witness for Jesus to the lost.
The lost . . .
Like children in the woods those who haven’t trusted Him with their inner lives wander lost in the lonesomeness of their souls.
The lost . . . All day long I see them striving to find inner peace, an inner sense of hope and purpose, but all there is is addiction and the pursuit of the empty promise of money.
I speak of the lost and yet this writing and the dark nature of my despair and struggle with pain seems to place me in that category. What is the difference?
I insist that this all has meaning . . . I insist that there is an unseen world constantly ‘breaking in’ upon this one. That God hasn’t left us. That he is not separate but constantly tests and beholds our thoughts, motives, and lives. Hebrews 4:13 says, “And there is no creature hidden from his sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.”