God’s No, My Sorrow
I have been dealing with some health issues lately that have been very concerning. After 15 years on no medication without any seizures, I have started having seizures again over the past two months. Sometimes they are absent seizures; sometimes they are convulsive seizures; sometimes they are partial complex seizures, but what matters really is that they are seizures. This is distressing for any number of reasons – I could legitimately have problems with my job, as I am required to travel; a busy family life becomes difficult with one less driver; I feel incompetent when I need my wife to chauffeur me somewhere. But for me, this biggest source of discomfort for me is something entirely different:
I have been praying for the last 7 years that my daughter Cynthia would be healed of her epilepsy. One time recently, I even thought I heard the Lord tell me that she was healed. Now, not only is she NOT healed…neither am I!
I have been struggling (a lot) with this turn of events. Doubt whispers little lies into my ears—
What kind of God does this to you? How is making things worse showing love?Maybe it’s your fault that you and Cynthia have seizures. If you read your Bible more, or prayed more, or sang that new Chris Tomlin song more, then this wouldn’t be happening. God must be mad at you. You are not good enough to be healthy.
Now, I know none of these things are true, and I am not entertaining them (for long), but the issue remains – how could this happen? I have started slowly telling some folks about this change in my health, folks I trust with my heart, with my weakness, with my sorrow. Most have been very considerate, and have strayed away from those unhelpful trite things we think are in the Bible but aren’t. But one person unexpectedly dropped this gem on me:
After a moment of struggle, I decided against destroying him and wiping his memory from the planet, because I know he meant well, and he just did not know how to respond to my news. But, it motivated me to look again at what God DOES promise in the Bible about sorrow. Now maybe you are thinking to yourself, “Dude, you are not sorrowful, just messed up about having seizures!” But sorrow is just one more word that we have misunderstood in our society. Sorrow does not mean deep dark suicidal depression, which is what we typically image in our minds. Rather, it is uneasiness or pain of mind which is produced by the loss of any good, or of frustrated hopes of good, or expected loss of happiness. So my newly ‘discovered’ seizures are indeed cause for sorrow in my heart. Now that we have that cleared up, I want to share with you the journey I went on through the Scriptures to understand God’s heart and His actions toward sorrow. Hope you enjoy the ride – let’s start with Psalm 34:15-20:
We see here that the Lord watches over us and listens for our cries, and that sounds great. But here is where it gets a little confusing. He is near to the brokenhearted, but rescues the crushed spirits. Then we read we will face many troubles, but the Lord will keep our bones unbroken. So, what’s the difference between crushed spirits and broken hearts, and why are bones more important than hears anyway? Seems like more questions than answers really, but I will hold those questions in tension while we move to another passage, Matthew 11:28-30:
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
At first glance this looks great, especially if we only read verse 28. It seems like we get to trade burdens for rest, thanks to Jesus. SIGN ME UP! Then it quickly gets less exciting though, as we move into talking about yokes. You might not know this, but a yoke is the implement that is used to guide a beast of burden, like a mule. Jesus offers for us to come and….be a mule beside Him? That sounds less exciting, because the burden will still clearly be there. Then He says that He has a burden too, and will share it with us. Now it feels like we are moving in entirely the wrong direction. I wanted to throw my burdens on Jesus, but He is sharing His with me. Wait just a second here! Still more questions than answers, I am afraid. Let’s see if another verse helps:
Oh boy – now we are promised trouble – not an improvement. Maybe I am just not looking at the right verses? Well, a closer look at this verse might help a little, because there is another equally powerful promise. We will have problems, but Jesus has overtaken the world. But what does it mean that He has overtaken the world, and why aren’t my problems history, if my God has the victory? That is a long question involving some pretty heavy theology, and maybe worth another post in the future, but frankly I don’t want to dive deep into Kingdom of God theology today, so I will try to keep it simple. Jesus is saying that He is the King, He is on the scene, and He is going to win the battle in the end; in the meantime, pain will come, but we can rest assured that victory is assured.
This isn’t always as inspiring as I would like it to be, because I want God to have complete and total domination over all the harshness in my life. This is where the other passages come into play, because my desires and God’s don’t align. I want the easy life, but God wants intimacy. I want no sorrow, but He wants me to be close enough to hear His whispers. Sometimes, there are no easy answers, and God seems distant in the midst of my sorrows, but I have learned that drawing close to Him always brings me peace, every time.