A Distant Call

“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” C.S. Lewis

As I lay on my back, staring up at the ominous lights of an operating room, a million things were running through my mind. Even now, as I am recovering, I am unable to stop thinking about the many scenarios that were possible, but ultimately did not happen. The initial vision that came to mind was just how different this view could have been.

Rewind a little and observe what has transpired the last few months. May of this year, my father’s health declined due to prostate cancer and inevitably led to his passing on June 7th. During that time, we were forced to cancel a trip to Germany that would enable us to build a strategy for ministry reaching refugees. That week turned out to be the last week I was able to spend with my father. His passing was one of the most heartbreaking things I have yet to encounter, but the story continues to unfold.

Soon after his passing, I joined a team from our church on a trip to Bosnia. While I was there, it became apparent how much suffering is a universal language. Usually, society does not want to engage in a discussion about pain or suffering. However, there were several conversations on that trip where I opened up about the loss of my dad and the anguish of watching him pass. Through these conversations, the experiences gained me opportunities to speak into lives that would have never opened up for me, God was working.

Upon my return from that trip, we discovered that my mother had a cancerous mass in her colon, and she went on to have surgery to remove it. We found ourselves back in the throes of and in the dark shadow of cancer yet again. We were doing our best to remain faithful, yet faithfulness was like reaching for smoke. I could see it; I knew it existed, but when I reached for it, elusively it slipped away. Though my faithfulness was blowing around by the winds of circumstance, God’s faithfulness is never failing. God graciously saw fit to use the surgery that my mother had undergone to remove her cancer. As we sat in the post-operation meeting with the surgeon, our hearts became overjoyed with the news of cancer being eradicated. Thankfully, the size of my faith did not measure the resolve of the faithfulness of God.

Then the excitement was beginning to mount for me as I prepared to head out to South East Asia. My trip there was to spend time encouraging a missionary family, dear friends of mine, and believers among the persecuted church. The morning of my departure, there was an abdominal pain that I did not recognize — a distant call beckoning me to answer. The pain was like a weak stomach cramp, a low rumble of a coming storm. Knowing I was to board a very long flight, I thought, “I should get this checked before I leave.” That morning it was revealed by a timely CT scan recommended by a friend that I indeed, had appendicitis. With impeccable precision and precipitousness, my appendix was removed, and I was home by that night. The possibilities of what could have been are many and all of them involve copious amounts of pain, possibly death.

Do we dissect our situations and attempt to understand everything?  I believe it is our nature to engage in this act of discovery. We have a deep-rooted desire for knowledge or more truthfully, control. Often we aren’t listening carefully, but pain rings out clear like a horn blast in the night, grabbing our deaf ears and forcing us to hear. Much has transpired these last few months. I have honestly never felt more opposed in life. Our family has had so many encounters with our mortality, experiencing the frailty of life to the fullest. Donald Grey Barnhouse said it well when he commented,  “Our tears become crystal lenses through which He is magnified; and in the midst of suffering, we realize the greatness of His power and the tenderness of His love.”  So we continue to look through these lenses.

My first inclination is to ask, “gosh, what have I done wrong,” or “did I miss God in this situation that then led me to the place I now find myself?” Trial, as J.C. Ryle explains, “ is part of the diet which all true Christians must expect. It is one of the means by which their grace is proved, and by which they find out what there is in themselves. Winter as well as summer, cold as well as heat, clouds as well as sunshine- are all necessary to bring the fruit of the Spirit to ripeness and maturity.” These trials have indeed produced tears through which to see, and ample food for the fruit of Spirit to work in me.

Ultimately it is God’s Word that brings me a calming resolve in this present struggle. We have endured much this year, and I am sure there is much yet still to come. Suffering and pain are unavoidable and come to us all. The rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous, but where are our hopes and strength? They are found in Jesus Christ; the Word made flesh.

[6] In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, [7] so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 1:6–7 (ESV)

You do not have to be alone in your pain and suffering, for Christ will walk with you in your trials, and the church will join you to see you through.