As my seven-year-old daughter curled up on the couch with stomach pain, she looked up at me with sadness and confusion in her eyes and said, “Mommy, I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but I kind of wish you hadn’t had us when you were sick — then you wouldn’t have given us all your Lyme Disease.”
Although that comment would typically have felt like salt in a wound (despite not knowing that I was sick prior to having children), thankfully the Spirit gave me the ability to hear her words as words of searching, not of accusation.
As my own mind raced to answer the very question that I have often wrestled with as well, I anchored myself in the truth that God has sovereignly allowed this. I shared with my daughter that God knew the number of our days, the hairs on our head, and the struggles that we would face, even before we were created.
Jesus, Thank You
As we talked through how hard it was to be hurting, how it didn’t feel fair, and how this illness sometimes makes us feel angry, sad, and confused, I reminded her (and my own heart) that because he is a loving and good God, the only reason he would prevent me from knowing that I would pass down this awful illness to my children is if he had a good and loving purpose for it. We may not understand it now, but one day, if we place our trust in him, we will no longer battle this disease. One day, we will be with Jesus.
As her eyes began to brighten, we talked about heaven and the promise that if we put our faith in Jesus, our pain and suffering will come to an end and we will be with him in new bodies for all of eternity.
I tucked my daughter into bed shortly after and heard her pray, “Jesus, thank you that you have a purpose for my Lyme Disease and that it won’t last forever.”
That night I saw the power of the gospel at work in my little daughter’s heart through the pain I longed to free her from. Even though she may only grasp it at a surface level, it was a powerful image for my own heart — reminding me how Christ takes our grief, questions, and pain, and infuses life into what would otherwise be hopelessness.
If you are hurting today or struggling to understand why God is allowing something in your life, I encourage you to remind yourself of these gospel truths that are ours because of what Christ did for us on the cross.
1. We Grieve with Hope
We can pound our fists in anguish and weep over what we’ve lost, as we lay our hurting hearts bare at the feet of Jesus. We trust that he can handle our pain. However, we can’t wallow there. We need to allow the truth of the gospel to speak into our grief and questions.
We can say to our hurt, “Because of Christ’s sacrifice, this pain is no longer pointless and it is a reminder of the hopeless eternity that I have been saved from. I can dry my tears, rise up, and walk forward in the strength of Christ, confident that he is in control and faithfully working in ways that I may not see in the moment.”
As John Piper so powerfully said, “Occasionally, weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have.”
2. Our Pain Has a Purpose
If we haven’t surrendered our lives to Christ, then pain can be purposed to awaken us to our need for him. Once we have placed our faith in Christ, God uses our pain to draw us nearer to Christ, loosen our grip on the world, make us more eternity minded, mold us into his image, and bring glory to himself through it.
Though we may not see any earthly good coming from our circumstances, we can be confident that God is in control and working according to his purposes for us. We say with Job, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).
As we see in Job, the Lord allowed him to wrestle with his anguish, even despairing of life itself. He asked why God had brought such destruction upon his life. Suffering was not used to destroy Job but to lead him to a place of greater humility, repentance, and surrender, as well as to use his life as a testimony to the power and sovereignty of God. Above all, God revealed himself to Job as the all-powerful and all-knowing God, which in the end silenced his “whys.”
If we get stuck in the cycle of asking “why” and refuse to surrender and humble ourselves under a God who we won’t always understand, then we will find ourselves trapped in the miserable pit of despair. But if we ask Christ to help us bring our grief to the cross we will be able to rest in faith that God is who he says he is and that he will be faithful to his promises.
3. Our Suffering Will End
Apart from Christ, our earthly pain would be nothing more than a despairing glimpse of our eternity. But because of Christ’s sacrifice, taking the pain and punishment that we deserve upon himself, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit and can trust God’s promise that our earthly pain will come to an end.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16–18)
As my daughter and I wrestled with the pain that this illness has caused in our family, our eyes were lifted and our burden was lightened as we marveled at the promise of what was to come. It didn’t take the pain away, but it did give hope and life.
Though our outer selves may be experiencing the pain of wasting away, we (as children of God) have the guarantee that our “momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” This requires us to look beyond what we can see in the moment and fix our eyes on what is unseen. And as we gaze upon Christ, we will become more and more like him, while we yearn for that day when we will be at home with him in glory forever.
Bring Your Pain to the Cross
No matter what you are facing today, Christ can breathe hope into our grieving hearts, give strength to our weary bodies, and fill our weak and broken lives with his power.
Bring your pain to the foot of the cross and rejoice in Christ’s resurrection. Praise God that, having defeated the power of sin and death, Christ now lives to intercede for us. If Christ gave his own life for us, we can trust that he will surely be faithful to equip and carry us through whatever he has allowed for his good purposes. One day, we will be free from the pain of this world and enter into an unimaginable and glorious eternity with our Savior.
Many of the struggles we face in my family are related to Lyme Disease, a similar struggle shared by my friend Kristen Wetherell. Together, Kristen and I shared our stories of finding hope in the following brief video and in our book, Hope When It Hurts.