Discovering God's Purposes in our Pain
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Guest Contributor: Harry Shields
In the fall of 2011 my wife and I entered a most unexpected
chapter in the story of our lives. I had just completed a two-month
sabbatical. We were returning to ministry, rested and enthusiastic
about the years ahead. But on a sunny afternoon in September, Carol
called to inform me that she had just fainted and was confused as
to what was going on. I rushed home and called our family
physician. He instructed me to take her to the ER as soon as
possible. I did, and less than 24 hours later, my wife was the
recipient of a pacemaker. Her recovery was quick, but the whole
experience was unsettling - for BOTH of us. Three weeks later I
received a call that my father had passed away. And another three
weeks after that our friend and family doctor asked us to stop by
his office. He had something he wanted to talk to us about
regarding a recent mammogram Carol had undergone. The hours
preceding that visit were agonizing. When he walked into the
waiting room, he said, "Well, I don't like having to tell either
one of you this, but Carol, you have breast cancer." He shed tears
with us. He prayed with us. He went above and beyond the call of
duty in helping us enter into the journey that was ahead.
Like so many people given "the cancer diagnosis," we asked tons
of questions. We asked about therapy options, about lifestyle
changes, the impact of radiation and chemo…and we asked about the
prognosis. And then in the privacy of our own thoughts we asked,
"God, what are you doing? Don't you realize we have a
church to care for and a ministry to run?" Silence!
Yes, silence from the Almighty that went on for weeks.
But an answer did come. It came from a biblical text that I had
preached from numerous times in the past. It is found in the New
Testament Book of James, chapter 1, verses 2 through 4. In these
three verses God invites us to do something that seems virtually
impossible - maybe even a little sadistic. He says,
"Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you
experience various trials."
Why would anyone rejoice over a cancer diagnosis, a job loss, or
a devastating accident? The biblical writer says, "For
you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance, and
endurance empowers you to be mature and complete." I
understand those last three words to be saying, "You would
never choose to do this on your own, but I am using your trials to
make you dependent on Me! And when you are dependent on Me, I'll
make you more and more like Jesus."
It has taken me weeks to process the new life that God has
called us to. Yes, Carol has been given a clean bill of health. And
yes, our life is and will be different. But I am also aware that
God works in all of our challenges to accomplish His ultimate
mission - He wants to make us strong through our challenges. He
wants to make us resemble Jesus in all we do.
Harry Shields is a retired pastor and adjunct professor at Moody
Bible Institute. You can read his blog at: caringforsouls.com.