Oh, if only forgiveness were the end of it!
But it’s just the beginning.
Suffering doesn’t stop just because we’ve been nice. Our real enemy (who is not a human enemy), knows how to move his pawns and which buttons to push. Sometimes forgiveness must become more like a motto than a choice. Once that choice is functioning, insight grows for us in amazing ways.
We notice patterns. Painful, uncanny coincidences just “pop up”. Ever wonder if it was just you, or if life actually takes a nosedive once a month? At the least timely time? Like clockwork? Mark your calendar; he’ll be back when you’re at your weakest. Why not? He’s the enemy!
For our family, he tries a trick or two every Thanksgiving. I think it’s because we actually celebrate the “thanks” part of it, unto the Lord. Our enemy hates that. So we’ve had four wrecks (none our fault), a baby dehydrating in a hospital, a surgically repaired broken arm, a best friend’s funeral, a small housefire, an emergency cleaning at our church’s parsonage, and a dead refrigerator on ten separate Thanksgivings. We know when to start praying.
But the thanksgiving part is the most essential. If we turn to God in our pain, weakness, and fear; if we cling to Him in trust; if we thank Him and praise Him in obedience to His Word; we come away from our temptations, trials, and tests on His side of the line between life and death. He waits to help and longs for us to choose life.
Oh, but there’s more. During times of great mental or emotional pain we still have our relationships. Precious ones still need us. Promises stand unfulfilled. We simply cannot cry all day because of a meeting tonight. We cannot go for a long drive because of the children. We cannot rent a cabin away from it all because Mom will need her cancer checkup. Or something.
Then there’s the Word. How impossible it is to pitch a good old-fashioned fit with the Word echoing in our brains! Blessed are ye . . .Who for the joy set before Him endured . . . ye have not yet endured to the shedding of your blood . . . Wives, also . . . We end at the ultimate word on suffering: My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? And we realize: He has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one . . .
Could there possible be more? Yep. We always have helpers. People bring us food we aren’t supposed to eat. People comfort us with ungodly words. People say they love us and we know they lie. It is a call for the patience of the saints. Be a saint. After all, you do have needs. They mean no harm.
Eventually God takes you out, raises you above, gives you a plateau. The plateau has a name: Union with God. You realize it is not about you, was never about you. You realize your co-suffering with Jesus, your helping to fill what was lacking in His suffering, your place in the plan of salvation for someone else. It is heavenly. You see yourself through His eyes, as a warrior for Him, someone He trusts to do part of His work. It’s like a medals ceremony after a big battle.
Then you rest. Only then. Although He has held you tenderly by the hand through the whole nightmare, He now holds you IN His hand and you know you are, finally, safe.