The road we travel in life can often be very hard and painful. Another simple word for that is called “suffering”. Suffering never comes on a schedule. Distress usually bursts into our lives when we least expect it, and we are often blindsided. Any troubling news can lead to a painful journey.
Suffering can take us down many different paths: it can be physical, emotional, mental, and even spiritual pain. It usually shows up unannounced like a nosy neighbor or breaks through the door of our lives like an intruder that holds you hostage. It is certainly never convenient and not a welcome guest. Suffering is not a gift any of us willingly choose, like some false martyr’s reward or a cheap prize at the fairgrounds. Sometimes it is a short route; other times it’s a long winding road. And for many people that journey never quite ends until their entrance to Heaven.
Take this past year and you will see examples of all forms of suffering with the pandemic that invaded our world and personal lives. Many lost loved ones when the virus first broke out while doctors and specialists were trying to figure out how to treat Covid-19. Others became ill with Covid and had to battle a long way back to health. People across the world lost jobs, sources of income, the ability to pay for food, housing, and bills. Businesses shuttered their doors, some for good. These individuals suffered on many different levels. Depression and even suicides were at an all-time high due to the social isolation from being cut off from family and friends, church, or even schools being shut down.
But for many the hard road did not just start with the pandemic. Take my brother-in-law, who has battled several forms of cancer and finally had a bone marrow transplant last fall. He was in the hospital for more than 9 months--completely isolated and alone due to Covid--with too many procedures and surgeries to count. He is home now and improving. His transplant has engrafted, but he is still on a long road with lots of bends and curves on the path.
I can relate with my sudden diagnosis with gastroparesis (GP) six years ago which makes eating and digesting food a challenge every single day; every meal in fact. It also affects my energy and the ability to function daily. I was managing GP fine with treatments, medications, and a strict diet, and usually bounced out of flairs within a week. Until a few months ago when I swung into a major flair along with gastritis that landed me back in the hospital. But I am finally stabilizing and healing and learning to rest in God. Physical suffering is a trying hardship.
Then another friend is facing a difficult, drawn-out, and painful divorce this person simply didn’t see coming. The threats, revengeful behavior, cruel words and actions, lies spread by the former partner have intensified along with costly counseling and legal advice. Another couple I know called it quits after more than 30 years of marriage over work. She wanted him to retire; he still has a company to run. And sadly, their irresolvable issue led to a new kind of suffering. Divorce leads to broken families, broken relationships, and a new kind of pain called heartache and loneliness.
This past year, many were suddenly laid off from their job, including a family member of mine that needed the income—especially after the couple had just bought a new house. There was no real warning. The only explanation was the company had to consolidate and reduce employees. She was told that day and dismissed, along with a whole slew of other faithful corporate employees left with no means to provide for their families accept short term government aid that barely scratched the surface of bills. And the cumulative effect is called financial and emotional suffering.
Some dear friends of ours lost their best friend to a self-inflicted gunshot. This blindsided everyone. He had shown no signs, but the long road and stress from the past year had affected him mentally. Tragically, now there is a grieving widow and two sons. This distressed husband and father’s journey has ended. The family’s pain has just begun.
None of us are exempt from suffering if truth be told. But the question is: “Where do you turn for help, for solace, for comfort, for relief?” Your health may break down. A company might lay you off. A business may fail. A relationship might end. Or even the life of another may end. But God is always our refuge, hope, and strength—no matter the trials of life, no matter what hard road you have to travel. He is the shelter and strong tower you can hide in until the storm or trial passes or until your body or heart are healed and life resumes some sense of normalcy. He is the peace that passes all understanding. He is the One sure Rock in an everchanging world.
Fear not. I am always with you. I will be your shelter in the storm. I will be your shade in the heat. I will be your strong refuge. I am with you always. ALWAYS. Learn to seek Me and hide in the shadow of My wings. Learn to rest in Me when there seems to be no answers. I will never forsake you. I will lead you through the valley of the shadow of death both now and one day into your eternal home in Heaven. Suffering happens in this fallen world and fallen life, but I am your Redeemer, your constant Companion and Help. I am your Healer and Provider. I will hide you in My secret place: the place of My heart. Simply come to Me.
“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” (Psalm 91:1-2)