January 17th, 2018 transformed our lives. It was the day I (Patrick) heard the word cancer. “Would you spell that for me?” I asked the nurse over the phone. My head was already spinning. Heart pounding. I scribbled a word that I had, until now, never heard before onto the only scrap piece of paper I could find in our car. A word that would turn our world upside down.
“It’s a type of blood cancer,” the nurse on the other line finally said. “I am sorry.”
For nearly four months, I had known something was wrong with my body. An infection in my ear that wouldn’t heal. Increasing pain in my spine, arms and legs. Weakening muscles. Until finally an MRI revealed a lesion deep in my hip socket, near where it meets my pelvic bone.
The word “cancer” rattled around my brain like a pinball bouncing back and forth, looking for a place to land. A place to register. And then it dropped. Sinking into my heart. Shredding everything in its path.
January 17th, 2018 transformed our lives. But it was also a turning point for our lives.
That has been our story. But I know you have yours, too. I am not an expert on suffering. I don’t own the corner on pain. I’m just a fellow companion, limping along, doing my best to keep my eyes on Jesus. I, too, am taking it one step at a time.
All of us are suffering in some way, aren’t we? Each of our trials are unique. For some, it is the loss of a loved one. A disability. The revelation of an unfaithful spouse. The loss of financial prosperity and security. And the list goes on.
Suffering not only comes with hurt, it comes with options.
One of the most dangerous things about suffering is that we are tempted to take our hurt to the wrong person, or the wrong place. We might be tempted to take our pain and distract it with entertainment. Or maybe we might be tempted to numb our pain with another pill and one more drink. The ache we are feeling, the storm we are in, can tempt you to find solace in someone that is not your spouse. The hurt can tempt us to give up, or give in to doubt, which always leads to despair.
And so I would encourage you, first and foremost, take your hurt to Jesus. Jesus is the only One who understands our suffering, because he suffered for us.
The first step is always simply coming. Just as we are. With all of the hurt and fears and maybe even the bitterness and anger. Keep coming. Take another step toward Jesus. What does it look like practically to come to Jesus?
- It looks like staying in God’s Word every day. I’d encourage you to keeping opening your Bible. Even when you don’t feel like it. Especially when you don’t feel like it. We found reading a chapter of the psalms a day to be helpful. Or reading through one of the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).
- It might look like buying a journal for memorizing scripture. This is something I have done for years. Each week, I write a new verse, an important truth, or promise, to be memorized.
- It looks like staying on our knees in prayer. We cry out to God, with honest and hopeful prayers. We take our hurt, our pain, our fears, our doubts, and our struggle to Jesus. Prayer is a means to intimacy with God. And it’s in our prayers that God speaks to us, loves us by listening to us, and sustains us.
And so again, the first step is being with Jesus. Taking our hurt to Him. Resist feeling like you have to do anything right now. And simply rest in knowing God is with you. And He loves you.
On this side of cancer, I find myself thinking a lot more about Jesus. I find myself talking much more to Him. I want to follow in His footsteps, as a man who knew how to suffer. We need to look to Jesus, who is both tough and tender.
While we should never minimize our suffering, we should think often of His. We should go to him regularly, asking Him to give us the same grace to endure. The same power to be obedient. To be bold. And unwavering in our hope. We should ask Him for the same faith to remain fearless.
What will you choose? Who will you choose?
We have One who has suffered before us and for us. As a man, look to Him. Keep your eyes on Him. What we look to in our suffering will shape who we become in our suffering. And so the choice every man must make in his suffering is whether or not he will look to Jesus – the One who can fill us with faith, hope, and love.
*Original devotion written for Steadfast by Patrick Schwenk, co-author of In a Boat in the Middle of a Lake: Trusting the God Who Meets Us in Our Storm.
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Are you going through suffering right now? How has God met you during suffering in the past? How is it comforting to know that Jesus was a “man who knew how to suffer”?