Half-way through my senior year of college and I’m not quite sure where the time has gone! I’m looking for jobs. So if you know of anyone hiring a hardworking, self-motivated, and friendly college grad for the fall of 2017, put in a good word for me, eh? I remember last spring, watching my senior friends take silly electives like bowling, register for graduation, and scramble for a job*. Hard to believe it’s a year later and I’m in their shoes. Okay minus the job*. Give me a break. I’m 22.
This time of year I like to reflect, not just because it’s a new year but because five years ago this weekend, I felt a small pain in my throat that would leave a huge mark on my life.
If you’re confused, I’ll refer you to this post. Hopefully it clears some things up 🙂
A few weeks ago at church we sang “It Is Well”. As we sat there singing, it happened. There it was again- the painful twinge that continues to sneak up on me whenever I sing. This wasn’t the first time that my throat had hurt during worship, but I took special note of it. I was singing the words, “It is well with my soul” while enduring the ache of an imperfect larynx. I was caught in the overlap of praise and suffering, challenged to not just mindlessly sing “it is well” but to believe that these words were true, leaning into them in the midst of my pain.
I was once again brought to a place of having to declare hope and peace over my suffering.
But why? Why is there peace in suffering? Why can we confidently say “it is well with our souls”?
This past semester was hard. As I approach another milestone in my life in May, I find myself questioning the Lord again. You see, 5 years ago I never expected to be dealing with vocal pain my senior year of college. As I’ve gone through college I’ve seen the Lord use my voice issues to bring about his glory and bring me to where I am today. But as time goes on, I feel myself sounding like King David who once said,
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
While I have found joy in the present, in the back of my mind the temptation is to say, “How long, Lord?”
Throughout the past 5 years I’ve heard again and again the phrase “God’s timing is perfect.” But I’ve questioned this. I’ve never questioned the truth of the statement, but rather the meaning of it. What does it mean that God’s timing is perfect? Does it mean that if I’m healed 5 years from now, his timing is perfect? Yes. Does it mean that if I’m healed 50 years from now his timing is perfect? Yes.
But what about this: If I’m never healed on this side of heaven, is his timing still perfect? The answer is yes, friends. His timing is still perfect.
I felt compelled to write about this because I think we often view pain and suffering from an earthly perspective. We aim our hope at experiencing healing in this lifetime when the reality is that not all of us will experience complete healing before we meet Jesus. We know this is reality and you don’t have to look far to find proof.
So then what? If I am never able to sing again, did God fail? Did he forget about me? Was he not sovereign after all?
The non-Christian may conclude that God was either incapable of healing me or isn’t the loving God we claim him to be.
But for the Christian, there is peace. The Christian has peace in the victory that was won at Calvary and has hope in the glory that is to come. There is hope that true joy will come in the morning, when one day all pain will cease, all sickness will be healed, and all suffering will come to an end. This is a hope that goes beyond heaven. It is a hope that looks forward to the resurrection and the creation of a new heaven and a new earth.
In his book The Reason for God Tim Keller writes,
“The Biblical view of things is resurrection- not a future that is just a consolation for the life we never had but a restoration of the life you always wanted. This means that every horrible thing that ever happened will not only be undone and repaired but will in some way make the eventual glory and joy even greater.”
I think that our view of pain and suffering needs to adjust. I’ve found that when I focus my attention on when God will heal me, I can easily become confused and frustrated if he doesn’t heal me. I lose sight of the fact that my hope is not in what my life here will be but rather my hope is in the victory that has already been won and the glory that awaits me.
Hear me out. I am in awe of my Creator. I believe he is an all-powerful and all-knowing God, capable of healing me (or anyone) whenever and however he pleases. I believe in miraculous healings and stand amazed every time I hear of how God healed someone’s body of pain or disease. I believe that it is good to pursue healing in this lifetime. But if we live and pray as if God is supposed to heal us in this lifetime, then I think we put limits on his sovereignty.
So what now? Give up praying? Not at all. I’ll continue to pray every day that someday I will be fully healed. I’ll continue to believe that my God is able to heal me in an instant and when I finish college, I will likely look for new medical treatment of some sort.
But here is what else I’ll do: I will trust and believe that God’s timing is perfect and that he is sovereign and good even if he chooses never to heal me. I will put my HOPE in a God who tells me that JOY WILL COME IN THE MORNING when one day I am with my Savior and all pain, suffering, and sin has come to an end and “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” (1 Corinthians 15:54)
I’ll continue to sing that “it is well with my soul” because, “According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:3-5)
Whether you’re enduring hardship right now or not, may we fix our eyes on the unseen, on the hope that awaits, and on a God who has trampled death.