A Terrible Comfort
I received a call today from a friend with whom I’ve not spoken in a couple of years. He has brain cancer and we were talking about the struggle. He told me about a time last year when he thought he was going to simply give up and die because of all the complications and stress on him and his family. I asked him why he didn’t give up and his response was a long pause and then, “The presence of God.” I heard the exact same response from another friend with cancer two days ago when I asked him what was keeping him afloat. Time and again I have heard similar responses. I admit that I have sometimes wondered if those kinds of statements are not just positive thinking or what people think they should say to keep from falling apart. However, I have heard enough people I trust say “this has been a gift to draw me closer to God” or something similar to begin to think it is true. It is terrible but it is true. I have heard more about the certainty of the “everlasting arms” and the promise that God will never leave or forsake us from people in treatment than any other relationship in my life.
Now for the hard part. I think we are more likely to see a spiritual renewal in this country as a result of people suffering and yet sensing the absolute presence of God than we are from patriotic rallies of people reciting 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” For some reason, much of what I hear reflected is a desire to return to a time in our nation (real or imagined) when we were strong and secure without all the complications and stresses we now face. That is, in some ways, just the opposite of the testimony I hear from my friends and those who surround them. They are experiencing the inexplicable sustaining power of God in their weakness and desperate dependence on Him. In my mind, that is the key to spiritual revival – not making a national effort to find favor with God.
I would not wish the terrible gift of suffering on anyone but the result may be far greater than we could ever imagine if thousands of people are forced to deal with things that are so overwhelming that only the presence of God will carry them (and us) through those waters.