by Brian G. Bettes
“This is what God is asking of me right now, Babe. He says He will not give us more than we can handle, so I must be able to handle this. I trust His judgment.” As my wife paraphrased 1 Corinthians 10:13 to me, I was stunned, deeply moved, and humbled by her words of surrender, tears streaming down her face.
In the last week and a half, my wife has been suffering a severe trial. It is a trial that involves debilitating physical pain.
Kristin has suffered through daily pain quietly and patiently due to an accident she had five and a half years ago, pain that I know I could not bear. She suffers chronic back pain, but she also lives with a constant headache. On a scale of 1 to 10, she says her headache ranges between a 2 to a “12” (really bad, blinding days). The only time she doesn’t feel a headache is when she is asleep. Doctors have “done all they can,” so she has settled into a life of “pain management.” I will not go into what all that entails at this time, but please believe me when I tell you she doesn’t live a very fun life most days.
However, this current pain is different and it has been nearly crippling. It started as we were traveling to Houston for the memorial service of a dearly loved friend, and has continued since. We are not sure what happened since she was not doing anything out of the ordinary, but all of a sudden a piercing pain shot through her neck and left shoulder. The suspicion at this point is a pinched nerve or a bone spur, but we will not know that for sure until tests confirm.
She was anointed and we have continually prayed about it since it started. The only position she feels some comfort in is when she is laying down, so it has all but put her in bed. This is scary stuff for both of us.
The worst part of it for me personally is having to watch her go through this and be completely helpless to do anything to help relieve her suffering. After a couple of days of watching her not be able to move much, seeing her tears, listening to her cry out multiple times when the pain “stabs” her and moan in agony the rest of the time; after watching her take strong prescription medication that hasn’t even phased the pain, I started having feelings of complete and total powerlessness in a desperate situation.
In my frustration, I began to do what many of us probably have done in times of severe trial. I began to ask the “why” question. I started asking God, “Why Father? We have done what You said we should do in bringing this before You. Why are You allowing this to go on like this? Are we not your children (of course we are)? Are you not hearing us (of course He is)? Is there something wrong? Is there sin? Please God, I don’t understand!”
As a point of reference, my wife has been through a great deal since her accident with many miracles being performed just for her to be alive. Every time we have prayed and she was anointed, we received amazing answers to those prayers, so this time seems more than a bit unusual.
I will tell you that I know better than to ask the “why” question. My wife and I are both fully aware that God is not our personal genie who is at our beck and call to perform miracles when we feel pain, and He doesn’t “owe” us an answer to the why question. We both understand that suffering is a part of His bigger plan for us to make it into His family (Romans 8:16-17). He said it would be so, and we should not expect anything different. I have given numerous sermons on this subject over the years, so it isn’t like this is completely unfamiliar territory to me. Yet I have felt so very helpless in this situation. So there I was, having these thoughts. As much as I don’t like admitting it, I will just say it here—my faith is not perfect.
I am also aware that we are to have complete and total trust that God knows what He is doing and He is intimately involved in our lives (Luke 12:6-7). However, I think when most of us go through something severe, if we are honest with ourselves, many of these same questions cross our minds. We probably don’t want to admit that, but, my own experience, coupled with that of others I have counselled who were suffering severe trials, tells me that this is true for most of us. We want there to be some semblance of rhyme or reason, some understanding, as to why we are going through certain trials. Read the book of Job and the Psalms sometime. You will see that this is not really all that unusual, even for those that God thinks very highly of.
It was at my voicing of these thoughts to Kristin that I heard her speak those words. Again, I was deeply humbled by her surrendered attitude, to say the least.
A few days later, as I was reading the Proverbs, I ran across these words. The thoughts that came with the words were interesting. I would like to share them with you.
Proverbs 3:1, 3 says, “My son do not forget my law, but let your heart keep my commands…. Let not mercy and truth forsake you; Bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart” (emphasis mine throughout). What struck me (once again) was that God really wants our hearts to be wrapped around Him and His way of thinking—not ours. That stung a little bit because, even though I know this and have tried to live it, I let something slip here and started thinking with my feelings, not my faith. I was not looking to His wisdom first. My heart was engaged in the wrong place.
What comes next was even more indicting. He says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart [there we go with my heart being in the wrong place again], and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). What struck me here was that I should not lean on my own understanding (which I knew), but I also should not lean on my lack of understanding either. Just because I don’t understand what He is doing or why He is allowing this isn’t a reason to not trust Him. How many times does Satan use that one against us, trying to get us to think that God is off somewhere else paying attention to someone/something else instead of us and our trial? Ouch! Point taken.
Next up, “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:6). Isn’t that what Christ was doing when He accepted the cup given Him by the Father (Matthew 24:39, 42)? This is also what Kristin was doing when she spoke her words to me. She was acknowledging God and His role in her trial (as she has done many times), and surrendering to His judgment.
Kristin is not perfect, and we both have our daily struggles to do what is right and follow God’s direction in our lives (Romans 8:14). We have good days and bad days in our efforts to do this. However, she moved and inspired me deeply on this occasion as, in severe pain, she has been surrendering to our Father and to Jesus. She has been, and continues to be, a good example to me of trusting God’s judgment.