March 31, 2015

Our Pain, Our Suffering: Jesus Enters It All

Post by Emily Coleman

"Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all." Isaiah 53:4-6 NIV.

As we prepare our hearts for Good Friday and Easter Sunday, we'd like to share a guest post with you, our extended family of faith, written by our very own Emily Coleman. On the cross, Christ "took up our pain and bore our suffering." But what does this mean in light of the suffering that we—and the native missionaries we serve overseas—still endure?

In 2013, Emily's mother was diagnosed with ALS, which she writes about here. We hope this post will encourage all of you who are experiencing various trials, as we seek together to glorify the Lord in every circumstance we face.

Life has changed so much since Mom was diagnosed with ALS. It went from normal everyday life and problems to crisis mode. I have felt every emotion from desperation, depression, anger, denial, panic and FEAR to peace, assurance and HOPE. Everyday has its own trials.

Losing pieces of Mom is the worst torture I can imagine. The thought that this is only going to get worse as this disease progresses brings horrific nightmares. The Lord has graced me with gifts of peace that have lasted weeks at a time. I've felt hope and love from the Lord when things around me have crumbled into ashes.

Sometimes I think, "If one more person asks me how Mom is doing, I'm going to explode." Then within moments I think, "I need people to feel the pain I feel, so they will understand the kind of pain I'm in."

I want to talk about it, and then halfway through talking, I don't want to talk about it anymore. Depression hovers over me like a cloud, ready to encapsulate me at any moment waiting for me to just say the word...or rather, draw the curtain and crawl back into bed. I have to remember that better days will come. Grief is a strange thing. One day life seems unbearable, and the next I'm ready to clean my room and take on a project.

Today as I sat listening to the Lord, He revealed some things to me. He reminded me that the Psalmists were very much aware of their adversaries surrounding them. They didn't turn a blind eye to their surroundings or impending doom and pretend everything was fine. They didn't respond to these trials and tritely say, "The Lord is just so good all the time." They accepted and acknowledged the reality of their devastating circumstances; but they didn't stay there. They looked to the Lord for protection, for hope and guidance.

Paul was imprisoned but found contentment. He didn't ignore the fact that he was persecuted. He didn't live in denial that he was unjustly treated. He acknowledged his circumstances but looked to the Lord.

No one can solve the problem of ALS or of losing my mother. Everyone says that they wish they could; but not even the doctors know how to fix it. This is unjust; it's not right what is happening to my mother and to my family. But the truth is, if I'm looking for someone to feel the pain I feel so that I can be comforted, it's the Lord. Didn't He have to watch His SON be tortured, humiliated, nailed to a cross and then take on the sins of humanity? Is there anyone else who could relate to me like He can?

But I can't stop there. This is a trial, albeit the worst in my life to date, but this is one of the many trials I will face as I walk through this broken, sin-filled world. If my focus is ALS, broken relationships, death or sin, then I'll be overwhelmed. Like Peter, I will sink into the ocean, though Jesus is standing right there waiting for me to look to Him, to make Him my focus.

My life could easily turn into an excuse to become a victim. But the Lord doesn't want that for me.

He doesn't want me to have pain either, but this world is broken; so it's not escapable. But because of Jesus' death on the cross, we don't have to live bound to our pains and hurts and depression. No, we're not going to leave this world unscathed. We are all affected by this broken world. We all have ways of coping with it, some good and some not so good.

Emily (far right) with her family, making the sign for "I love you."

Regardless, the Lord's way is for us to be able to acknowledge this pain, but look to Him as our Savior and trust that He is good and His plan is for us and only He has the ability to heal this pain.

Though this pain is unmatched in my life, though a little piece of me seems to die every day, the Lord gives me glimpses of the things He has been able to accomplish through this trial. He really is using it for good.

He hates this pain even more than I do. He hurts more than I do. So I have to remember to trust that He is in control. When I break down and weep, that's ok. Sin is a horrible thing and it's not fair that it has touched me like this. It should make me weep.

But sometimes, in the midst of weeping, He reminds me of the good that He's able to do. As I sat with my roommates and we wept together (I'm talking, ugly cry) we were still able to laugh and thank the Lord for His many blessings.

I have to get into the habit of responding to trials and suffering with praise and focusing on the One who cares, who is in control and has the power to heal broken hearts.