Pastor Note #34–A Pastoral Letter to Someone Who Had Suffered a Debilitating Accident
It was really good to see you at the church yesterday. It was very brave of you, because I could see that you were suffering a lot of pain. I don’t understand why you have had to suffer so much in the last few months. I wish I did.
I do know that when we are faced with suffering, we have a choice to make. Whether we suffer in this life is not a choice for us. This life is full of suffering. It is full of “thorns and thistles” (Gen. 3:18).
Occasionally, we suffer because of our own actions, but most of the time the reasons for our suffering are veiled in mystery. We don’t get to choose whether there will be suffering in our lives, but we do get to choose how we will respond to our sufferings. I have seen some who have been broken by their suffering, who have been led by their suffering into bitterness, hopelessness, and withdrawal into themselves. That is the only really ultimate tragedy in suffering. Fight against that with all your heart. For the love of God, for the love of your family, for the love of yourself,don’t give in to bitterness or hopelessness.
But anger, sadness, fear — these emotions are not especially a problem. If you feel angry, be angry. Tell God you’re pissed off in loud, clear, and no uncertain terms. He can take it. In fact, he knows all about your anger already. You can’t hide it from him, so don’t try. Pray angry prayers if you’re angry. Don’t try to lie to God by praying false “happy” prayers, when you’re really mad as hell.
If you are sad at heart, let your prayers be full of tears. Sitting in your heavenly Father’s lap is the very best place to be when you need to cry your heart out.
If you are scared, cling to God with all the strength your desperation gives you. He knows how small and weak you are compared to the storms and dangers of this world.
When the pain in your arm threatens to overwhelm your endurance, tell God about every minute detail of it. He is never tired of hearing your voice.
Keep your heart open and very well ventilated by prayer. Let the fresh breeze of God’s Spirit blow through your heart. If you bury your anger, sadness, and fear and hold them hidden in your heart, they will fester there and rot and turn into bitterness, and they will break you. Keep those feelings exposed to the fresh air of God’s Spirit in prayer, and he will redeem them into wisdom, patience, and compassion.
Praying your anger, sadness, fear is, in a sense, an act of giving those feelings to God and not clinging to them yourself. Of course, that
is never a once for all action. Everyday you will likely have to repeat this act of giving your painful feelings to God. To cling to those feelings and refuse to give them up to God will put you at risk of bitterness and hopelessness.
God really will take the suffering that we experience and turn it into a new and different thing in our lives–a redeemed and even beautiful thing.
The suffering itself will never be a good thing. Suffering in itself is never anything but evil. The Cross of Jesus was a very, very evil thing. And in itself, it will never be anything but evil. But God took that evil instrument of torture and used it to bring about the most beautiful result — our salvation and redemption. If God can do that with the Cross of Jesus, he can easily do it with your sufferings. Ask him and ask him and ask him, and never get tired of asking.
You are not alone. People who love you are all around you. They are eager to support you in your time of suffering, just as you have done and will do again for them. Let them do that now for you.
Yours in Christ’s love,
©2012 Gary A. Chorpenning; all rights reserved.