Weekly Devotional 022624

Pain, Suffering and Prayer…Thinking Outside the Box

by Gary Mueller

One of my favorite Bible verses is James 4:2: “You do not have because you do not ask God.” We are told throughout the Bible to pray. The Apostle Paul expands this teaching a little further. He says that prayer from an individual is tremendously powerful. Prayer is a necessary action to be taken.

The author C.S. Lewis offers this perspective:
God loves us and will provide everything we need to sustain us from day to day. However, to infer that prayer is unnecessary is to overlook the broader teaching of Scripture. The Bible does indeed teach that everything we need for life and godliness is found in God, who is willing and able to give it and knows our need before we ask. But it does not teach that He bestows these riches upon us automatically, as a matter of right.

Several months ago, I was going through some tough times. It was a ‘valley of the shadow’ time for me and I was depressed to the point of tears. I pleaded with God for help. You may remember from my last writing that a few days later while in the lobby of a hospital a nurse I had never met before walked over and handed me a note with the scripture reference ‘Jeremiah 29:11-13’ written on it. She said that she had been told to give that to me and walked away. God answered my prayers in a miraculous way.

However, just over three months later I was in the hospital with blood poisoning due to drug interaction issues following a hip replacement surgery. I was struggling with the thought that God had recently given me a bonus pass but then turned around and nearly allowed me to die. I couldn’t help but think, What was all of that about? God, why did You bring me here for this?

Another favorite Bible verse of mine came to mind—Philippians 2:12-13: “Continue to work and act…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purposes.” C.S. Lewis also said, “Sharing our suffering with others opens the door to receiving the love, support, guidance, and safety we need to heal and overcome our circumstances.” In other words, you are not waiting for God, He is waiting for you to do something.

As I started to recover from the blood infection, I was somehow awakened to what had just happened to me. The reality was that if I had arrived at the ER even 30 minutes later, I might have died! It was indeed another miracle. Then I remembered an exercise I learned during a previous time of suffering…to just close my eyes and imagine where Jesus was in my room and what He was saying to me. I recalled that He was standing near me saying, “Everything is going to be all right. Don’t worry.” Just then I received another thought from the Holy Spirit…that I had been greatly blessed by both PLC and my friends, and that I should pass on some of those blessings to the nurses around me in the hospital.

Over the next four days, I had many opportunities to speak with and pray for nurses who were attending to me. I felt the Holy Spirit telling me very clearly that I should not be crabby or unpleasant and instead, pray with my caregivers. One young nurse I spoke with was a missionary from South America who had immigrated to the U.S. but then separated from her American church for several months. Later that day, one of our PLC pastors came to visit me in my room with communion. That same nurse just happened to be there, and we all took communion together. She later cried with me and thanked me for the blessing.

Another day while receiving an ultrasound, I spoke with another nurse and discovered our Christianity in common. She shared with me the difficulty she’d had with her family, her education, and her relationships. I asked if I could pray for her and we stayed there for a while, shedding our tears together. There was much more like this that followed during my time in the hospital, all because I had received the message that I needed to be grateful for my nurses and to reach out to them despite my own suffering.

When we do suffer, we are called to do so patiently. Why? “Because Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow His steps” (1 Peter 2:20-22). As Christians, we know that God promises He will work our troubles together for our ultimate good. In other words, it’s only in our sufferings that we receive some of the blessings of God’s promises.

God has ordered His creation in such a way as to allow prayer and outreach to play vital parts in the outworking of His purpose. Why be compassionate to others and pray for them? Because our God, who is indeed omniscient, omnipotent, and good, has established love and prayer as the means by which we can receive what He has promised to us. It helps us to fulfill what He planned for us before we were ever born. My life verse, Mark 12:30-31 says: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” We were all created to make the life around us better to the extent that we can. The truth and reward in this is what I experienced from my East African nurse as she was checking me out of the hospital. She said, “When I first met you, I thought you were going to be a difficult patient and hard to deal with. But you were not that way at all.” This is the legacy that I want to leave whenever I work with people. Perhaps it should be your goal, too.

In place of a closing prayer, I invite you to click and pray through the song, The Power of Your LoveGod bless you!

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