Alarm clock number one on my phone went off. I groaned, fumbling to turn it off. Was I really asleep? I asked myself, groggy. The pain in my legs was with me all night, even in my sleep; it was part of my dreams, part of my sleeping consciousness – I was, in my dreams, trying to understand why a specific spot on my left leg was more tender than the rest, which it really was, and in my dreams I was also trying to manage the pain…squirm here, shift there, try to keep it from touching the bed sheets. I’d obtained no relief during the four to five hours I estimated I’d slept.
It’s Sunday and it’s time for me to get up for church. Knowing I had a second (much louder) alarm clock that was going to re-wake me in about 3 minutes, I put my head back down on the pillow. The pain in my legs worked its way from my toes to just above my knees. Ugh, they BOTH hurt today, just like last night. I think that’s mirror pain. I sure hope it’s not getting worse. I had my eyes shut, but couldn’t get back to sleep. My radio alarm went off, “Thanks for joining us on The Light FM,” the radio DJ said in a chipper voice which only elicited another groan from me. I’m most assuredly NOT a morning person.
I prayed. Lord, if you want me to get up and go to church…or even just to get up!, I need your help right now. I don’t have the energy to do this again. I need you to strengthen me and give me the will to get up and fight today. Help me please. It’s a prayer I pray every morning.
Several years ago I used to fight and fight for at least a good 35-45 minutes in bed, trying to will myself into a standing and awake position. Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty – sometimes I’d be hanging half-on, half-off the bed…legs kinda on the floor, everything waist-up crumpled and twisted while still smooshed against the pillow and mattress, perhaps 1/4-aware that I was human as I drooled. Yeah, I told you it wasn’t pretty….
Years ago I remember praying that prayer for the first time, asking the Lord to strengthen me and recognizing my utter dependence upon Him for even the ability to rise from my bed. The raising of Lazarus could not have been more dramatic – God gave me the strength I needed as I rose to start the day in faith. Faith without works is dead, so I prayed, waited for His strength to fill me a little, and as I sat up I trusted He would fill me with the rest that was necessary to get this body moving again. And so, I learned that praying this prayer immediately upon waking (enough to recognize that I was partially human) was the key to starting my day in faith for God’s sustaining power to be at work in my daily life.
I also learned that God sometimes waits. He waits for us to ask. He waits for us to ask with faith and to take the first step even when we don’t already see His provision (If we already see it, is faith still required? Who hopes for what he already has?). Every morning, God waits to give me strength to arise until I seek Him for it. If it takes 2 minutes or 3 hours, He will wait patiently; He is not bound by time and He’s not particularly worried about MY schedule either; He wants my heart. If it takes 3 hours of me fighting between the bed sheets with animal-like groans before I recognize that doing this “on my own” is entirely foolish and futile, He will wait; He’s waiting for my heart to respond to Him, to His presence, to His mercy and love. He’s waiting for me to remember He’s there and to make Him the center of my day. It starts right here – in bed.
This morning, as soon as I finished praying my simple but heart-felt prayer of dependence upon His strength, He met me. I rose from my bed, transferring to my wheelchair, and started getting ready to go. I wanted to go to church even though it would take me an hour and a half of pain and hard work to get ready, and 30 minutes to drive there. I wanted to be in His presence and in the fellowship of His people. I wanted to magnify His name through song and praise. I wanted to show my gratitude for the precious gift that is so often taken for granted in America – the ability of the saints to meet together in corporate prayer, praise, service, and teaching.
My friend and I arrived at church on time, which is itself no less than a HUGE miracle. The hours wore on, and my body wore out, however. The pain in my legs increased – it was raining, which wasn’t improving matters.
I prayed again. Lord, this pain just won’t let up. It doesn’t stop! Even when I sleep at night, it follows me into my “rest”. Why am I experiencing this unrelenting pain? God’s answer came clearly and swiftly to my heart.
“You feel that your pain is constant, that it never leaves you, but I want you to know that the constancy of My faithfulness greatly exceeds the constancy of your pain. My faithfulness will always remain with you and upon you, for you are my beloved. You’ve seen that, even though you may have no relief from pain all day and night, My mercies are new every morning and I give you the strength you need to continue following Me daily. I will forever be more constant in My faithfulness and mercy than your pain, and I am building the conviction of this truth into your life, building your faith, as I send my blessings of springtime growth through the rain showers of pain.”
It was the touch of God that I needed today, the voice of His word made applicable to my life. It was a beautiful picture to me of how God uses suffering and pain to show me more of Himself, a reminder that there is a purpose in the pain.
21 But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
22 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
25 The LORD is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
26 It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.
27 It is good for a man that he bear
the yoke in his youth.
28 Let him sit alone in silence
when it is laid on him;
29 let him put his mouth in the dust—
there may yet be hope;
30 let him give his cheek to the one who strikes,
and let him be filled with insults.
31 For the Lord will not
cast off forever,
32 but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion
according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
33 for he does not willingly afflict
or grieve the children of men.