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Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Is He in the Fire?

This month of studying the comforting power of prayer has once again called me to self-examination. Do I fully rely on the Lord to keep His promises when persecution or trials come my way or do I make myself physically ill in worry over things I cannot control? Do I pray daily and directionally as a matter of routine (to click on “completed”) or am I passionately interested in talking to Him? Maybe most importantly, am I putting my own efforts behind the things for which I am asking or am I putting my own ideas and effort first and then praying, just in case my ingenuity doesn’t work? In other words, am I just praying to “cover all the bases”?

I have dear sisters who are suffering through persecution from those in the body (similarly to Nehemiah when his own countrymen in Jerusalem tried to stop the wall-building). I have sisters who are grieving the loss, both physically and spiritually, of adult children. I talked with a sister yesterday who is on her way to file for divorce after the painful discovery that her husband is living in adultery. I spoke with a young friend earlier in the week who is standing, almost alone, for righteousness on a college campus where there are lots of others who should know truth and should be coming to her aid.  I spoke with a mom who is fighting for the mental and spiritual health of her young and innocent daughter against the missiles of the devil in our world. These things are just at the top of a long list of unimaginably painful paths.

Let me say this with great affirmation. I do not always get it right. But one thing I have learned in the past couple of years is this: My current estimation of how earnestly God is working to aid my cause or the cause of truth/righteousness is not accurate. There is just no way the human mind can, in a time of trial, comprehend the providence that is occurring in events that are hurting His people. There will be days in your life when you will cry out in anguish to Him and then, as you go through another heart-wrenching saga or a day of unexpected and sad plot twists, you are tempted to think He did not hear you at all and that, indeed, He is not listening.

And then there will be another day: A day when you see, and you do so rather clearly, that God had to bring you through excruciation (each hard thing had to transpire) to bring you to a point of victory, vindication or rejoicing. He had to bring you through decisions that you could not control–decisions that, at the time, seemed defeating and cruel; that, in fact, those agonizing decisions, events and persecutions that you loathed, were the very ones that ended up working together to be the deliverance from the situation, the enemy, the fiery trial that was the curse in your life.  As many have said, “God does not always save you from the fire. Sometimes He saves you through it.” It is the very hard thing–the thing that is a test of your very endurance– that is required to bring about the end result that is productive and, yes, comforting.

It’s important to remember that:

  1. The spot of comfort may not even occur till heaven. (That’s hard to think about on time’s side. But one day, all people will “get” the rapidity with which all struggles find their final cold, hard, stop and transfer, in a defining moment, to eternal bliss or eternal damnation. This life is just a breath.)
  2. It’s impossible to recognize the good in the pain when you are in the hottest part of the flame. Faith does not consist of being able to understand or figure out. It’s trusting till you do, even if that time is not on this side of the great Judgment Day!
  3. The day when you DO finally see that every ridiculously hard thing was required by His providence for the ultimate victory and rest for His own, brings a measure of comfort you would never have experienced without the hard things.

I am not a wise woman. But I am blown away every day by the amazing wisdom in the Word. I can do anything for this short lifetime. May He keep giving me the good things, easy and hard, soothing and painful, heart-rending and heart-mending, until He takes me home. When you’re through the fire–whenever that is– the warmth of the very flame that tested you feels so very good!

Psalm 37! Just take the time to go and read it. He says it so much better than I could even begin to say it!



Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Where Is Your Sting?–Part 3

The Sting of Death is Pain

Sometimes death comes painlessly. But more often, at some point linked to death by circumstance or time, there is physical pain. The physical pain endured as death comes is transferred to loved ones and caregivers in the form of emotional pain. Legion are those who have been at bedsides and wished they could endure the pain being experienced by one approaching death. I recall being at the bedside of my mother as she neared the end and had, for several days, been uncommunicative; but her body still very obviously writhed in pain. The empowering truth that death is a release for faithful people becomes extremely important in such an hour. In my mother’s case, the cancer had been very slow and painful for several years. This climax of pain near the hour of her parting was a powerful reminder that we do not love everything about our environment here on earth. We love and long for heaven. 

The Bible makes it clear that suffering is the muscle builder of faith. Passages like James 1 and Hebrews 12 make it clear that we are better prepared to do the work of the Lord when we have suffered. If my Savior could learn obedience by the things he suffered (Heb. 5:8)…if the pain aspect of the cross was a completer in the Savior’s qualification to BE the Savior and mediator, then surely the pain of death teaches those in the valley of its shadow today about obedience, too. For certain, I have risen from that valley each time I’ve journeyed through it wanting to be ever submissive to the One who is preparing my home (Jn. 14:1-3). 

It’s interesting that heaven is described always more by what is NOT there than by what is there. Revelation 21:4 is the go-to passage of comfort when we are in the throes of death:

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

But it’s interesting that the verse doesn’t just exclude death itself from our picture of heaven. It specifically excludes pain as a “former thing”. One day, we will speak to one another in heaven and we may mention “former things.” But there will not even be pain at the memory of pain. It’s important to remember and take comfort in the fact that, if you said goodbye to a suffering loved one, the release from pain was both complete and permanent. 

I remember a day in the long cancer struggle when my mother became very discouraged about life here on earth.  Through tears, she said “I’m not sure I am doing the right thing to keep taking treatments and keep suffering along here. I think I just want to go on and be with God.” I  was young and perhaps immature as I responded. I recall weeping and gently rebuking her and telling her that we needed her.  I told her that we could hardly stand to hear her talk that way…that the treatments were going to give us good days.  I encouraged her to be strong for the grandchildren who loved her so very much. 

But the truth is, as her pain waxed greater through the progression of disease, so did her faith. Her desire to be in heaven and bring others with her—even her evangelism—shone brightest as she was leaving. She left a Bible study partially done with a nurse on that cancer unit. She asked me, before she left, to complete that partially finished study. Some of her last words were about souls and she spoke freely to us, her children, about always being certain we are living so that the reunion for which she longed will occur. 

We learn obedience in many of life’s situations. But we learn it more completely in death’s situations— the ICU, the Emergency Room, the care of Hospice. We learn it when we lose the ability to swallow or walk or breathe without labor. The lessons begun by the chastisement of our parents with the paddle or switch are sometimes finished in the darkest hours beneath the rod of pain. 

And those of us who are witnesses to that chastisement learn, too. We learn the lessons, too. And we long for heaven.