Here is what I came up with for tomorrow's joint SS program. If you are going to be there, please don't read this yet as I don't want it spoiled for you.
It’s Going to Get Worse Before It Gets Better
When I came home from vacation all that my cat O’Malley wanted to do was be with me. She would sit on my lap, sleep on my bed and even come into the bathroom with me. One morning she woke me up (by purring loudly and lightly taping my face with her paw) at 4:30a because I was sleeping on my side and she needed me to change positions since she wanted to curl up in the crook of my arm. While I very much enjoyed these cuddle times with O’Malley, I couldn’t help but think that something was wrong. She is not usually an affectionate cat and very much enjoys her solitude. One morning I noticed a little buildup in her ears and decided to get her checked out. Oh, the fight she gave me! By the time she was in her carrier I had a nice scratch on my arm and I was getting dirty looks through the mesh lining. But she wasn’t scratching trying to get out. She was resigned to her plight and hunkered down for the ride. She was quiet for the entire 3 block ride.
Another struggle commenced when it was time for her to get out of her carrier. But O’Malley was soon in the arms of a new-to-us Vet Tech on her way to have her claws trimmed and get all of her readings done. When they came back O’Malley was wrapped up in a towel like a kitty burrito. As she handed over my furbaby, the tech told me not to worry: The blood on the towel was hers. O’Malley had muscled through the nail trim (which she won’t even let me do) and her temp taking, but drew the line at having her ears checked and bit the vet tech. Turns out O’Malley was suffering from a very bad ear infection and was in a lot of pain. She hadn’t cried once and would still purr loudly, but her increased affection for me over the course of the previous days was her way of letting me know she was hurting. Don’t we do that with God? We spend more time in prayer and meditation when things aren’t going well for us. We seek God and his comfort when we are hurting. And He is there for us.
But sometimes feeling the security of God is not enough to heal us. Going to the vet didn’t fix O’Malley. We have to fight every day when it is time for her morning ear cleaning and her twice daily ear drops. In order to give her the medicine that her body needs, I have to restrain her and make my own kitty burrito. Sometimes I have to chase her around the house to back her into a corner in order to get her ready for her medicine. When God is trying to direct us on a path that will bring help and healing we often fight against Him. What God is asking not only isn’t fun, it’s distressing and uncomfortable. He may have to chase us like He did Jonah. But there is a purpose.
James 1: 2-4 explains that the goal of trials is a more mature character. The cancer of sin that is so deeply rooted in our hearts is not easy to remove. The chemo, radiation, and medication needed to bring an individual into remission from cancer do so much damage it is often said that the cure is worse than the disease. The cancer spreads and there is a new area of our life that we need to focus on. We get comfortable with our fight against sin and start to slack off on our treatments. A missed devotional here, skipped Prayer meeting there. We think that no one will notice and often they don’t. But then the skipped meetings become the norm. And if no one noticed you were missing, than you might as well just sleep in and skip church too. And no one will care if you spend Friday night cleaning your house and catching up on Facebook games or going out to dinner with friends. But God knows. He cares and He notices that we are missing from His life. And He wants us back whatever the cost. Our sin-cancer has flared up and God is standing by with the Hope of Jesus ready to start again the painful process of removing our desire for sin.
Romans 5:3-5 also tells us that suffering leads to perseverance and hope. Sometimes, like Job, our suffering is not for our betterment. It may be for others to see and know that we understand THEIR suffering. We can be a support to them and show them that God still cares. My friend Pam has struggled for years with breast cancer and was recently told that she was no longer in remission. She now goes to Philly every month for treatments. The special thing about Pam is that she is one of the most upbeat, God-praising people I know. She does not ask God “Why me?” Instead she asks “Who can I witness to? Which other cancer patients and their families and friends can I share the hope and goodness of God with?” Her fight with cancer has helped her share the Hope of Jesus with those who may not be reached by anyone else.
Whether we suffer to mature our characters or to be able to share hope with others, we know that we do not suffer alone. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 reminds us: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”
May “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort” be with you this Sabbath day.