Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing devotions pulled from my book Living in the Shadow of Death: Learning to Thrive through Tragedy and Uncertainty. If you want to learn more about this book, scroll down or click here. If you want to read this series from the beginning, click here.
Do you want to be healed? This seems like a simple question, but it hides in the shadows of our life.
David Seamands writes in Healing for Damaged Emotions, “This is what Jesus asked the sick man who had lain ill for thirty-eight years (see John 5:6). Do you really want to be healed, or do you just want to talk about your problem? Do you want to use your problem to get sympathy from others?” (page 25).
Letting go of suffering, choosing to walk into health and wholeness, and thriving after unimaginable pain can be difficult. Sometimes we’ve walked with the pain for so long we don’t know how to let go. Occasionally, we carry the tragedy in front of us like a badge of honor or hide behind it like a shield of protection. All of that is normal, but none of it is healthy for the long term.
Much like people who have broken an arm need a doctor to set things right, God waits to put our heart, mind, and emotions back into their proper place. And the process requires patience and quiet. Just like an injured limb needs rest and time, so do our hearts and minds after a loss. Do you want to be healed?
Healed by Focusing on Recovery
We are healed from suffering only by experiencing it to the full. ~
The religious experts liked to ask Jesus questions, trying to trick Him so they could discredit His words or beliefs. Luke tells about one of these occasions in Luke 10:25–37.
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” I’m sure many of His day wanted the same assurances that we do. Reading the Bible, praying, and listening for God’s voice is not an exact science, especially when you add in pain from a recent wound.
“What is written in the Law?” [Jesus] replied. “How do you read it?” Jesus knew this legal expert didn’t want an honest answer.
He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” When the lawyer spouted off these passages from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, he showed his knowledge of the written law.
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” Oh, but the lawyer hadn’t accomplished his mission, and everyone important in his eyes knew it.
He had to press on, ask Jesus more.
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Have you ever played a game with a master? You know, one of those games where you think you’re holding your own, and then suddenly it’s all over?
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.” And so starts the Parable of the Good Samaritan. One injured man, two religious men, and one Samaritan loathed by all of Jesus’s listeners.
We’re often challenged to be the Samaritan, the one who reaches out despite boundaries placed by culture and beliefs. I’ve heard dozens of sermons about being aware of those around me, of going to them and providing what I have, even to make sure I have margin so I can take the time to love on others.
But sometimes we’re not the Samaritan.
We’re not the priest or Levite busy about our duties. No, sometimes, usually against our will, we are the man attacked by robbers. The one left beaten and half dead. The one in need of a merciful neighbor.
Joanne Steen and Regina Asaro wrote in Military Widow, “Working through grief is like walking through mud. Each step is an effort, and progress is measured in inches, not miles. . . . When you’re stuck in the mud, you want to give up and quit. But, the only way to get through the muck and mire is to keep moving forward.”
We must journey through grief and loss. Some days, we must fight our way through. But don’t miss my full point.
An example from nature.
Have you ever watched a butterfly leave its cocoon? One year, I purchased a butterfly kit complete with several caterpillars and a small net suitable for their survival. We hung it in our kitchen to watch the transformation. They built their cocoons, and we counted the days waiting for them to emerge. And then the first one started the arduous process of breaking free.
I had to restrain myself and my children, letting the insect figure it out for itself because this difficult process is critical to its success. As author and speaker Priscilla Shirer told her boys when they watched this happen, “If it gets out too early, without fighting through, it’ll be crippled the rest of its life.”
Do you see the parallel in your own life?
Priscilla writes in Discerning the Voice of God, “The challenge is part of the plan.… We knew that, didn’t we? Or maybe we’d forgotten. Or didn’t want to admit it. But since our Heavenly Father’s goal is to help us reach our full spiritual potential as believers in Christ, we too will often be challenged by the things He calls us to do. Sometimes really challenged. And it won’t be a mistake or a divine mishap. It will be on purpose.”
The butterfly must struggle, but it is a battle it is designed to win—if it does one thing. Focus on getting out of the cocoon. If it gets distracted or discouraged, it will die trapped in its struggle.
But keep reading.
Do you know what the butterfly does once it’s free? It rests, for a good long while. Isn’t that what the man going down from Jericho did once the Samaritan settled him at the inn?
Transformation in the world happens when people are healed and start investing in other people. ~
The man injured by robbers and the beautiful butterfly. Two very different situations, but not so different in application. Both require focus on the difficulty at hand. And both require rest in order to fully return to life in the world.
And so do you.
This is an excerpt from my book Living in the Shadow of Death. I’ll be sharing more in the weeks ahead, or you can purchase the book on Amazon (other retailers coming soon!).
Does God have a purpose for the turmoil or tragedy you are experiencing? Does a good God allow loss and send pain? How can that lurking feeling of dread for tomorrow be part of abundant life with Christ?
Grief hits us unexpectedly. A job loss, a failed relationship, a health crisis, an unexpected move, a rebellious teen, and other difficult circumstances force themselves upon us, demanding our attention. Fear, insecurity, and loneliness intimidate us into quiet submission and attempt to dictate our choices.
But what if we could shove them out our front door?
With loving concern and unyielding devotion for those facing a loss they never imagined, Carrie opens up her heart to reveal the biblical truths she’s learned through the heart-wrenching turbulence in her own life. She answers questions many Christians struggle with but dare not admit:
- Is God really good?
- Does the presence of pain and loss cancel out the abundant life promised to us?
- How can we follow God when life seems to only bring heartache?
- Is He even trustworthy?
If these are your questions, take heart! Within these pages, Carrie shares some of her very unchristian-like doubts and how she developed an intense faith and abiding trust even while Living in the Shadow of Death.
If you want to dig deeper into this book, you can also buy the journal featuring quotes from the book (links of the Book Page). Also, on the Freebies Page you’ll find a small group study guide and a leader’s guide!