Friday, August 7, 2009
How Long, O Lord?
Our pastor recently ministered on Psalm 13 where David asked the question, "How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord?". His message centered on the fact that so many times our test/trial seems to go on beyond human endurance and that it is at these times we wonder how long it will last. It was a very moving sermon.
As he spoke, my mind went back to the testimony of a lady I had met at a women's Bible study several years ago. Her name was Cindy Ruhl and she spoke from deep personal experience. Cindy had developed a chronic condition that riddled her lower body with excrutiating pain. No medication or other therapy relieved, or even lessened, the discomfort. Finally, in desperation, the physicians on her case placed Cindy in the hospital and began a barage of tests---all of which proved nonconclusive. Her pain became so unbearable that Cindy would often weep and wail from her hospital bed. In a final effort to alleviate some of her pain, the doctors packed her lower body in ice hoping it would numb the pain---and it did. Finally, the pain abated enough that it was at least bearable. It was then that Cindy and
God began their journey through what David called, "...sorrow in my heart...". What wonderful things God showed her at this time.
Lying in her hospital bed, Cindy began to question God's purpose for her suffering. Realizing that nothing comes to us without first being filtered through the hand of God, Cindy knew there was a reason for what she was enduring. For this, she began seeking God with every waking moment available to her. She was surprised when God led her to the book of Acts and the story of Paul and Silas in prison (Acts 16: 24 - 26). The story took on a deeper meaning when the words of verse 24 leaped off the page, " ..thrust them into the inner prison...". The inner prison was the darkest part of the jail, having no windows, no candle, no visibility at all. It was the place where the worst offenders were kept and into this place went the great apostles of God. It was a place of darkness and desolation.
Looking at her illness as a prison of pain and a place of deep desolation, Cindy began to identify with the beloved men of God. From her previous study of this passage of scripture, she recalled that this dark dungeon was also the place where the criminally insane were kept. Here, among the cries of the insane and in total darkness, were Paul and Silas. And here, they began to sing. No doubt, it was the first time that the walls of the darkest cells had rung with the voices of God's anointed. Here, again for the first time, those reeked with the enemy's torturous mind heard the praises of God. Isn't that just like God to place us, the true lightbearers, in the darkest of places so He alone can be the source of light?
Cindy understood that her purpose was not to figure out the reason for this valley of sorrow, but to render praise to God that He counted her worthy to be His lightsource. Determination rose up within her---determination that said, "I will praise Him in this storm. I will give Him all the glory.". Surrendering her life and herself to God's Divine purpose, Cindy made a decision that day to praise God for life, health, and strength. No matter what.
What I recall most of all, and what left a lasting impact with me, were Cindy's final words. As she stood before us, still in pain but finally controlled to a certain degree with medication, she looked over the faces of all of us before she spoke. I will never forget what she said, "When you really desire the will of God for your life, it won't matter what you are enduring. It will not concern you about the passing of time, it will not concern you about what others think of you and how you are facing the situation. What will concern you is how God wants to use you during this time. His will becomes your obsession and your relationship with Him becomes all consuming. With that in mind, you can say, 'let the trial begin'.".
My trials and tests have seemed so small in comparison to what my dear sister in Christ endured. Nevertheless, my circumstances hurt to the core of my being. I was humbled, beaten and broken by life, but, yet, I've endured. By the grace of God I have endured. God is faithful. I can lift both hands today and say to you, "God is faithful.".
My pastor was right when he explained that the answer to the question, "O Lord, how long?" is simply this--as long as it takes. As long as it takes for us to realize that it is not all about us. It is all about God in us bringing light to a dark world. God in us showing the world that it is possible to live in victory no matter what the circumstances. God in us saying, "LET THE TRIAL BEGIN!".