Even though I was on my own in the hospital room, the awkward silence between God and I was palpable.
Would you still love me, still worship me, still respond to my calling if you had the operation and had a stoma bag and not the miracle?
I felt that hard gulp and a reluctant heavy silence settle in my chest. I didn’t want God to be asking me that question and I didn’t really want to reply.
My first yes was sullen.
My second yes was resigned.
My third yes was repentant. Yes of course I would love and serve Jesus even if my worst case scenario came about. Yes of course I would still respond to his call for us in Marseille.
I was about a month in to a two month in and out hospital hokey cokey stint. A physical manifestation of hell where my body, suffering from acute ulcerative colitis was being battered by severe bleeding, dehydration, weight loss, constant blood tests, canulas, pic lines, colonoscopies, antibiotics, immuno-suppressant drugs, steroids, IV nutrition and other various unmentionables.
My urgent prayer was for miraculous healing as clearly the doctors didn’t have much sway with my body but they were starting to talk about last chance drugs and then surgery.
What do you do, what do you think when you believe that God heals, when you believe that he says You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it (John 14:13)?
How do you hold the sovereignity of God (his right and place to be King of your life and to have the final say) and his giving you and I authority and the right to reign and rule over our circumstances (Luke 10:19)?
My new friend Shelley shared with me something that came as a revelation.
Sometimes we can love the miracle we are asking for more than we love Jesus. We forsake our first love.
It’s that gulp moment where we surrender to the will of God and lay down our deepest desire, risking that we may not get it.
I don’t know why this happened to me but I do know that God has been with me in the whole thing.
I know that he gave me a specific reassuring word that it was going to be ok a week before the superbad stuff happened.
I know that I had the top surgeons doing the two emergency procedures I had to have done and I was being monitored by the head professor who overseas the whole region’s gastro-enterology surgeons.
I know that this experience allowed to me to pray several times over the phone with a nominal Christian who was going through her own big operation and we were able to have a deeper connection.
I know that despite the grotty circumstances, God allowed our eldest daughter to shine at school against all the odds.
I know that God put amazing support people in place who were there at exactly the right time and that those arrangements took place up to 9 months beforehand.
I know that since this experience I have experienced a shift in faith and authority.
It’s difficult as Christians to know how to deal with the unexpected and unpleasant. We swing between resignation to suffering and not having faith that God has victory for us and the position where we deny and rebuke any kind of suffering or hardship.
Neither are correct.
Jesus said we would have trials and trouble in this world but that we weren’t to fear, he has overcome the world (John 16:33). We’re not guaranteed a trouble free life just because we believe in Jesus, but we are promised his presence and overwhelming victory over those situations that come to challenge us.
Paul, who had more than his fair share of trials and sufferings, said in Romans 8:17 that we inherit glory with Jesus but if we share in his glory then we also share in his sufferings. Glory and suffering. We must go through suffering but we also get his glory on the other side.
And the psalmist writes in Ps 139 that even in the depths of hell, God’s spirit is still there with us (v8), he never abandons us, and that even darkness is light to him (v12). There were several times when I felt like I was in a physcial version of hell.
My world got very dark for a while and at times I couldn’t see past the next five minutes or the next hour or the next day. Knowing that God has infra-red vision, that darkness is as light for him, that he knows our end from our beginning, he knows what the next five minutes will hold is comforting. Even if you can’t see in the dark, he can.
I don’t know what the answers to the big questions are – why does God allow people to suffer – I do know though that in all of the suffering, he didn’t abandon me. He was there at all the key times, comforting me, providing for me in advance and helping me go though these things.
At one point in my journey I was lying in an operating theatre having a pic line inserted in my arm so that they could feed me by IV as I had lost so much weight. My left arm was stretched out perpendicular to my body and it reminded me of Jesus on the cross.
Normally with a pic line they give you a local anaesthetic – this time there was none.
Normally with a pic line they find your vein the first time – it’s painful but it only happens once. Not this time, it took three very painful goes.
As I lay there on the operating table crying my heart out, it struck me that this was less than nothing compared to what Jesus went through on the cross.
All I could say was Jesus, I’m so sorry that you had to go through that hell just for me.
It was a profondly sobering moment.
He is with you in your situation too if you’ll stop and listen for him. Even if you don’t yet believe in him. It says Christ died for us even while we were still in sin (Rom 5:8). He didn’t wait until we were repentant before he died for us. He did it anyway regardless trusting that one day we’d recognise him and what he did. Pretty amazing.