The mantle of struggle can get heavy. Very heavy. Last June, when I experienced my second miscarriage, a dear friend of mine responded with “Why won’t life relent?!” It had been a particularly tough year, and it didn’t stop there. But her words echoed the sentiments of my heart exactly. Why? Why couldn’t things be easier? Why couldn’t suffering cease long enough for me to pick up the broken pieces of my heart that lay scattered? I don’t use this example to shine a spotlight on my own pain as greater or more profound. All I know is my heart hurt. Deeply. And it seemed like just when one ache had subsided, another took its place.
When a struggle is ongoing, when the battle we are fighting appears endless, we can get battle weary. We can buckle under the strain of a prolonged illness, broken relationships, infertility, the loss of someone we love, or wounds left by other difficult situations that just keep lingering. It takes a toll.
My brother has suffered much in his battle with cancer. He has been a faithful warrior, but the wear on his body is profound. We believe he will be restored, but the journey is so very painful–it feels cruel and unfair.
Sometimes, well-meaning people seek to sew up our wounds with catchy phrases and cliches. Others may feel uncomfortable that we are even struggling at all. Why can’t we just claim victory and move on?
I don’t know the answer to this, except that pain doesn’t disappear when we wave a bible over it. It remains. And it throbs. And it calls to question the whole idea of a merciful God who loves us.
Why? Why won’t life relent? Why can’t we find healing? Why can’t we stop the bleeding? Why do we struggle at all?
I thought recently of that poor woman with the issue of blood found in three of the four gospels, but given the most attention in Mark 5:25-34. She is described as having a bleeding issue for twelve years. “She suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse” (vs. 26). According to the Jewish custom of the time, she was considered unclean. So, her effort to peek at the Messiah and touch His robe was breaking the rules. But she was desperate, and she believed He could help her when no one else could.
“If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed,” she said. And she was.
But God could have healed her before that. He didn’t need an appearance from Jesus to do it. I’m not sure why God waited. Or why this woman suffered the way she did. Twelve years is a long time to fight a battle with no end in sight! Yet, so many people suffer a long time without answers.
I recognize her desperation to touch Jesus when I think of my own deep pain or of my brother’s or someone else I love dearly. I understand the great lengths people went to bring their needs and their friends’ needs before this man who healed so completely. And I get why this woman broke the rules to touch Him.
I know that Jesus’ power is available to everyone who believes today, but I envy the chance she had to physically touch the Messiah’s robe, experience His power and feel her suffering instantly cease! I would love to hear Jesus say to me and to those I love as He said to this woman so clearly: “Daughter, go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
But one thing I learn from this sweet, trembling “daughter” is that she didn’t give in…she pressed in. She also pushed through her suffering, the feelings of hopelessness, the anger and despair. She kept believing, although I am certain she had moments of unbelief and terrible grief. Twelve years!! She wasn’t perfect. She was human and hurting.
Is Jesus any less powerful today because I can’t see Him with my eyes or touch His robe with trembling fingers? No. Does that mean I will never suffer in this life? No.
I live in a world that is bleeding. And despite how weary that can make me, I must continue to press in and push through…to move closer to Christ. In my frailty, sinfulness, in my unclean state. To let the pain push me closer. Without my struggle, I might not be so desperate. I might be somewhere, anywhere, else instead of on my face, reaching out, ready for an encounter with God.
Lord, let me stay with you. If I must suffer, let me suffer here, where you are. Let me cling to you instead of looking for an escape or way out that leads to more pain. Help me press in, where the healing is. More than just seeking healing or relief, help me to seek YOU, the Healer, and feel close to you in the midst of this struggle. Amen
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