Suffering With Hope

I am pondering the juxtaposition of suffering and hope, which I know is only simultaneously possible by the grace and strength of Jesus Christ.

About these two seemingly opposing realities, the apostle Paul says in Romans 8:18-23 (NKJV), “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.”

My mind immediately ponders examples of great suffering far away. I think of Israel under the blistering assault from Jihadists plotting new rocket attacks on its citizens, the threat of all-out war from the President of the Palestinian Authority, and the challenging of the legality of military or foreign policy of Israel by various countries in the International Courts.

Then I think of the “garden variety” suffering closer to home – the sudden need to raise a grandchild, estrangement in families, workplace injustice, bank fraud, family member incarceration, chronic disease, caregiver fatigue, burnout, death of a parent or spouse or infant, loss of a pregnancy, and many other sufferings.

The tender dance of earthly suffering intertwined around my own authentic, and often less-than-mustard-seed-like faith in God’s purposes is a conundrum. I surely embrace the hope of the Gospel. Yet questions arise that cannot be answered. Still, I know God’s purposes are holy, righteous, and redemptive. As Scripture indicates, there are reasons for suffering. Maybe Satan is permitted by God to sift believers at times. Maybe suffering is a means God uses to bring compassion into the life of a rebel. Maybe a lifelong disability is a vehicle for displaying the glory of God. Surely, God’s purposes stretch way beyond our understanding…

But, the “make it stop” cry of the heart wars against the expectation of “all things new” promised in Christ.

2 Corinthians 1:3-7 (NKJV) says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation.”

As a partaker of both suffering and comfort, I like the following prayer excerpt from THE VALLEY OF VISION, “Heaven Desired,” that places our questioning hearts in a position to receive the simultaneous realities of both suffering and hope (or I should say, suffering with hope). The prayer places our gaze upon Heaven and its realities, far above earthly troubles and distresses:

“O My Lord, May I arrive where means of grace cease and I need no more to fast, pray, weep, watch, be tempted, attend preaching and sacrament; where nothing defiles, where is no grief, sorrow, sin, death, separation, tears, pale face, languid body, aching joints, feeble infancy, decrepit age, peccant humors, pining sickness, gripping fears, consuming cares; where is personal completeness; where the more perfect the sight the more beautiful the object, the more perfect the appetite the sweeter the food, the more musical the ear the more pleasant the melody, the more complete the soul the more happy its joys, where is full knowledge of Thee…”

Isaiah 43:2 (NKJV) says, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you.”

Not My Dreams

God, I want what You want, really.
Your dreams are better than mine,
Your wisdom is wider, Your design is perfect,
You created me for Your own delight.
I thought my dreams were Your dreams
But hit up against a gap of great magnitude,
My disappointments, my losses are too great
I can't fathom a way to recovery.
"The Lord said to Moses, 'Come up to Me
On the mountain and wait there...' "
But, I am stuck in the valley of despair
My dream for a child is dashed, waiting unbearable.
The Psalmist writes "Wait for the Lord
And keep His way, and He will exalt you
To inherit the land..." and I wait...
But fruitfulness is beyond my reach.
I sing Job's song, "What is my strength,
That I should wait? And what is my end,
That I should be patient?" Impossible I think.
My heartbreak is too deep, too enveloping.
Do I want motherhood more than I want You, God?
Do I believe You have abandoned me, or punished me,
Or just forgotten to make Your good plans for me?
Honestly, I live with the answer affirmative.
So, change my heart, and do what seems impossible,
Overlay my dreams with Your dreams,
Let me measure my life by my losses, not gains,
As You weave my circumstances into eternal purposes.
Don't remove my motherhood dreams, but help me in them
To live well in the present, comforted when these dreams are dashed.
In the moments of tragedy, remind me of Your love,
And let me come to grasp that Your dreams are simply better.
Because You are God, Creator, Holy King, 
And You are not as far removed from my dreams as I believe,
You are drawing me to Yourself in the hardest faith test of all,
To a place, not of my dreams, but of Your dreams. 
Help me in that journey I pray. Amen.

The Lifter of My Head

Believe it or not, there is glory to be found in the telling of one’s story, no matter how painful. There is God’s glory to be found as well. We are talking about the honor and distinction of our unique stories. And the ultimate honor and distinction of God’s redemptive larger story. Maybe this glory is easier to picture as the triumph of realizing that God can and does bring good out of what is meant for evil or destruction. His glory is shown in His redemptive character. He lifts. He hears. He sees.

Psalm 3:3 (ESV) says, “But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. “How does the Lord lift our heads from our distress, our suffering, our disappointments, our unfulfilled dreams, our dashed hopes?

In a recent training session for lay counselors, I heard how very important this statement is: “Everyone has a story to tell and everyone should tell their story.” The ministry of a lay counselor is to create a safe environment for the sharing of one’s story, confidential and caring listening, and no quick fixes. Really it is the ministry of presence. But, what if the story isn’t pretty? What if the story doesn’t have a happy ending? What if the process of telling the story is hurtful? difficult? energy-sapping? extremely stressful?

Deep down, don’t we all wish that somebody could really see us? really hear us? Especially in the hardest places of our lives? Granted, human listeners have serious shortcomings in trying to see us or hear us, but God does not.

First we have to see and hear what God says about Himself in His Word. Here, He promises to hear us when we call on Him. Psalm 4:3 says, “But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for Himself; the Lord hears when I call to Him.” Psalm 5:3 says, “O Lord, in the morning You hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.” Psalm 6:9 says, “The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord accepts my prayer.” Psalm 10:17 says, “O Lord, You hear the desire of the afflicted; You will strengthen their heart; You will incline Your ear.”

God also sees us. Really sees us. This is one of His attributes. A very gripping story in the Bible is about Hagar and her baby Ishmael being cast out of the house of Abraham when Isaac was born. Having run out of drinking water, she cried out to the Lord Who supplied a miracle – a well. Genesis 16:13 (ESV) says, “So she [Hagar] called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, ‘You are a God of seeing,’ for she said, ‘Truly here I have seen Him who looks after me.’ ” In the New King James Version, Genesis 16:13 reads, “Then she [Hagar] called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, ‘Have I also here seen Him who sees me?’ “

God sees beyond what others see. He sees the inside of us. He sees our heartaches, our fears, our failures, our betrayals. I Samuel 16:7 says, “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have not rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’ “

God sees our brokenness. He understands us. He empathizes. He has compassion. He has mercy. Job 28:10 says, “He cuts out channels in the rocks, and His eye sees every precious thing.”

Remember that God is the “lifter of our heads.” He hears us. He sees us. And, in His hearing and seeing, He values us as His precious possessions and makes a channel for us when we express that we have hit a solid rock wall in our circumstances. Just as Hagar experienced, God makes a way. It might not be what we expect, but it is still a channel in the rocks.


Romans 12:15 that says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Another Bible version says, “weep with those who weep” (NKJV). One of the greatest gifts to others who are suffering is to pay forward to them the gift of presence – in other words, personally “grieve with those who grieve.”

God’s intent in Creation was that it was not good for man to be alone. Genesis 2:18 says, “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’ ” In response to the plea of Moses asking God that he not face ruin by trying to carry all the heavy burdens of the Israelites, God said (Numbers 11:17), “I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them. They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone.”

As Jesus was preparing to return to the Father after His resurrection, he comforted the disciples by explaining that He would send the Holy Spirit and, in this way, His presence would reside in every believer far and wide. John 16:7 says, “But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away (ascend), the Advocate (Holy Spirit) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” In the earthly ministry of Jesus, only those who were physically with him could enjoy His presence. However, the gift of the Holy Spirit would enable all believers everywhere to experience His presence.

For women who desire and hope for children when it doesn’t seem to be working out, the path is utterly lonely. The presence of another can lighten the loneliness. The presence of another can offer a bit of warmth to fill an otherwise dark tunnel. The presence of another can allow processing outside of a vacuum. “One-another” care is a good gift of God.

We too often forget the gospel of hope when we forget that God is a God of infinite love. That He carries us. That He is truly present. That He supplies others to be present with us. We forget that we have the privilege of asking in faith for God’s Spirit to help us recognize the unseen biblical and spiritual dimensions of our trials. That these trials are never without purpose, even though they come with much pain. We forget that our ultimate good comes when we increasingly reflect the moral character Jesus Christ for God’s glory. The mystery that confuses us is that our own suffering is providentially orchestrated to accomplish something eternal and good.  

Processing suffering alone can easily lead to the wrong conclusion that our suffering is somehow a reflection of God’s feelings toward us. Errant voices make us forget that our human tendency is to cast blame somewhere, on God or even on ourselves. Errant voices lock us into constantly keeping score when we look at others. We compete. We are tossed around by unhealthy expectations, ours and those of others. We are quick to think that suffering should not be a part of life.

We need to remember that a “performance-based mentality” can be our enemy. Believing our hardships are there to accomplish something only helps if you are aware of the Redeemer’s goodness. While it is true that you do not just get over losses that are painful and simply move on, these losses change you over time. As an instrument in the Redeemer’s hands, our losses can bring about something good because Jesus came to give us victory over death. We suffer, but not without hope.

Our suffering does not go unnoticed by God, and it is not unnoticed by others around us who express the compassion of Christ by offering their presence. You do not have to carry it alone. About God, Psalm 68:5,6 says, “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God is His holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, He leads out the prisoners with singing…”

The journey of infertility, miscarriage or infant loss is an intensely personal loss. We understand that Jesus suffered in the same general ways – suffering from loneliness and isolation, suffering from fear and anxiety, ultimately suffering death on the cross (loss of life).  His presence is offered through the gift of the Holy Spirit as well as the the presence of others who are made available by the Holy Spirit.

The Story of Kairos Eight25

Kairos Eight25 is a Christian support ministry for women who are experiencing or have experienced infertility, miscarriage, or infant loss. The ministry began as the result of intentional prayer among several women at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church/Williamsburg, VA in the summer of 2019. Prayers continued monthly via Zoom during the Covid-19 pandemic and God then provided much needed scaffolding to prepare us for our “soft opening” on October 20, 2021.

One provision was a name that would communicate the heart of the ministry. Kairos Eight25 was selected. Kairos, a Greek word meaning “the most opportune time,” speaks of God’s timing and Romans 8:25 (NKJV) promises “But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.”

Next came the need for leadership. God led Gwen Martin and Ali Williamson to serve as co-chairs of the Kairos Eight25 Team.

Next came the words to communicate our VISION:

Inspired by God’s love and strength, Kairos Eight25 aims to alleviate the aloneness, burden, and grief of women who walk through the valley of infertility and miscarriage. Based upon Romans 8:25, support is offered to refresh women spiritually and emotionally, to preserve expectancy, and to encourage persistence in the hope of the Gospel.

Next came the words to communicate our MISSION:

Kairos Eight25 offers a monthly support group to provide Christ-centered hope to women who are experiencing the loss and loneliness of infertility and miscarriage. Women will walk alongside each other on this journey to provide confidential listening, regular prayer, hopeful messages, and a library of life-breathing resources.

Next came the design for the Kairos Eight25 logo. Amazingly enough, a professional graphic designer in our church offered his services pro bono as a gift of love! He worked closely with the Kairos Eight25 Team to achieve a beautiful result.

Next came the designing of the Kairos Eight25 website (now live! Our own Co-Chair Ali Williamson created this beautiful website. We look forward to making the Kairos Eight25 ministry easily accessible as an online presence in our community! We also have an Instagram account, @kairos825_williamsburg.

By God’s grace, Kairos Eight25, as a ministry of Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, is slated to launch regular monthly meetings starting MONDAY MARCH 14, 7:00-8:30 p.m.) We have recently visited many local churches to deliver brochures and get the word out.

Kairos Eight25 is intended to provide loving support and encouragement to women who are grieving losses associated with potential or actual motherhood while making the Gospel clear in their suffering. The ministry will intentionally not provide any direction or opinion regarding personal choices concerning fertility treatments, interventions, physicians, clinics, etc. However, the team has chosen to provide an approved list of Christian resources (books, podcasts, websites, articles, etc.) that speak words of the Lord’s grace and kindness into the specific grief that women experience in infertility, miscarriage, or infant loss.

We pray that you will connect us to women who might need this support ministry by inviting them to a future meeting or sharing information that might be helpful to them. We already have a list of women who have experienced these struggles and have offered to be contacted for one-on-one support meetings/conversations outside of the regular meetings at the church.

If you have suggestions or questions, please feel free to contact members of the Kairos Eight25 Team:

Co-Chair, Gwen Martin,         

Co-Chair, Ali Williamson,

Unanswered Yet

Miss Ophelia G. Browning wrote a hymn called “Unanswered Yet” in 1879. Maybe this part will resonate with you:

“Unanswered yet? Faith cannot be unanswered, Her feet are firmly planted on the Rock; Amid the wildest storms she stands undaunted, Nor quails before the loudest thunder shock. She knows Omnipotence has heard her prayer, And cries, ‘It shall be done’ – sometime, somewhere.”

Quail is a word we may not use much, but we can surely relate to its meaning “to cringe in fear or pain, to draw back, to wither, to decline.” The “it shall be done” from the hymn excerpt is not a specific “yes” to a specific prayer request, but rather a settled confidence that Jesus, our Rock, can be trusted when we experience fear or pain. Jesus shifts our longing toward Himself and away from other lesser longings as we wait on His timing and purposes to unfold.

Psalm 143:1 says, “Lord, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in Your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief.” Faith that is firmly planted on the Rock is confident that God hears and that God is merciful, faithful, and righteous. And while we may be asking God Why? – God reminds us that we should be asking Who? He wants our focus to be fixed on Him, knowing Him, communing with Him. He is the answer to Who?.

The longing for motherhood is indeed fierce. The waiting seems impossible. However, we can be sure that God is doing something in our pain. God often tests His children to strengthen their faith. Recall the faith of Abraham when God asked him to sacrifice his son Isaac on an altar. It didn’t make sense. It was the wildest of storms in Abraham’s soul. It was a thunder shock beyond compare. Yet Omnipotence was there, ready to display mercy and grace, ready to provide a ram as a substitute, ready to see Abraham’s obedience, and ready to reward his faith. In obedience, Abraham focused on Who instead of Why.

The greatest longing fulfilled in life is to fully possess Jesus as Savior and Lord. When His work in my life takes center stage and not my own work. When His desires overtake mine. When His perspective proves better than mine. When I am yielded to Him even when I feel that God’s test of my faith is too impossible to bear and that I am sure to fail.

Although its desire comes naturally as if hardwired into women, motherhood is never a given. Yet unfulfilled motherhood can be one of the loneliest, most painful journeys in life. Without faith in the Creator God Who holds the power of life and death, there is no outlet for thriving or flourishing in the face of grieving a child you never knew. Faith in Him makes the “unanswered yet” the thing that can be confidently place in the hands of God for safekeeping.

The thing that gradually resets our hardwiring is to find solace in God’s decisions and outcomes, both the yeses and noes, and to delight in His filling of our cups as complete. Our feet must be firmly planted on the Rock. This is when faith cannot be unanswered.

Psalm 40:1-3 (NKJV) says, “I waited patiently for the Lord; And He inclined to me, And heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, Out of the miry clay, And established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth – Praise to our God; Many will see it and fear, And will trust in the Lord.”

December Sky Lessons

Appreciating God’s perfect timing (“Kairos” Greek for “right time,”season,” or “opportunity”) is never easier than when seen in hindsight. Especially if we see a good result from God’s perspective rather than ours. While we walk by faith and not by sight, we do it rather haltingly and often in a swirl of doubts. If we finally see the good “end” of the story, then the beginning starts to make more sense. If the veil is removed, we can sometimes see that God has been working all along to bring about a great many things, even some that we consciously prayed for.

Last December 2020, on the 21st, Jupiter and Saturn lined up in the night sky to produce what some referred to as the “Christmas Star” or “Star of Bethlehem.” We do know that scientists named the event The Great Conjunction and this bright appearance hasn’t been witnessed in nearly 800 years. The rarity of alignments between these two planet was especially exceptional because of how close they appeared to be to one another in the sky. The veil was removed, if only for a short period.

2 Corinthians 5:7 says, “For we live by faith, not by sight.” When hindsight isn’t available to me, what is it that will cause me to appreciate God’s perfect timing? What if the veil is not removed? What will cause me to appreciate His aligning work weaving my desires with His will? His perfect travel plans for my spiritual journey? His perfect calm for my impatient heart and frustrated mind? His perfect peace amidst the plethora of emotions that rollercoaster through my life as one might wait and wait and wait for the gift of motherhood…

God anticipated our need for His words. He met that need by giving us the Living Word – Jesus Christ, and the written word, His Holy Bible. By God’s Word He spoke Creation into existence. These were powerful words. God’s Word became flesh and came to live among us – Jesus is the Son Who came to make provision for our salvation. God’s Word is life-giving. God anticipated our need for His promises especially in the great disappointments of life and one of the loneliest journeys of all – the journey of death visiting the womb.

The great spiritual conjunction in our lives comes with the alignment of our timing with God’s timing through our journey of faith. Not as simple as it sounds. Often heart wrenching work. The walk of faith and our alignment with God’s mysterious purposes in His perfect timing might even remain hidden for a lifetime. I am very thankful that God gave us His Word to keep us resting in His Promises when the heavy weights of living with disappointment and heartache will try to convince us to discount God’s perfect timing and faithful purposes.

Psalm 145:15 says, “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time.” And Ecclesiastes 3:11 reminds us, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Don’t let the alignment of God’s purposes and our desires be a rarity.

Ask God to help you rely upon His character in circumstances that tear at your heart. In faith, ask Him to help you to fully believe that He provides at the proper time according to His eternal agenda of loving kindness.

Photo Credit: Will Gater,

The God Who is Near

In our heads, the Truth we often need to replay is that God did reach down to us through actual incarnation – in and through His Son Jesus Christ. He is accessible. He is near. This is the Gospel. We need to not only replay this, but know this, and experience this. We daily wrestle with the reality of God’s accessibility to us, especially when we walk through the valley of despair and feel as far away from Him as possible. Yet our despair does not negate God’s nearness and presence.

Ephesians 3:12 says, “In Him and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.”

He is approachable even when we play a huge tug-of-war with the eyes of our heart versus the eyes of our physical bodies and minds. He is near even we play a huge tug-of-war with the Truth of the Gospel versus the the way we feel when we are hurt, lost, losing hope, devastated by bad news, alone, and carrying overwhelming burdens. We need help in this war. We need something Supernatural to overcome the natural.

This Supernatural is accessible! It is actually a Someone. And this is exactly why God sent us the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 2:18 says, “For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” In whatever measure of faith we now have, God doesn’t want us to leave it there. In exercising our faith, He wants us to believe that we have access to Him, that we can experience His nearness. He is faithful to increase our confidence in this spiritual reality. So, when our physical or emotional eyes forsake us and our feelings threaten to drown us, we can still look up and depend on the Holy Spirit to strengthen our faith, however minimal our faith is, and walk us calmly through the tug-of-war zones.

2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

When I am weak, tired, struggling, and lower than low, I must remember that the God of the Universe did reach down to me personally through Jesus Christ and will assist me in experiencing His nearness through the Holy Spirit, especially when I am at my utter weakest and in my most war-weary situation. Christ’s power can indeed rest on me.

Photo credit: Charlotte Stone

Barrenness in Genesis

I found a resource that is so helpful in understanding God’s grace in the midst of the suffering of women. I think this is helpful is because it provides biblical insight into why the suffering of barrenness is such a lonely and painful road for women, even from the beginning of human history. (you might try copying and pasting this link). If you are not an apple podcast listener, you can also look up White Horse Inn, podcast Episode 1576 (aired on June 20, 2021) entitled “Grace & Election in the Story of Jacob.” The episode features Dr. Iain Duguid, author of Living in the Grip of Relentless Grace: The Gospel in the Lives of Isaac & Jacob.

Note: “The White Horse Inn was started in 1990 as a radio show and podcast named after a pub in Cambridge, England during the time when the Protestant Reformation arrived in the English-speaking world. The show features discussions on faith, culture, and apologetics focused upon assisting Christians to know what they believe and why.”

When you get a chance, also take a look at Genesis 25:19. Isaac is praying for his wife Rebekah because she was found to be barren. We might wonder why “barrenness” is such a recurring theme in the book of Genesis and really, throughout the Bible. God designs tests to strengthen our faith, it’s true. The harder the test, the greater deepening of our faith. God seemed to choose putting men in fields with sheep to get their attention in the Old Testament. On the other hand, with women, the primary testing ground seemed to be barrenness.

Barrenness is the greatest challenge speaking directly to a woman’s identity, her value, her meaning, her significance in human history. It cuts to the heart and soul. In the Old Testament, this great faith challenge for women revolved around the ability to have children, and particularly sons. The inability to conceive and bear children prevented a family from having heirs, and therefore remembrance and reputation. Descendants ensured that a family would leave an enduring legacy. Women in the Bible questioned the meaning of their lives in the absence of bearing children and felt deep shame when faced with infertility.

Abraham’s wife Sarah faced infertility and impatiently scrambled to present her own Plan B to ensure an heir. Isaac’s wife Rebekah faced infertility also. To Isaac’s credit, he prayed specifically for Rebekah when faced with her barrenness. He may have learned the necessity of prayer from his father Abraham’s mistakes…

But, we also see that God often takes seemingly impossible projects to test our faith. And, sometimes the rewards for faith come much later than expected. There was an extremely long delay for Abraham’s reward. His faith was strengthened in the trenches and he finally had a son, Isaac, with his wife Sarah. There were certainly misadventures peppered along Abraham’s faith journey. And, we find in Abraham’s story that genuine faith is not based upon a health and wealth gospel.

It’s important to note that God doesn’t remain silent during these strenuous tests of faith. He left Abraham and Sarah with repeated promises that Abraham’s “seed” would inherit the land and become a nation. His wife Sarah was 100 years old when she gave birth to the promised legitimate son who was to be the heir of the promise. The impossible was possible with God.

Haven is God’s Promise

In spite of any personal loss that is painful, trusting God carries a promise of haven. The still waters. The peace that passes all understanding. Psalm 18:2 says, “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

In the Genesis story (chapters 43-44), we find that Judah pleads with his younger brother Joseph for mercy as he discovers that Joseph is now in a position of power and influence in Egypt. He realizes that Joseph, the brother he sold into slavery and pretended was dead, now holds the keys to life and death for his father Jacob’s whole family. Judah must now answer to Joseph in the face of possible starvation during a great famine and the hanging question of preservation of his baby brother Benjamin’s life in view of his alleged theft of the silver cup of Joseph’s steward.

As God brings us likewise, in our stressful circumstances, to the crossroads of faith, He presents us with the crisis and we must choose whether or not to proceed in faith. These crossroads can be life-threatening tests, whether spiritually or physically threatening, or both. There is usually a gap of time and silence that leaves us hanging in midair. We experience great tension and we don’t detect even the tiniest movement toward “the next episode.” If you are like me, you long for closure with every fiber of your being. Resolution, no matter whether it is good or bad. Release of stress. Progress instead of limbo. Getting it over with instead of cliffhanging.

The presenting problem that holds us firmly at our midair crisis point, whether it is the experience of infertility, miscarriage or similar grief-filled losses, can be a problem that is unfixable on this side of heaven. We just don’t know. While suffering in the “pain gap,” it may be very helpful to look for the spiritual problem that is likely being raised to the surface by the presenting problem…

Not to deflect here. And never to minimize the agony of the presenting problem, the spiritual dilemma often floats upward and asks us what we plan to do while waiting for God’s plan to unfold? Is there even something we are supposed to do while waiting on God at the horrible cliff point? Is there a supernatural way to ease the tension of the midair limbo?

These questions hopefully point us to our need to invest ourselves in direct conversation with our Creator Father God in order to find answers to the surfacing spiritual questions. Prayer has the best chance of leading us to a haven that is promised by God: Matthew 11:28-30 says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden light.” With the promise of God’s haven, we find that God often uses our painful circumstances to help us solve our trust issues. God’s gift of stronger faith is part of the promised haven.

Still, the voyage through our circumstances is in fact never smooth. But, will we learn to live well and wisely within our pain, limitations, weaknesses, or losses? Will suffering define us? Will faith and love be given a chance to grow or will we just decline the opportunity and shrivel into a possibly more painful place? These are questions we confront at the cliffhanger crossroads of faith.

If we allow God’s plan and purposes to prevail, then praying for the ability to “wait well” is the next step. Ask God not to let you overpour energy and affection into solving significant suffering that may not have a remedy on this side of heaven. We never know if there is indeed a solution for the presenting problem, but we do hold onto hope as we continue the faithful voyage. Perhaps pouring our “waiting energy” into prayer with the Lord is the intended process that He will use to redefine us, not by our suffering, but by our identity in Him.

The prayers of other sufferers who have gone before us are often helpful in giving us words when we are wordless. Below is an excerpt from THE VALLEY OF VISION: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, the prayer entitled “Voyage:”

“O Lord of the Oceans…Let not my faith be wrecked amid storms and shoals…The voyage is long, the waves high, the storms pitiless, but my helm is steady, thy Word secures safe passage, thy grace wafts me onward, my haven is guaranteed…This day will bring me nearer home, Grant me holy consistency in every transaction, my peace flowing as a running tide, my righteousness as every chasing wave. Help me to live circumspectly, with skill to convert every care into prayer…”

Psalm 18:6,16 says, “In my distress I called to the Lord, I cried to my God for help. From His temple He heard my voice; my cry came before Him, into His ears… He reached down from on high and took hold of me; He drew me out of deep waters.”

Photo credit: Ro Seaman