When life feels more like a dark night that tastes like salty, bitter tears, Jesus sits with us. When discouragement is a constant foe with whom we battle, Jesus fights for us. When disappointments and unmet expectations constantly pierce our hearts with a jagged knife, Jesus hears us. When our weeping is bitter and the pain shakes us relentlessly, Jesus holds us.
When we can’t feel him, we ask, “Is He really there? Does He really care? Can He really see me?” And a tiny, dark thought invades our minds-one we don’t want to admit is there. But, it shouts to us in the darkness-“What if I’m alone in this?”
And still Jesus sits with us-even when we don’t feel him; even when we don’t believe he is there. Because his presence is not based on our performance. When our faith feels like it’s hanging on the last strand of its last thread, he graciously gives us the strength to persevere. He gives us the faith that we lack so that we can endure the darkness.
Last month I found myself sitting in a dreary, sterile hospital room, holding down my screaming baby while the nurses stuck an IV in his arm. He had a seemingly small infection, but it did not respond to antibiotics and spread to his lymph nodes. He was hospitalized for three agonizing days as we waited to see if his little body would respond to a stronger antibiotic.
I had whispered quick prayers, but didn’t have time to think about whether or not I felt Jesus’ presence in this ordeal. As I sat in the dark, rocking my baby at 4am, as he moved from screaming inconsolably to laying his little head on my shoulder, I finally breathed. And I knew Jesus was there. I felt a little pang of fear, but not crippling anxiety-which is not characteristic of me. And so I knew it was the peace of Jesus and nothing from myself.
He is the God who meets us in the deep, dark places and gives us the grace we need to “rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)
So, despite this tribulation that we call life, we are free to be thankful. We are free to rejoice in the hope that when Jesus does not change situations, he does change hearts. We are free to patiently wait for Him to move.
But it is hard. Jesus gives us the freedom to admit that. Hardship is an opportunity for God to remind us that he is in control and it is he, not us, who keeps the world spinning on axis. The dichotomy of joy and tribulation is not an easy one to navigate, but God’s grace is sufficient in our weakness.
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