All Posts, Blog, Cancer, Suffering

Perspective in suffering

As I’m writing this, I’m recovering from Covid and have spent the day looking after my daughter who has also been unwell. Apart from having bone ache, a sore throat, a mild cough and a fever, it has not been too bad. For that, I am thankful. Yet, these illnesses that come upon our bodies like an unwelcome visitor remind us of our frailty as human beings.

The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
(Psalm 103:15-16)

With all the physical discomfort that illness and suffering can bring, it can also play havoc with our mind. We have more time to think upon our situation, and it could become the perfect breeding ground for despair. Even in the last few days, I have had this sense of cabin-fever and isolation, missing out on activities I was hoping to do.

This also makes me reflect on my time as an in-patient in hospital having high-dose chemotherapy. I was in a hospital room by myself with no visitors because of Covid and the high risk of infection. The sunshine was pretty much non-stop, I was away from my loved ones and I had to watch the world go by from behind the window. I was a prisoner for my own good.

Whether being stuck at home with Covid with my family, or receiving cancer treatment in isolation at hospital, both have left me reflecting on my relationship with Jesus.

Where are you, God?

During my time in hospital, I had moments of feeling very alone. I wanted God to physically show up in some tangible way. ‘Now is as good a time as any God. I need to really know and feel your comfort right now.’ Did God show up in the way I wanted Him to? Not really. At the time, I really struggled with that. But a month later, I would be back in hospital with pneumonia and would have an experience with God that still continues to amaze me now (that’s a story for another day!).

Enjoying the sunset from my hospital window. The same God who painted the colours in the sky, was comforting me in my deep pain. There was a deeper song in my heart that evening, and that is the Spirit at work, holding me and giving me the most glorious display in the sky to behold. It was truly a time of just me and God.

The truth is the Lord did not need to make an appearance in the way I wanted because He was already there. This is something I really need to hold onto and claim as the truth, especially when my mind is willing me to doubt that God is with me in suffering. As a Christian, His Spirit was not just present. His Spirit was in me. God promises to send His Holy Spirit, the Comforter, to be with and dwell in His people (John 14:16). In my greatest time of need, my God had not forsaken me. Jesus had experienced an agonising separation from the Father that I will never have to endure, because He took my place. He promises to never leave or forsake me.

Praise God, fear God, or both?

In these last few days of illness, I have leant into the truth of all that Jesus has done for me on the cross. He is holy and worthy to be praised for who He is.

Psalm 103:1 says:

Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

Looking for a small list of reasons to? Here are some mentioned in Psalm 103:3-5 (emphasis added):

who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
 who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

We can know our sins have been forgiven because that is what was accomplished when Jesus walked the earth and died on the cross. He also heals, but we know that not all are healed here, and there is a 100% death rate for all of us eventually. Yet, there is the promise that we will have complete healing when those who trust in Jesus enter eternity and are with Him forever. It’s an eternal perspective which sustains us today in the trials.

We are redeemed, purchased, bought by the blood of Christ. His shed blood pays the price of sin. The guilty are pardoned when they trust in Christ’s saving work on the cross. He brings us back from the dead spiritually, and will one day raise us from the dead physically. The breadth, height, length and depth of God’s love and compassion for us is extremely good news for all people. It is extravagant, glorious grace. He knows what we need and can meet the deepest longing in our heart.

Psalm 103:10-13 (emphasis added) also talks about those who ‘fear him’. It says:

‘…he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

As a father has compassion on his children,
    so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him…’

If we think upon God who has triumphed over sin and overcome the grave, who created and sustains the universe and our very lives, and has such a love for His people, there is much praise to be expressed. Yet, we are also to fear Him – which is to revere and be in awe of all He is. We can come before God’s throne guilt-free and pardoned because of Jesus. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. All glory, honour, praise and worship are due to the living God who is both a King and a Servant; a Lion and a Lamb; the Judge and the Justifier; the Beginning and the End.

As I write about having hope in times of hopelessness, and walking through trials and suffering, it is with both praise and reverence toward God. Praising and worshipping Jesus through the storm, even when it’s hard and may be through tears, has a way of changing my perspective. It aligns my will and emotions to focus on the One who is compassionate, forgiving and loving toward me always, because that is who He is. When I doubt His goodness in my suffering, I need only look to Christ crucified for me. As I look to Jesus, I am in awe of all He has done and all He is doing in my life and countless lives throughout history, into the present day and for eternity.