In our Peace in Chronic Illness chat room and in the old Rest Ministries chat room, there've been many times when someone is facing problems that leave them feeling like nearly everything has been taken away from them. Perhaps life has been turned upside down with terrible pain that goes on and on or perhaps problem after problem is coming and, with existing illness, it is difficult or impossible to see how you can handle it all. At these times, we have a lot of questions for God about this. It seems impossible to have peace at these times. The thoughts below come out of discussions we've had -- they're not all from me. It's amazing how God can work, even in a chat room!
This is a subject close to my heart. So many chronically ill Christians are hurting because they think if they believed better, they would be healed. Or maybe if they prayed right or had the right kind of faith or something. Or maybe they realize that's not the case but they keep hearing it from Christian friends. And whether or not they quite believe that, they may well feel like God's put them on a shelf. It's a really tough place to be, feeling God has rejected you on top of the pain and limitations of the illness itself. It can leave you feeling like your world's turned upside down and trying to cope with the changes.
Of course, other things can leave you feeling like everything is crazy, like when a trusted person betrays you or when someone you held in high esteem is shown to have very serious problems. Someone I know was led to the Lord by a pastor who later fell into sexual sin with another woman. That can leave you wondering a bit about what you believe and if you've adopted beliefs that aren't right.
So how do we find peace in these situations? The first thing that helped me was in the old chat room, when someone reminded me that God loves my son more than I do. At the time, Iain was not quite 13, and I was feeling that my illness had hurt him by preventing me from caring for him as I want to. The reminder helped me realize that while my illness might limit what I can do with him, God was looking out for him, too. I could trust God with him.
Then I started thinking about Philippians 4:6-7:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
God wants us to talk to Him and tell Him everything we're worried about. Jesus died so our relationship with the Lord could be restored; that's how much He wants us to know Him. He wants to talk to Him about everything and begin to understand His perspective on it. We can be honest with Him and tell Him we're afraid or anxious -- and He doesn't condemn us:
There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. - Romans 8:1
We can bring all those things to Him and start to trust Him with them. We can cling to the things we know are true, like how much He loves us and how He's helped us in the past. We can thank Him for the good things. We echo Peter:
Lord, where else can we go? You have the words of eternal life. (paraphrasing John 6:68)
Keep praying, keep seeking Him. Perhaps find a friend who can listen and love us -- to demonstrate God's love for us "with skin on", even in a chat room. We can pray together and seek God's will together. Sometimes this can make it easier to see how God might be working or to see the scary situation more clearly. Jesus also died so we can truly love each other.
As we seek Him and as we trust Him, He gives us peace, as He promises in Philippians 4:6-7 above. His peace doesn't depend on us understanding why things happen or on us praying exactly the right way. It isn't something we need to work up somehow or to earn. It's a free gift that He gives as we look to Him, remembering His help in the past and His promises. He loves us so much and meets us more than half way!
This peace He gives does "guard our hearts". I picture the peace deep inside, that even while much activity and even chaos is around us, inside we can be steady and sure because Jesus is there. The chaos can't really touch us. This doesn't mean we're passive because God may well be guiding us to step out and take action, but it does mean that deep inside we know that somehow all is well. Even though we can't understand why God is allowing this situation, we can still walk in His peace.
Of course, since we are human, a new symptom or new limitation or some other new circumstance that we just can't understand might come along and we can become worried and fearful again. Like Peter walking on water, we get distracted by the chaos. Look back to Jesus, talk to the Him...
Do we always have peace? No... But God's grace is amazing, and we can have peace in situations that make no sense to us because they make sense to God and we can trust Him thru them.