Reprinted from ...And He Will Give You Rest
monthly support newsletter, Volume I1, Issue 3. © 1998.
Heaven. The pain will subside. The joy will abound. We will know the presence of God's glory unlike we can even imagine. Sounds pretty good, doesn't it? Even the apostle Paul said, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain," (Philippians 1:21). He too was eager to see an end to his suffering here on earth and spend eternity with God. What I'm confronting here, however, is not the blessed event of entering His gates at His moment of appointment, but the word that Christian leaders are hesitant to confront - suicide.
Each month I hear from a few people who are seriously questioning why God would want them to remain here on earth one more day. And for each person that contacts me, I wonder how many others are suffering silently. What good could possibly come of constant pain? How can He expect us to continue to endure a future that seems to hold nothing but disappointments, sorrow and physical pain? We search for an answer: Why is God allowing this to happen and why shouldn't those with chronic illness just end it all and experience heaven a bit early?
"What is real faith in God but continuing to believe in the face of everything in life gone wrong?," writes Mark Littleton in The Storm Within. "What is true belief and trust in Christ, but trusting Him and believing His Word even when nothing has worked out? It is easy to believe in Him when things are going well, but under such circumstances it is hard to see if the faith is real."
I can easily give logical thought-provoking, "spiritual" explanations such as the above, but answers that address the aches of the heart are more difficult. It is the eternal question of mankind: If God is so good, why does he allow me to hurt so bad? Why do bad things happen to good people? From nearly the beginning of time, Job confronted the emotional turmoils of tragedies and physical pain, despite being a righteous man in the eyes of God.
There is no answer to these questions that can adequately be addressed in this brief newsletter, but Rest Ministries bookstore, The Comfort Zone, does have some wonderful books that will give you a chance to do some life-changing, follow up reading.
But let's address one small portion of this topic. Whether you have seriously considered suicide or have entertained the idea of how to end your pain, I have two points that I wish to share with you.  Do not lose hope...
Do not be tempted by that which Satan is throwing in your face as an easy answer to end your pain. Satan knows first hand that physical pain is one of the greatest afflictions in which to persuade you to turn away from God, and from what God desires in your life.
Take Job, for instance: Satan took Job's children, his assets, his animals, everything - and the honorable Job responded by worshipping God. So what did Satan do next, that he knew would be the last straw for Job? "Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head," (Job 2:7). Job was so depressed his first response was to take a piece of (unclean) broken pottery and scrape himself with it as he sat among the ashes. (v. 8). Job's sounding pretty depressed at this point, isn't he? One could even say that he is feeling a bit apathetic about whether he lives or dies, since he is scraping himself with pottery that could likely causing an infection.
If one of the most righteous men in God's eyes is tempted to want to die because of physical pain, acknowledge that your feelings also need acknowledged! Although God grieves your emotional pain, it exists. You are not "less of a Christian" or a hypocrite if you have feelings of hopelessness. You are human… and humans need God.
You are simply being tempted, as was Jesus. "While we may feel separated from [God], it is just that: a feeling. A persistent perception of desolation does not mean he has deserted us. But it can feel that way, and intensely so," (Littleton, p. 26). Jesus spent forty days in the desert where He was led by the Spirit, into the desert to be tempted by the devil. [Matthew 4:1; Luke 4:2 emphasizes that he was tempted all forty days.]
What? God led Him into the desert in order to be tempted by Satan? Yes; but note that during this entire time "angels attended him."
(Mark 1:13). Just as with Job and Jesus, although you may be tempted, God has provided the power to overcome the temptation; "No temptation [will] seize you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it," (1 Cor. 1:13).
In those dark moments of a sleepless, painful night, shadows of temptation may dance on your walls, encouraging you to take a few extra pills and relieve the pain, but angels are attending you. Before the sun set to create this night of desperation, God already knew that you would encounter Satan's temptation, and He said, "Satan can't harm [put your name here]. He can tempt all he wants, but I know that my child will rely on my power and promises to overcome it or I never would have allowed this." And then for good measure, God send a few angels to attend to you. Perhaps a phone call will come. You'll look over and see your Bible and pick it up. You'll fall on your knees and cry out to God one more time. You'll think of loved ones that will find you and whose lives will never be the same. Angels are in your home attending to you to help you overcome the temptation.
Jesus knows temptation. Satan's daybook had forty days crossed out and the only thing on that 'to do' list said, "tempt Jesus." That was all he had planned. And Jesus' calendar had forty days marked out that said, "fast and pray." I wouldn't be surprised if day forty-one said "Eat!" Jesus was human and, big surprise- he was hungry! (Matthew 4:2) Jesus was out there in the desert with Satan on his back and I would guess more than once he imagined just taking a rock and turning it into an ice cream cone, even a Popsicle. So what did Satan use as His temptation? He talked about food! Bread of all things; mouthwatering, buttered, fresh from the oven, carbo-hydrated comfort food, energy-producing bread! The one thing he knew Jesus desired.
What do you desire? Healing? Release from the pain? These are the things in which Satan will tempt you with for his purpose. If not suicide, then New Age pain clinics that hypnotize you, call forth the spirits to release your pain; quackery that will strip you of your income. Even well-meaning Christians get their theology mixed up and tell you that you can't serve God until you are healed.
Why did God allow Jesus to experience this temptation? One of the reasons: "Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted," (Hebrews 2:18). He understands! Why are you experiencing it?
One of the reasons: because you will be able to help those who are being tempted. Most Christians that are in the depths of despair know the Scriptures. They know God loves them. But they just don't want to "do life" anymore with the terms that they've been handed.
I heartily encourage you to seek professional counsel if thoughts of ending it all have entered your mind. This is vitally important. I also encourage you to seek out a friend, a spiritual mentor. It doesn't have to be someone with the same illness that you have. It doesn't have to be someone in your same age bracket, but seek someone who has suffered with pain and depression and encourage one another. No self-help book, New Age guru, or trendy herb will encourage you like a friend in Christ that you can "get real with." If you're searching for such a friend, ask your pastor, call us or visit our website, but most of all pray for such a friend. Angels are attending you. God is in control of every "coincidental" meeting. I believe that He knows we need a true, honest, vulnerable, call-in-the-middle-of-the-night, call-before-drying-the-tears, get-down-to-the-nitty-gritty-of-it-all friend.
Friends aren't perfect (even Jesus' friends couldn't stay awake!) but they make the journey easier-sometimes even the horrible, laughable. Why are Chevy Chase's National Lampoon's Vacation movie series so popular? Because we can relate! Someone else has vacations that include kids fighting in the backseat, car problems, strange relatives, and closed amusement parks. When my family drove four hours out of the way to an amusement part that was closed, my mom made us get out of the car and take photos at the gate and sign that said "closed for renovations." We were disappointed, but we laughed and sang the Wally World song (from Vacation) for a few hours on the return trip. The mishaps in life are always more bearable (and even laughable) with someone who has been there! Share your feelings with a friend.
In a nutshell, God is not finished with you yet. Jeremiah 29:11 says "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" God knows the appointed time that you will come to Him in heaven. Do you really want to interrupt His divine plan? Imagine planning a huge birthday party celebration for a friend. You've ordered the cake, you have the decorations up, and you've invited the loved ones to attend. The big surprise is at 5 o'clock. When you arrive at 5, however, your friend sits there with cake all over his/her face, the gifts unwrapped, the room a mess and says, "You know, I came home early and I just couldn't wait any longer…" Magnify this to what God must feel when you dare to disrespect and not fear Him or the consequences, by messing with the party He has planned for your arrival in heaven.
 Consider the possibility that your presence here on earth is necessary for God's work to be done in the lives of others.
While we are quick to read the beginning verse of Paul's feelings, Philippians 1:21, but read on. "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain… I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you [the believers] that I remain in the body." Read that again. …it is more necessary for the believers… Death, resulting in heaven, (for believers) may be more comfortable, but it is more necessary that we remain. In the book When God Weeps by Joni Eareckson Tada, she confronts the issue of suffering head on, without wavering from the tough questions or how it emotionally feels, despite what we know to be true. When a friend questions Joni on why she should hang on any longer, Joni points her to Paul's writings. She tells her friend, "You may think it's far better to depart and be with Christ, but as long as you remain in the body, your family and friends have something to learn. Think of the eternal importance."
Many of you have shared with me how God has used your illness as an instrument. And some of you are stubborn in the most positive way! Regardless of the comments that believers throw your way, the pain that you suffer daily, the doctor's bleak predictions, you know that as long as there is breath in you, God is going to use you to glorify Him.
He does this in many ways. One of which is giving non-believers something to ponder; if you can radiate joy, in the midst of your circumstances, why is their life falling apart because they drive a Nissan, not a Volvo? But Paul writes that his presence is necessary for the believers. What? Aren't they covered? You ask. You mean I have to hang out in this turbulent world, without a moment of aching joints and difficulty breathing just to work on the hearts of those who God has already dealt with? What's with that? Can't they get it together on their own without my suffering?
Well, yes. Take the "me" and the "I" out of it and focus on God's reasoning. God has a purpose for your life-right now, right here; the ways that God can use our suffering to mold us to make us more Christ-like number beyond infinity. But despite personal gain, imagine what the presence of pain in your life can do for those around you.
People learn to become more patient, compassionate, grateful and caring. The nurse wonders why you glow with the Holy Spirit and she can't seem to get motivated to go to church. The person that sits behind you in church thinks, Boy, he really seems to be in a lot of pain, but he's still here. I wonder what I would do in that situation? I'm glad I know the same God.
When your brother watches a movie about someone fighting against all odds to climb a mountain, he may think, Wow, I should have that kind of discipline and motivation. When he goes to church, he looks around and thinks, Gosh, I really should read my Bible more. But when you arrive, your presence, your spirit, and your character, with God ingrained into each part of your soul, can, through the Holy Spirit, makes him desire to change, not just think about change or casually wish for change. Crabb mentions this in his book Inside Out. "Some people push me to do better by trying harder. Others draw me out to be better by enticing me with an indefinable quality about their lives that seems to grow out of an unusual relationship with Christ, one that really means something… The difference is enormous."
Recently a news show on television took a closer look at what makes marriage work. One family shared their list of goals which included "Own a Lexus" (that was checked off already) and "Visit the Cartier store." (I'm betting she won't leave empty-handed!) These are society's values. But Jesus says the meek are blessed, they will inherit the earth and experience peace, (Matt. 5:5, Psa. 37:11). For He who is least among you all--he is the greatest (Luke 9:48). That which we give Christ is precious to Him because we must sacrifice comfort (Mark 12:43). Proverbs 13:8 says, "A man's riches may ransom his life, but a poor man hears no threat." Those of us who have already lost that which we once put great faith in-our health-have no threat of losing it. It is in God's hands.
Let's face it: as a believer we know that we will spend eternity in heaven with Christ. We welcome relief from this world. Basically, we are homesick, as Paul likely was when he wrote "to die is gain…"
God knows this. Colossians 3:1 says, "Set your heart on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God." Homesickness is not a bad thing. We should long for our real home. And this world is not it! We will not find, nor should we search, for true contentment. Contrary to what many believe, earth is not one big Disneyland; rather it is a spiritual battlefield. We are soldiers and we have scars.
Crabb writes, "We desire what we do not have and cannot have until Christ returns and restores everything, including ourselves, to the way it was meant to be. Until then, that intuitive awareness of trouble that clouds our happiest moments is reflecting… on a basic truth about life in a fallen world."
We must rely on this. We must take that grain of mustard seed and hold it up and say, "Lord, I am tired. My faith feels weak. I don't understand, but if this mustard seed can move a mountain, surely this amount of faith can get me through one more day."
God never set us up to believe that this world would be easy. We've done that to ourselves. Many of us Americans have lived in a world where we get whatever we want. Because our luxuries are large, our God is small. When we lose our ease in life, our perspective of God becomes bigger. God never changes, but our perspective of Him does. But He says, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world," (John 16:33). God is the ruler of your life.
"Unless God is the major pursuit of our lives, all other pursuits are dead-end streets, including trying to know ourselves," shares Charles Swindoll. "They won't work. They won't satisfy. They won't result in fulfillment. They won't do for us what we think they're going to do." Only God's Word will provide us with peace, wisdom and the ability to hang on one more day.. And then one more day…
Don't Give Up!
There is Hope & Help
Need to talk to someone now? Rest Ministries heartily recommends the Christian counseling hotline "New Hope Telephone Counseling Center provided by the Crystal Cathedral in CA (author & speaker, Robert Schuller's church.) Ï You can call 24-hours a day and someone will speak with you and pray with you. 714-639-4673. Or click here.
To find a Christian counselor in your area:
Call Focus on the Family 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. and ask for the "counseling department." 1-800-A-FAMILY (232-6459)
Great resources that Rest Ministries has available:
Lisa Copen is the founder and director of Rest Ministries. She lives with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia and is the author of When Chronic Illness Enters Your Life Bible Study.
A free online book in hopes of helping you:
Do not Give Up OK. Keep swimming, it will get better.
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