His hands were gently folded on his lap as he listened to the sermon. Every morning, my son and his caregiver listen to various sermons on his phone; she patiently helps him find the Bible passage written in large letters. As they listened, I watched his fingers, now long and thin and never still. Jon’s muscle movement disorder is one of many challenges his body must contend with every second of every day.
There was a season years ago when the hand tics were relentless. His fingers incessantly opened and slammed shut, his palms would bleed as his little fingernails crushed against the soft skin. We did everything we could to help, trimming his little fingernails, going through boxes of band-aids, medical tape, and gloves. To make matters worse, most children with disabilities are bullied, made fun of, and rejected; Jon’s challenges and movement disorder put a bigger target on the back of his childhood.
The sermon stream continued . . .
“Our times are in His hands”
“Great is His faithfulness”
“Only the Lord gives us a peace that endures”
“It is God that gives us strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow”
“Rejoice in the Lord always”
“His love never ceases”
I’ve heard these passages quoted since I was a little girl. I watched and wondered what was going through Jon’s mind and heart as he listened. Concepts are already difficult for Jon to understand. Due to the level of his daily suffering, I marvel at his desire to hear truths so contrary to his life experiences.
At times I am envious of Jon’s simple, very child-like soul. He can’t debate theological arguments; in fact, such cognitive deliberations don’t run through his mind. His faith is simple yet core to his life focus. He listens without doubt and, thankfully, he isn’t capable of having a cynical heart. Perhaps his cognitive challenges are a gift here . . . he is desperate for words of truth, clinging for hope because his daily struggles are so complex.
Unlike for my son, trusting in God’s faithfulness, goodness, and provision of strength and peace can be difficult for me. When God allows things in my life that are painful and trigger deep-seated fears, having a childlike heart flies right out the window. I tend to overthink, to justify my frustrations, and become negative and irritated with the Lord. I know He could change things; yet when He doesn’t relieve chronic pain, allows unjust suffering, or seems to dismiss my cry for help, I wrestle with my faith.
With tears bursting from my eyes, I have prayed, “Lord, please help me WANT to want to believe.”
If you are human, adversity will eventually show up in some unexpected way. This past year has revealed that most of us are enduring some kind of suffering: mental, emotional, physical, spiritual or otherwise. Can you relate to any of the following?
On a global level, 2020 was a year that unveiled the struggles and suffering most of us have on some level. It’s easy to believe the cause of our pain is related to COVID and pervasive isolation; I believe the last year has revealed but not caused many of our internalized or unattended sorrows.
As I watched Jon and heard the pastor’s words, I was awe-struck at how he clung to the words of truth. He wasn’t angered, bothered, or confused even though his life experiences have been marked by pain and daily trials. In fact, I watched as the words heard comforted his tender heart. Though His hands twitched, he never had a clenched, closed fist.
How have your hands—really your heart—been this past year . . . or years? In spite of the pain you have endured, has your heart remained soft and open to accepting what God allows? Have you tried to cover your soul wounds with coping “band-aids” like alcohol, drugs, cynicism, argumentation, wanting God to make sense on this side of heaven?
The pastor closed his sermon with the words, “Put your hands into the nail-scarred hands of Jesus, your Savior . . .” Tears fell on the little table where I sat. Jon’s hands were open, and I quietly opened mine. I prayed, “Lord, may I learn from my son to have a child-like heart with open hands to trust You in the midst of what You allow, knowing Your ways are not my ways but they are right and true and needed in this lost, hurting world.”
Truly, a peace washed through my heart as I opened my hands and welcomed God’s faithful truths. The pain of this world will continue, yet suffering is optional. Jesus went to the cross and carries our scars, which are cared for when we place our open hands into His. Like Jon, bring your soul to Jesus, not your knowledge or good works or self-sufficiency . . . JUST YOU.
“Lord Jesus, I need YOU today, this moment, to soften my soul and open my heart. I place my trust in You alone. I ask for a peace that surpasses all understanding, strength for this moment, and to be embraced by Your love that never ceases. Thank you for being faithful in and through all seasons of my life.” Amen
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In When Life Isn't Fair: What They Didn't Tell Us in Sunday School, Colleen Swindoll Thompson weaves together biblical truth, practicality, and her own growth experiences as a mother of a son with special needs. She writes with raw honesty about her personal crisis of faith as well as the hardship and humor that come with learning to trust God through difficult times.