Have you ever gone through an experience where you were totally disoriented? For me, it happened a few months ago. It was about 2am when I awoke from a bad dream. I jumped out of bed in a panic. I noticed that I had a mask on (I have sleep apnea) and didn’t know what to do with the mask. I ripped it off. I thought, “Where am I?” Even though I was in my bedroom, I had no idea where I was. The next question was even more revealing, “WHO AM I?” I had no idea who I was and my anxiety shot through the roof. I felt totally lost.
But then something strange happened. I uttered out loud, “Jesus!”
Isn’t that interesting? I couldn’t remember own my name, but for some reason I could remember the name of Jesus! My wife, who is usually a very deep sleeper, woke up (I believe the Lord woke her up) and she attended to me. It turned out that I had very low blood sugar (below 50 – yikes!) So she got me some apple juice and within a few minutes I became oriented again. I remembered my name, where I was, the date, etc.
I share this with you as a way to illustrate one of the most important lessons I’m learning in the school of “suffering”:
Suffering helps us to experience the powerful presence of Jesus.
In my weakest, most vulnerable moment, Jesus is there. When I am totally lost, Jesus is there. When I am suffering, Jesus is totally there! He is there even when I cannot remember my own name.
When Jesus says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” he means it. When he says, “Lo, I am with you always even to the end of the age,” that’s an ironclad promise.
When things are going well, I find it a challenge to be aware of the Lord’s presence with me. There are some days where I am totally oblivious to Christ being with me. Sure, I have my personal worship time (quiet time) with Him in the morning; but the rest of the day? I’m off doing my own thing, unaware of God, until the end of that day. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to confess to God in bed that I had not given him even a second thought!
But when I’m suffering, I’m calling on Jesus all the time. And he always shows up!
When I feel nauseous and sick, I cry out to Jesus. When I get disappointing news of another transplant delay, I cry out to Jesus. When I am awake at 3am because I am uncomfortable, bloated and agitated with dialysis solution, my suffering gives me an opportunity to cry out to Jesus, and he makes his presence known to me.
He shows up every time, without fail.
One of the most repeated prayers in the Psalms is: “In my distress, I called to the Lord, and he heard my cry and answered me.”
The gist of that prayer is found in Psalm 4:1, 18:6, 31:9, 55:17, 102:5, and 120:1, as well as 2 Sam 22:7 and Jonah 2:2. When God’s people suffered, they turned to him – without hesitation.
You would think that turning to Jesus when we suffer is a no-brainer. But how often do we choose not to turn to Jesus when we suffer or face hardships? How often do we try to work it out in our own strength? How often do we not pray or seek Christ’s face when we go through trials? How often do we choose to complain, whine and moan that “no one’s helping, nobody cares!” – and Jesus is there standing beside us waiting for us to call out His name?
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 45 years of faith, it’s to turn always to the Lord when I can, as often as I can, all the time – because Jesus always answers us when we call.
If you are suffering or going through a trial, don’t “waste” it by trying to fend for yourself or wallow in your misery (which is different than “lament”). Instead, call on the Lord, cry out to him, turn and seek the face of Jesus, and see why he is called “the Savior.” Experience the power of his presence that gives you strength in the season of suffering.