Wrestling Through: Living in the Tension of Pain and Hope
October 4, 2021
Guest post by Pamela Henkelman
The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.”
I rose early and went to my comfy chair with a cup of coffee and my Bible, ready to connect with God. I fidgeted in my chair. I could never find the right spot. Pain has been my companion for the past ten years as the familiar dull ache radiated from my tailbone. It’s ridiculous! Who gets a bone spur on their tailbone? Hello, I did!! I blamed it on my pilates workout! I loved doing them for lean muscles, but I wasn’t counting on getting a bone spur.
A coccyx cushion helped, but honestly I hauled that thing around for years, and it was embarrassing. There was my brokenness for the world to see. I stopped using it, because shame will make us pretend. We don’t want to show the world our suffering. We like to keep it close. So, instead, I endlessly shifted in my chair, trying to ease the pain. Soft surfaces make it worse!
Surgery was recommended but because of the delicate location, it was not a wise choice. In that moment, I was frustrated. I believe in the power of God to restore. I’ve seen His miraculous ability in action. He’s the God of All! Surely, with a flick of his finger He could take care of one tiny bone spur. Hot tears fell as my suffering continued, and there wasn’t one thing I could do about it. I was powerless. Why won’t God do something? Why won’t He come to my rescue? Does He even care?
As I poured out my frustration, I was met with compassion from my God who understands the heart of the sufferer. He held me close and let me weep, and then reminded me of who He is: strong, faithful, present, caring, good. His love spurred me on.
Holding on to Hope
It’s easy to lose heart when pain lingers because discomfort is demanding. It screams for attention. It’s challenging to keep holding on to hope when our prayers go unanswered or our situation doesn’t improve. It would be natural to embrace bitterness and feel abandoned, except that God says that He’ll never leave us.
Here’s what I’ve learned in the tension of pain and hope:
I have honest conversations with God. There’s no need to be pious or pretend with our Maker. He knows our thoughts and welcomes dialogue about the state of our hearts even when we’re angry, frustrated, and disappointed in Him or our circumstances. Vulnerability builds connection. “Trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge interlude.” Psalm 62:8 ESV
I keep my eyes focused on God. I’ve learned the value of lifting my eyes to God instead of focusing on my difficult circumstances. When I see Him, I realize God is present. His presence sustains me in the waiting. “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1-2 ESV
I rehearse His benefits and remember His character. It’s easy to lose sight of who God is when we’re suffering. My heart rejoices, and I have hope as I recount His character qualities, and the ways He’s answered prayers in the past. His faithfulness becomes my shield. “Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth.” Psalm 113:5-6 ESV
I submit to the refining process. No one enjoys being refined, but God, in His goodness, uses difficult seasons to chip away at the components in our character which need sharpening. When we willingly submit to God, through the process, He builds beautiful qualities within us. “For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried.” Psalm 66:10 ESV
I remain tender before God. Bitterness and resentment towards God will damage our connection. I choose to guard my heart, remain humble and teachable in this season of suffering. “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!”- Psalm 139:23 ESV
I ask God to sustain me. I’ve asked God to heal me, for years. I’ve studied, meditated, and prayed on every healing scripture. Since the healing hasn’t happened yet, I ask God to sustain me through it. I want to be able to stand, heart and eyes fixed on Him, trusting His strength to keep my while I wait. “Cast your burden on the Lord and He will sustain you: He will never permit the righteous to be moved.”-Psalm 55:22 ESV
In the past ten years, as I’ve cried out to God for healing and He hasn’t moved, I have learned to rise above my circumstances to see God’s tender heart towards me. Honestly, I never want to lose sight of His love.
I have chosen to anchor my heart and mind on the hope of heaven and the promised presence of our God. He sustains me when I am weak. He lends me His strength when I can’t go on. He upholds me as I wait. I am confident He will do the same for you.
For more stories from believers wrestling through difficult circumstances and how they remain hopeful in Christ, click here.
Pamela is an enthusiastic encourager with a passion to speak, write, and coach. She believes all of life flows from our intimacy with God. She helps Christian moms navigate their changing roles with their adult children, through intimacy with God. She is enjoying the empty nest, married to her husband, a pastor for 33 years. They have five grown kids and two grandsons.