The Pain and Pleasure of Trusting In God

“Patience is a virtue.” Now there’s a cliché that should be avoided like the plague. Er…yeah. I guess the saying “patience is a virtue” is a cliché because most people are prone to minimize its importance. At least, I know I am. In all honesty, patience is something I have consistently refused to cultivate in my life. Now, in His providence, God has declared my refusal to no longer be an option.

If I was God and I looked at Cap, I would say, “Oh gee, he’s having trouble trusting me. I think I’ll make things easier for him.” That would be the extent of my “wisdom.” God’s wisdom, however, is exhaustive. And based on a gazillion factors I can’t readily see (and may never readily see), He has decided to make things worse.

I’ve been suffering from a particular physical ailment for the past couple years or so. It might be a form of psoriasis, although it doesn’t exactly fit the dictionary definition of that particular disease. I have yet to visit a doctor for a diagnosis because of insurance issues, but that should change in the near future, Lord willing. Severe flare-ups haven’t occurred all that often, but this past Friday the disease spread to parts of my neck and the inflammation became more severe.

Stressing over this sickness in particular, I had what might be called a “mild nervous breakdown” Sunday evening—not one of my better moments in life. (Don’t look for February 19, 2006 to be included in the Cap Stewart Hall of Faith.) By the time Monday morning rolled around I was almost reduced to tears because of the pain.

As Monday progressed, and as the rash failed to recede, I thought I was doing better in handling the situation. But about an hour before work ended, I started to notice just how drab I was feeling. It didn’t occur to me immediately, but as I left work I suddenly realized that I had sunk into a state of depression.

In my car, I tried preaching to myself. That didn’t help. I begged God to show me mercy in this situation and help me avoid a prolonged battle with despondency. My feelings only seemed to worsen.

Providentially, I had recently discovered John Piper’s article Don’t Waste Your Cancer. This is the best article on cancer I have ever read. My problems pale drastically in comparison with what Dr. Piper is going through, but the principles can be applied to almost any sickness.

Monday evening, I pulled out John Piper’s article on cancer and started reading through it, substituting the word “sickness” for “cancer” (where applicable). The first part that stuck out to me was under his fifth point:

Satan’s and God’s designs in your [sickness] are not the same. Satan designs to destroy your love for Christ. God designs to deepen your love for Christ. [Sickness] does not win if you die [or fail to see a cure]. It wins if you fail to cherish Christ. God’s design is to wean you off the breast of the world and feast you on the sufficiency of Christ.

As I continued through the article, God helped me to see more clearly what really mattered. This particular trial wasn’t overcoming me because I couldn’t find a way out; it was overcoming me because I was failing to treasure Christ.

The more serious issue at hand was my sin, not my sickness. For example, one sin I was struggling with was the fear of man (“Now that this rash has spread to parts of my neck, I can’t fully conceal it; what are people going to think?”). So why not, as Piper proposed in his article, use my sickness as an ally in combating sin? Why not let it propel me to pursue what really matters: the glory of God (whether I am healed tomorrow, a year from now, or never)? The article didn’t immediately make everything better, but it did cast a beam of light into the darkness.

I have been memorizing Romans 8:28-32, which deals with God’s sovereign will and overwhelming love, and I decided to meditate on that passage as well as Piper’s article. The subtitle above verse 18—“From Suffering to Glory”—caught my eye, and an amazing thing happened as I started reading at verse 18: the Holy Spirit began to overwhelm my soul with the glory of God. The entire passage came alive, but a few verses in particular stuck out: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (v. 18). “Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance” (vs. 23-26). “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (v. 28). And finally, I came to the mind-blowing promise of verse 32: “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” God was holding nothing back from me that I needed!

In that moment, the Lord miraculously and completely lifted the depression. Despair gave way to hope—and not just a temporal hope for healing. I had hope in my God—that He knew exactly what He was doing and all things in my life were working for His ultimate glory and for my ultimate good. What a testament to the AMAZING power of the GRACE of GOD!

Shortly thereafter, the inflammation began to diminish. It’s obvious that this psoriasis—or whatever it is—hasn’t gone away, but ultimately that doesn’t matter. What matters is that I am, by God’s grace, growing in my desire and ability to treasure Christ above all else. As long as that happens, no sickness or trial will be wasted.

Comments

After talking with you Sunday, I was praying for healing for you...but know I will continue now to pray not only for healing, but for strength and courage to trust the Lord through the duration of this sickness.
CZ said…
Cap, those are great words, and really encouraged me. Praise God for his mercy poured out on you in that way! Keep abiding in Christ and He will deliver you!

I've been frustrated recently with a bummed knee that has prevented me from training for the marathon. That's miniscule compared to cancer or even to your issue. But still, the concept is the same. Count it all joy! How freeing that is..! perseverance, proven character, hope, faith...