“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Isaiah 41:10

God, it’s been a rough week, but you have “upheld me with your righteous right hand”. It’s true, every moment felt worse than the last. The onslaught of the enemy was vicious. It was cruel. It was painful. It seemed to go on forever. Yet through it all, you were there. Your enduring and steadfast love was a triumphant sound that shook the heavens. Your banner over me was love, and your peace washed over me time and time again.  

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Romans 5:1-5

For a long time I’ve known that suffering produces endurance, then character, then hope, but God I really never had a grasp on how it could possibly make me happy, or how I could “rejoice in my suffering”.  Sure, I knew that I should rejoice, but actual rejoicing was a real struggling. I don’t like hurting. I don’t like suffering. I’m not a masochist! Why on earth would I want to suffer?! But I couldn’t reconcile that with how Jesus suffered, or how he willingly went to the cross, allowed himself to be tortured and mocked, and then murdered.  I knew it was because of love, but I couldn’t figure out the joy part. There’s joy in the resurrection, not the suffering, right?

Wrong.

There is joy in both.  One leads to the other.  

 “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
   I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.”
Isaiah 48:10

It all hit me this week.  It hit me so hard, it would have knocked me down if I hadn’t been held up by your righteous right hand.  This furnace of affliction was no different than the literal furnace of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo. It was terrifying, but you stood with them, and you stand with me.  Through it all you were there, and you are here now. Amidst all this incredible trial, suffering, and pain, I watched the springs of living water burst forth out of the desert.  Every time I’d falter, you’d raise me up again. Your strength would fill me. Your endurance sustained me. Your joy sprang forth! Your love permeated my steps, and all around me people were blessed.  The peace and strength and joy you gave me to endure, blessed everyone who witnessed it! Everyone! And that brought so much joy.

I remember collapsing onto my bed after so many hours with my daughter in the hospital, and the people who came around me to be with her so I could go home and sleep.  Instead of sorrow, I was filled with joy. You provided and sustained me. And you provided peace and rest. I fell asleep speaking your praises. Your presence filled my vision and my heart.  Your love endured. And as the days went on, and I traveled back and forth to the hospital day after day, you continued to provide: not just for me, but for everyone around us. And you’re doing it still.  Your strength refreshes daily within me.

And so I will go from strength to strength, trusting in your provision of steadfast love, and the strength you provide.  I will rejoice and be glad, because your strength always renews.  And that strength brings rivers of living water to everyone who sees it.

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
   in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
6 As they go through the Valley of Baca
   they make it a place of springs;
   the early rain also covers it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength;
   each one appears before God in Zion.
Psalms 84:5-7

 

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