PEACE IN THE MIDST OF PAIN
During the second night, when darkness enveloped the room, it was a lonely, forsaken place indeed. I’m sure there were no audible voices in that room and I have no idea what time it was, but it was as though I heard a voice that said: “Why do you lay there suffering alone when I laid down my life to be with you, to give you my peace and joy and comfort?”
For the first time in two days, my mind was focused on something other than my own misery.
As I lay there in the hospital bed, I began thinking that for more than a quarter of a century I had traveled the world, telling people about Jesus. I had taught people that He gave His life so He could come into our lives and be with us, that He promised to comfort us, and that He promised to give us peace and joy. I have taught this all these years, and now, here I lay, all alone, bathed in sweat, my muscles in knots, dreading every new second of my miserable life. Surely this is not peace or joy. This is not fellowship with the Lord.
It hit me: for two days and a night I had not given a thought toward the Lord. I had not even considered that peace and joy were possible with the presence of this pain I felt. I had been told that the discomfort would last for two weeks. Surely comfort and peace meant the absence of pain—they had nothing to do with God! I was shocked at my own thinking!
Why was I two days late in coming to God? Well, this was the first physically painful experience in my life that I couldn’t handle. I never related pain with peace because I had never had to in the past. I might have hit my finger with a hammer or had a sore knee, but that was the worst that had happened to me physically.
I like Billy Graham’s definition of joy:
Joy is not gush: joy is not jolliness.
Joy is simply perfect acquiescence in God’s will,
because the soul delights itself in God.¹
I began to pray, “Lord, I’m sorry I’ve turned my back on You. I’ve assumed that comfort and peace depended on finding a painless position in bed or by swallowing a pill. Forgive me, Lord. I thought I was dependent on You, but here I am trying to be self-sufficient. If Your Word is true, then I repent. Comfort me. Restore Your peace and joy.”
I was amazed that I felt my muscles relax. The sweating ceased. Soon I fell asleep.
The next morning was great. My first waking sensation was a stab of pain. I welcomed it. The dread was gone. My body was relaxed. I worked my way out of bed alone, amazed and pleased to discover that a body at peace can take a lot of pain.
I went home the fifth day and was told that the pain would gradually diminish over a period of two weeks. The presence of a wife who was there twenty-four hours a day was a great treasure. Savoring the smells of my wife’s cooking was delightful, and eating that delicious food was pleasurable as I looked out at the ocean view. Her presence by my side in the hospital and at home was satisfying beyond description. The sympathy and love shown by Betty, Leroy, Lois, Bob, and Jayne are treasures one cannot buy. Phone calls from all over the country and a stack of cards six inches high were a delight. A warm, friendly, compassionate surgeon, a nurse (actually a very nice person), and aides made up a presence to be appreciated beyond words. What more could one ask for? Yet, none of these wonderful privileges were a substitute for God’s comforting presence in my heart.
How does God fill your body with comfort and peace and joy in the presence of pain? I don’t know how He does it. But Jesus proved to me that His own words are true:
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Matthew 11:28, KJV
He was there all the time, but for two days I depended solely on my bed, water, pills, the presence of skilled medical personnel, and visits by my wife and friends.
You would think that Jesus would say, “You turned your back on Me; now I’ll turn My back on you. It’s only fair. Call on Me in a few more days after I’ve nursed My hurt feelings for a while.”
No, He kept His word. He was there when I called.
Why did I have to go through the pain of an operation? Why do we even have pain in the world? I don’t have all the answers to that question. I just know that when we have circumstances that are difficult, God has provided a way to have peace in the middle of pain.
Two weeks after I came home from the hospital, my wife had a sudden, strange attack. She crawled into bed and stayed there a full day. Our friend Betty came down from her apartment to help. My wife said to us, “Go out of the room and leave me alone. Your presence bothers me.” Betty and I just looked at each other. I hobbled out of the room wondering what to do; this wasn’t the predictably pleasant Eva that we knew. Something had to be drastically wrong. We called in our doctor neighbor, and he confirmed that something was seriously wrong.
Two days later, after Eva had been to a hospital for some tests, our beloved surgeon called on us in our home: “I’ll level with you,” he said gravely. “You have an abdominal tumor, Eva. Very likely it is malignant. We must operate at once.”