I woke up from a terrific nightmare. I was about to have life changing surgery, and had just laid down on the table when it started to rise up all the way to the ceiling and then down to the floor. Repeatedly. Like a crazy circus ride that I couldn’t get off.
I’ve been on the verge of being able to have this surgery for a year now, which keeps being delayed because of the pandemic. This journey has been a long one, and with every step taking a year or two to unfold, it can be easy to be discouraged. But here’s the thing – every time something does happen, it’s best case scenario.
Five years ago I was scrolling through Facebook and I saw an advertisement for a lipedema clinic in Ontario. Imagine my surprise and delight to know I could book in to see a doctor who could finally diagnose me with a disease that I’d known I’d had since puberty. I booked a flight, I saw the doctor, I got a diagnosis. Two months later, due to some clerical errors the clinic permanently closed. But here’s the thing – my original plan was to go in January, but my family encouraged me to take the plunge so my appointment was in October. If I’d waited like I’d planned, I would have missed it.
At that appointment the doctor recommended some treatment options, so I made an appointment with my doctor as soon as I got home. I discussed them with him and he immediately put my name on the list to see a specialist. Since this is Canada, and we have universal health care and what seems like a never ending short supply of physicians, wait times are long. It took over a year. When I finally had that appointment it was in a town an hour away, and the thought of having to travel several times every week for treatment (especially during winter months) seemed daunting and impossible. The specialist looked at my paperwork and asked why I hadn’t been sent to the clinic in my own town. I remember looking at her in shock and surprise, and when she said the clinic had just opened that month, I was at a loss for words. If it hadn’t been a year long wait, the clinic in my town wouldn’t have been ready for me.
At the clinic, part of my treatment was compression therapy. It was only supposed to be a few months, but due to the severity of my lipedema it took a year and a half to be fitted for custom compression garments. When the time finally came, I was able to be seen by an expert in the field who knew about lipedema and was gifted and skilled to know what to do.
When you’re in the midst of it all, the years seem to stretch long on the horizon. I can sit here today and write this testimony of God’s goodness in my life and present it to you in a nice little package with a bow so it all seems lovely and good. Friends, I’m not going to do that. Because those years of waiting were hard, and I would be remiss if I didn’t share the suffering.
The long and short of it is, in my suffering I cried so many tears I thought I’d never be able to cry again. I doubted God’s sovereign plan for my life. I was angry. I grieved for the life I wanted but couldn’t have. I lacked faith in His timing. I didn’t trust Him.
I’ve read the book of Job before many times, but I didn’t understand it. I’ve read it because it was part of my Bible in a year plan. I’ve read it because it’s good to see someone else had it worse than me. I’ve read it because I thought I might glimpse some wisdom for walking through the fire every day. And while it is full of wisdom to be unpacked at every layer, the secret to understanding the book of Job (and ultimately any suffering you or someone you love is experiencing) is this: Job couldn’t read the first few pages of the book.
In Job chapter one, we read about this man who was an upstanding follower of God. He was rich with possessions, had much wealth and many children. But he also was rich with integrity. Verse one says he was blameless, he feared God and stayed away from evil. He also cared about the integrity of his children, and regularly prayed for them. It seems everything is going well for Job. And then Satan and God have a conversation.
God points out how Job was filled with integrity and stayed away from evil. Satan points out that it must be easy to be that way when you have such a blessed life. During their conversation, God allows Satan to mess with Job. So Satan gets to work and Job is stripped of his wealth, his servants die and then his beloved children. Everything is lost, all at once, for seemingly no reason. And in the midst of it all, with such terrible heartbreak, Job praises God.
I don’t know about you, but I haven’t praised God for my suffering. I don’t have that immediate response to trust Him and be thankful. Maybe some day, but I’m not there yet.
In chapter two, Satan meets with God again. In the heavenly courts, where he doesn’t belong, he tells God that Job only praised Him because He didn’t allow bodily harm. If he was allowed to remove Job’s health, then Job would definitely turn against God. So God allowed Satan to mess with Job’s health. Satan gets to work and immediately Job is covered from head to toe with painful sores. As he sits in the ashes of his former life, scraping at his sores with a piece of broken pottery, his wife tells him to curse God and die. And he says, should we only accept good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?
God is about to take Job on a journey. Job will endure hardship, be criticized by his friends, and be told that his suffering is a direct result of his sin. He’ll be upset, frustrated and angry but He will never curse God and turn against Him. God will intervene, eventually, and restore Job with even more wealth and health than before. But Job will never know that all of this was borne out of an accuser accusing God in his own throne room. One of the many messages of Job is this – there could be a reason for your suffering hidden from view. Only God knows the whole story. Hardship doesn’t mean God has failed or that you have sinned. We aren’t always give a reason.
From Job’s perspective, those parts of his story were hidden from view. Unwritten, yet written. Weaved into his story, but behind the veil. There, yet unseen.
If Job can praise God in his suffering, so can I. If Job can accept that a living God allows the good things and the bad, so can I. I can’t see the unwritten, yet written parts of my story. But I can trust that God’s plans and His purposes in my life are sovereign, worthwhile and good even when it hurts. Even when the waiting seems unbearable. Even when it all seems meaningless.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6
In the things we can’t understand, we can trust in a good, gracious and loving God. The more I lay my story down at His feet, the more I trust that the written parts are just as important as the unwritten.