In life no-one is immune from pain and suffering.
The anguish people can feel over death, betrayal, abandonment, bankruptcy, illness, suicide and many other major crisis can cause even long term physical and mental health problems. Yes, even the Christian…even a great man or woman of faith.
How do I know this?
I know this from personal experience, personal testimonies, and scriptural accounts.
From experiences throughout my life I do know what it is like to be distressed. To feel overwhelmed with responsibility. To feel abandoned, betrayed. To feel alone. To feel so exhausted mentally and physically that I am unable to leave the house. To have very little money in my bank account. To have a family member suicide. To see loved ones abuse both themselves and those around them. To lose sleep and cry until I feel dehydrated. To be cut-out of people’s lives. To feel trapped in the cycle of grief and loss and continually need to re-forgive both others and myself. Yes, I know. Furthermore I’ve experienced all of these things while being a faithful Christian…
I’ve also known however that I have a choice…For I retain a choice, even when I feel as though my experience is not based on any choice I initially made. I know I have a choice as to how I will respond.
I can let the pain debilitate me or I can call upon The Lord.
Jonah said it so well, “I called to the Lord out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice.’ Jonah 2:2
Sheol means the underworld of the dead.
So inside the belly of a huge ocean mammal, Jonah felt totally alone and so distressed he compared his experience to what he knew of hell.
Have you ever felt as if your life was like hell?
Sometimes I hear sermons about Jonah and sometimes I think they are too idealistic…Sometimes I think they focus more on the consequence than the experience.
We hear often about Jonah disobeying God’s instruction and trying to flee from the task he was assigned…resulting in Jonah being on a boat, a storm coming, him getting thrown overboard and swallowed by the whale and given a second chance to obey.
But what about the important lesson of the prayer he prayed while being inside the ocean mammal?
“I called to the Lord out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice.’ Jonah 2:2
The important lesson for us all to know is that even a man of God such as Jonah needed to call upon The Lord in his time of distress…I mean do you know any Christian who makes no mistakes and ALWAYS obeys God in their life?
So maybe we’re a little bit too focused upon Jonah’s mistakes…because even later he still makes mistakes. Perhaps we should be encouraged more by Jonah’s journey and The Lord’s steadfast faithfulness throughout this book. Just like Adam and Eve, perhaps we focus more upon the sin rather than The Lord’s faithfulness?
Yes, no-one is immune from pain and suffering because of the fall of man instituted by Adam and Eve, but God is greater than man and has always had a redemption plan, for He is good and faithful.
Yet we do have a choice, we always retain that. We get to choose how we will respond.
Will we be like Jonah and call upon The Lord in our distress?
When I feel incredibly weary from burdens I choose to call upon Jesus, for I know He sees all.
I take encouragement from Isaiah 40:27-31:
‘Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God”? 28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. 29 He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. 30 Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; 31 but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.’
The Lord sees all my troubles and does not grow weary as I do. He continues to work things out for my benefit because He is faithful. He answers me when I call out in anguish to Him with rest, the ability to forgive, and a renewed energy and focus.
He does this for me, even though I don’t deserve it. He does this for me even when I’ve been in the wrong, just like Jonah. Why? He answers the prayer I’ve prayed in faith because He is faithful. My simple belief in Him, not my ‘good deeds’, is all it takes for Him to respond and for relief to come.
I know the pain and suffering I experience in life does not make me any less His daughter or any less a Christian. Needing His strength and help is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of humanity. Facing persecution is not a sign of rejection from God, it is a sign of rejection from the world and therefore is a blessing. Isaiah 41:8-13 is an amazing promise from The Lord:
‘But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; 9 you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”; 10 do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. 11 Yes, all who are incensed against you shall be ashamed and disgraced; those who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish. 12 You shall seek those who contend with you, but you shall not find them; those who war against you shall be as nothing at all. 13 For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Do not fear, I will help you.”
The Lord is good and faithful. As human beings made in His image we retain our free will to either seek Him or reject Him.
Faith simply means believing with assurance of what has not yet happened or what we cannot ‘see’ or totally prove.
Hebrews 11:1 states it perfectly: ‘Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.’
Great men and women of faith were not perfect and they absolutely lived their lives in the full experience of humanity with its brokenness and fragility…yet they called upon The Lord, not because they did amazing things, because they had faith in Him.’
Hebrews continues in 11:6: ‘And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.’
So if you find yourself in distress, do not despair for that is to lose hope in God and that is a terrible place for anyone to be in as it opens the door for the enemy to plague people with terrible thoughts.
If you are in distress exercise faith by calling upon The Lord. Seek His ways and wisdom for your path and you will indeed find comfort, rest and renewed focus and energy. Remember no-one is immune. Prayer is a wonderful healing gift we have to find release and freedom from pain and shame and to soften our hearts.
Remember Jonah although he wasn’t perfect he was a servant of The Lord and called upon Him in his distress. The Lord answered because He is faithful, not because Jonah was.
If you feel overwhelmed and distressed you can always email (even anonymously) and we will pray for you. Our email is firstname.lastname@example.org
God bless, Melanie.