For every suffering “when,” a glorious “then”

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In the Big Apple, they’re suffering. I happened to hear the latest as I was sitting on hold the other day, waiting to speak to Mr. Snerdley on his show. “The second officer has died,” he said. “After five days, he lost his fight. He was 27.”

Twenty-seven. My heart inside my chest, it squeezed, and all I could see for a moment was the face of my boy with the Jesus Hair. He is 28.

Yesterday, it came through my newsfeed. “Matt’s health has been rapidly declining since Christmas. He lost his ability to talk and walk. The MRI on Monday revealed that the brain cancer progressed and the tumor is spreading quickly. They recommended no further treatment. We have brought Matthew home to give him as much comfort as possible, and hospice is visiting us here. It appears to be soon he will be with Jesus, fully healed.”

No words of comfort came to my mind. Again, my heart went still, knowing that when her precious son slipped into eternity, he would join his brother…

One mother. Two sons. Then this morning, the news. “He passed away peacefully…We are completely heartbroken and also joyful that he can be with Jesus and Ian.”

Grief is no respecter of persons. Sorrow will visit us all. I know this, but how on God’s green earth can the mind possibly make sense of such loss? Two sons in roughly three years, one taken in an instant and one in a slow fight with cancer. How? And why? And where is a solid rock for feet that would stumble and fall over such trouble? In the maelstrom, the heart knows how little control it’s ever had.

I have not yet lost a son to death, but for many years we lost a son to addictions. His very life was in peril, and I was helpless to save him. There was so little I could control. All I had was God.

It was there in the Crucible of Long Suffering that something miraculous occurred. In the worst of the trial, I found Comfort. I found a Companion, One Who had long-suffered, too. In my own grief and pain, He was there, sitting ‘longside, weeping and feeling it all. His name was Jesus.

In that awful place, I found that every “when” I could face would be followed by a “then.”

WHEN you walk through the waters, (then) I will be with you.
WHEN you pass through the rivers, (then) they will not overwhelm you.
WHEN you walk through the fire, (then) you will not be burned. The flames will not set you ablaze.
WHEN your (fill in any name or relation) forsake you, (then) the Lord will take you up.

For every “when,” God provided a “then,” a promise that could hold all my weight. And it did! It was the crucible that taught me the lesson. It was in the fire that the Fourth Man appeared, just as He did for the Hebrew children. Oh, blessed truth, this, that He came to me in the fire.

We cannot know the “thens” of God without, first, a “when.” If this is you, take heart, for God Himself will appear. He may deliver you instantly and dramatically, just as He did the three Hebrews. He may, however, do for you what He did for me and what He’s doing for my sorrowing friend. It may be that in your own Crucible of Suffering, the Prince of Peace will appear, that faithful Companion, and He’ll walk in the fire at your side.

As for my friend whose faith is solidly in Christ, she has sent some of her treasures on before. She’s made a deposit, if you will, by faith and in hope. One day, her faith will be sight. What a day!

Truth is that we only need faith and hope for just a little while longer, not forever. Faith and hope will be completed in Love one day, and as we wait, we see once more that when God is all we have, He is all we need.

With prayers for those who are suffering,



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