Right now God is leading me through what is probably the most painful experience of my adult life. It has been more painful than I realized anything could be. And I’ve fallen on my face so many times. It has been miserable, frankly. But, God has taught me more about Himself, and I have experienced more grace than at any time in my adult life. Funny how that works…
Probably the most amazing part of this experience, though, is how God has surrounded me with people; precious, kind, encouraging brothers and sisters who understand my pain. They have been comforted by God, and are being used by God to comfort me, just like 2 Cor 1:3-5 talks about. And that has been a sweet experience, in the midst of a very bitter and painful journey.
This isn’t the course I would choose, if given a choice. I’d much rather run around a well-maintained quarter-mile track for the race I’m supposed to run with endurance. This definitely feels more like a steeple chase than anything you run on a track. And it is one heck of a long chase, too…it’s been going on for months…
This isn’t my first rodeo, so I know where in the Scriptures to turn for encouragement and comfort. But sometimes those words ring so hollow. They don’t speak to my heart like they have in times past. So I’ve turned other places…places like Hebrews 11, and read over and over again about the heroes of old, who didn’t get to see what I often take for granted. They didn’t experience the intimate, indwelling presence of God through the Holy Spirit. They didn’t have easy access to an entire library of inspired words to read or meditate on. David’s cry, for God not to take His Spirit is because David knew what it was like to live without that indwelling presence!! When he said he meditated on God’s Word, and hid it in his heart, it was from listening at the tabernacle, not because he could read it for himself!!
We have so many blessings, but we can lose sight of them in the midst of challenges or suffering. Which is why Hebrews 11 has been a focus of late…I wanted to see what I could learn from that “cloud of witnesses” who are cheering me on as I run this race set before me. And in so doing, I recognized that the cloud of witnesses isn’t limited to the pages of Scripture. God gives us all our own personal “cloud”…right here, right now.
For me, that cloud has come in the form of other mature, godly followers of Jesus who have walked through heartache like mine and lived to tell about it. And so many have. They have listened to me, prayed with me, cried with me and encouraged me. In short, they have been my cheerleaders. They’ve also spoken truth when I needed it, even when I didn’t appreciate their honest words spoken with incredible love.
This journey isn’t over. I haven’t finished this race. In fact, it is only beginning, and promises to get much worse before it gets any better. Which is why I’m so incredibly thankful for that living cloud of witnesses…I need frequent reminders to keep my eyes on my Savior instead of on the storm. And I need friends to help me get back up when I fall down. Or friends who will point out that I don’t have to wallow in the puddle I’ve fallen into. And because God loves me so much, He has not only provided all the heroes of old, but He has surrounded me with living, breathing, modern day, flesh-and-blood heroes as well. What an amazing gift.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Hebrews 12:1 NLT