This has been a tough year for me. A year with a lot of suffering.
Both Stasi and I have been through a lot of physical affliction. There were accidents. Betrayals. My father died this year. On top of this, my friends have been suffering. A year with a lot of pain in it.
And there is nothing like suffering to wreak havoc in your relationship with God. The damage pain does to our relationship with Jesus is often far, far worse than the pain itself.
Every time I turned to Jesus in the midst of one episode of heartache then another, every single time I turned to him, the first thing he would say was, "Love me." At first it surprised me - aren't you supposed to say You love me? I'm the one who's hurting here. But somehow, instinctively, I knew what he meant, knew what he was after. "Love me now, in this - not for this, but in this." And those words have been a rescue.
Here's why: Pain causes us to pull away from God. At the very moment we need him most, we pull back. Our soul withdraws, like a snail into its shell. Then you not only have the heartache, you have "lost" God for awhile too. Desolation on top of suffering. Sometimes it takes months, even years to recover the relationship. Jesus was rescuing me from that cycle by telling me to love him now, right in the midst of the pain.
On a soul level, when I love God in this place, it opens my heart and soul back up to him right where I need him most, right in the center of the pain. Too often what we cry out for is understanding - "why, God?" But I've learned over the years that when you are in the midst of the suffering, you don't often get understanding, and frankly, you don't need understanding - you need God.
And so dear friends I wanted to pass this along to you, for it has been a great help to me. Love Jesus, right there, right in the midst of the pain. Just start telling him you love him, right where you are hurting. For as you do, it enables your heart to open back up to him, it enables him to come to you in this very place. And it is Jesus that we need. Desperately.