Entering 2018 felt like crossing the finish line of an arduous marathon I hadn’t signed up for, trained for or qualified to run.
2016 and 2017 were days of drought, locusts, frogs and flies. As one hardship faded another took its place; intense spiritual battles buffeting me from all sides.
I had come into it somewhat depleted, and so I reached the end of myself pretty quickly, pleading for the Lord’s mercy to sustain me.
Sustain me he did. As we traveled the path together, I learned to trust his sovereignty and provision as never before.
But this is not a post of woe; it is a song of praise…almost missed. Because it doesn’t take many steps past the finish line to forget how difficult the journey was.
Epiphany of Praise
And so it happened that I was brought up short one morning in early January as God turned my chin over my shoulder to glance back momentarily at where we had been and how many miracles he had worked over that time.
I was overcome.
With grief for all the troubles.
With relief that the season was behind me.
But most of all with humble, grateful praise for the God whose love guided and comforted me, whose will and power are to renew and redeem. It took my breath away.
And suddenly, in that moment, the ten lepers came to mind:
As he entered a village, ten men, all lepers, met him. They kept their distance but raised their voices, calling out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
Taking a good look at them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.”
They went, and while still on their way, became clean. One of them, when he realized that he was healed, turned around and came back, shouting his gratitude, glorifying God. He kneeled at Jesus’ feet, so grateful. He couldn’t thank him enough—and he was a Samaritan.
Jesus said, “Were not ten healed? Where are the nine? Can none be found to come back and give glory to God except this outsider?” Then he said to him, “Get up. On your way. Your faith has healed and saved you.” (Luke 17: 11-19, MSG)
How like those lepers I am.
- I don’t hesitate to cry out to God in a loud voice in my times of need.
- The lepers asked for mercy, not healing. Me too; how many days I arose on the promise that his mercies are new every morning. (Lamentations 3:22-23)
- Jesus took a good look at them. Hagar in her most desperate moment called God “El Roi,” the God who sees me. That truth is a mighty comfort in days of suffering.
But here is the big moment for me: One of them, when he realized that he was healed, turned around and came back, shouting his gratitude, glorifying God.
It’s that moment, the one when you’ve said your prayers and soldiered onward, trusting God, with no idea what will happen next. And then epiphany strikes: “It’s gone!”…my leprosy, my problem, my pain, my fear. It’s a miracle!
In such moments — when God uses my adversity for his good — as a revelation of his glory, my only response should be to turn and run to him, shouting gratitude and praise, not for what he’s done, but for who he is. And yet, like the lepers, if I’m being honest I get it right only about 10 percent of the time.
And yet it’s here that true healing begins, not necessarily of temporal afflictions, but of our hearts; unbelief gets chipped away, faith and courage are strengthened, and our ability to love and trust in this one, true God reaches new heights.
More than a Healing
And to think I almost missed it! I started this year acting as if normal was my normal.
Thank God he showed me the trail of destruction right behind me.
Thank God he pointed to the blossoms along the trail of dry bones.
Thank God he reminded me to enjoy this recovery time.
Because there will be new races to be run in the not too distant future. (John 16:33)
And so, my friend, for whatever trial you have come through, are in now or are about to enter, find strength in this God and praise him in a loud voice:
El Roi (Genesis 16: 7-16)
A mighty fortress (Psalm 46)
Prince of peace (Isaiah 9:6)
Our rock and redeemer (Psalm 18:2)
Sovereign over all:
“Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.”Revelation 19:6