The great light of God’s mercies are most clearly seen against the dark backdrop of suffering and affliction. This past year was a season of great trial and spiritual growth for our church. It was a year of both heights and depths.
Our church family not only studied the entire book of Romans (one of the heights) while continuing our verse-by-verse exposition of the Gospel of Mark (another height), we also experienced many illnesses, hard diagnoses, and losses. All the while, God has been good and gracious to us in these trials and afflictions.
I wanted to take a moment to review where we’ve been as we move further into 2015.
One year ago, in February 2014, I woke up mostly blind across the middle of my left eye. A blood vessel apparently died from a lack of oxygen and circulation. Ophthalmologists said my left optic nerve was “swollen off the charts.” It has since returned to normal size, but with no improvement of vision.
In all of this, I have lost 70% of my overall vision in that eye. I haven’t had any changes of vision — good or bad — since that loss, but I am making adjustments.
This blindness had nothing to do with my overall health. I’m told there was nothing I could have done to prevent this from happening. In other words, it was simply God’s will for this to happen for His glory. It’s all part of His good purpose for me, my family, and our church. Some of God’s purposes are already becoming more evident; but others will only be correctly evaluated in the eternal realm of God’s glorious purpose.
One of the Puritans put it like this: “Many of God’s providences are like Hebrew letters – they can only be correctly read in reverse.” Yet we cannot wait until we have full understanding of everything to give glory to God. So we must trust Him and praise Him now.
At present, there’s nothing doctors can do to improve or restore my vision; but we continue to pray for God’s healing, if it is His good pleasure to do so.
In the meantime, I’ve been learning new ways of accomplishing mundane daily tasks as well as new ways of getting my pastoral work done in preparation for preaching and other related tasks. I’m no longer able to drive at night – my wife (or other friends) must now do that for me.
I can’t read printed books for long spans without extreme vision fatigue and headaches. Most of my reading must now be done on a backlit screen (computer or iPad), for which I’m very grateful. So I’ve had some adjustments to make.
However, I wasn’t the only one who experienced difficulty and loss in 2014.
Shortly after this blindness occurred in my life, other members of our church family began to receive difficult medical diagnoses — cancers, respiratory infection, a heart-attack, and other waves of general illness and loss throughout our church.
For a while, it seemed like wave after wave of physical assaults were striking us. Shakespeare wrote, “When trials come, they come not single-spy but in battalions.”
Yet in all of these trials and afflictions, God has been our Rock. He has sustained us.
We are not forsaken. He has even made our fellowship stronger, our witness purer, and our members more loving as we pray for each other in these difficult times. There has also been a greater awareness of our human frailty and the brevity of this life.
This past year was a time of tears and of weeping with those who weep in our church. Several in our church are still battling life-threatening illnesses day by day.
But in this fallen world of sin and decay, we know that bad things are going to happen… we just don’t know what they will be, or when, or where. And that ignorance is a blessing.
So our trust in this life cannot be in our circumstances, or in our health, or in our job security, or even in our friends who surround us in these perilous times.
Rather, as the Apostle Paul wrote at the end of Romans 8, “…In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
For that reason, our hope is now and always in the Lord.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!