Never say never. We all know the proverb. I, for one, hereby defy conventional wisdom. I will never say something again as long as I live.
“I can’t imagine anything harder.”
Why? Because every time I do something new comes down the pike that redefines hardness for me.
I said it when I broke free from the authority-cult like church I belonged to as a young follower of Jesus.
Then I had to quit my first church pastoral assignment due to chronic fatigue. That was harder. Couldn’t imagine anything more difficult. Wrong.
For reasons far too complicated to unpack, I resigned from the only church plant I ever founded back in 1998. We left Central Florida for Idaho. No way anything would be tougher than that. Guess again.
Head and neck cancer in 2005. Surgery, radiation, chemo. May I quote my medical oncologist? “We sent you to hell and back to save your life.” Indeed they did. What a miserable year. Hard, harder, hardest. Uh, not so fast.
“Josh is dead.” Six days from now will mark the one year anniversary of our great loss. Every day lately I find myself thinking something like this: one year ago today my son had a week left to live, ___________ days. It’s excruciating counting down the days to remembering the worst possible news. Or was it?
My bride with ovarian cancer. You’re kidding? It’s not possible. I don’t believe is. Oh, yes it it. You’d better believe it.
I give in. This is easily the hardest yet. Hardness to the nth degree. Uncle. I give in. I’ll never say it again. I don’t even want to imagine something harder than this baffling turn of events.
Alright, now that I’ve vented my lament, what is this man, husband, father, pastor, follower of Jesus to do? I have only one answer. It has always been the answer and it will forever remain the answer by God’s grace.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
How grateful I am today to have come across this Puritan prayer entitled simply “Refuge.” It corrals my runaway thoughts and emotions to send them heavenward:
O Lord, Whose power is infinite and wisdom infallible, order things that they may neither hinder, nor discourage me, nor prove obstacles to the progress of Your cause. Stand between me and all strife, that no evil befall, no sin corrupt my gifts, zeal, attainments. May I follow duty and not any foolish device of my own. Permit me not to labour at work which You will not bless, that I may serve You without disgrace or debt. Let me dwell in Your most secret place under Your shadow, where is safe impenetrable protection from the arrow that flies by day, the pestilence that walks in darkness, the strife of tongues, the malice of ill-will, the hurt of unkind talk, the snares of company, the perils of youth, the temptations of middle life, the mournings of old age, the fear of death. I am entirely dependent upon You for support, counsel, consolation. Uphold me by Your free Spirit, and may I not think it enough to be preserved from falling, but may I always go forward, always abounding in the work You give me to do. Strengthen me by Your Spirit in my inner self for every purpose of my Christian life. All my jewels I give to the shadow of the safety that is in You—my name anew in Christ, my body, soul, talents, character, my success, wife, children, friends, work, my present, my future, my end. Take them, they are Yours, and I am Yours, now and for ever.
Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.