I sobbed to my husband that it felt like birds were building a nest in my head and I didn’t know how to stop them. He let me cry and held me, before asking, “What does that even mean?” Laughing through my tears was the best medicine, as I told him about what Sally Lloyd-Jones says:
It’s not the thoughts that count; it’s what we do with the those thoughts. Jesus didn’t listen to those awful thoughts [Satan whispered to him]. He didn’t believe them. He sent them away. An old proverbs says, “You can’t help it if birds come and land on your head. But you don’t have to let them build nests in your hair!” (Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing, 69)
But this particular night, I felt like I was bombarded with awful thoughts and I didn’t know to get rid of them. I felt like I was trying to keep the nest from being built, while simultaneously offering up my hair for a bird home. The most pervasive one was this idea that I had made a bad trade with the Lord.
I had traded people here for people there. I had traded this thing I loved for that thing that was Hard. I had traded the Pacific Northwest for a tick-infested land. The truth that the Lord brought us to this place, to this part in our story felt like a cruel twist, as though he were to blame for everything Hard in my life. Believing that the Lord is kind, good father felt abstract and hard to grasp in the midst of loud feelings and the ideas of making bad trades.
Hope Heals was a book I devoured in less than 24 hours last week. I was captivated by this honest story of suffering so early in this young couple’s marriage. I heard my own struggle to find the Lord in the midst of Hard in Jay’s words:
Suddenly, my heartbreak at the revelation of God’s apparent complicity in Katherine’s tragedy shifted. As I scanned her broken body, full of new cracks and pins and tubes, I realized that these were all made by her doctors and nurses as they sought to save her life. They had horrifically wounded her in brain surgery and ICU so that she might be healed. I sat with this thought, the confounding complexity of which overcame me so much that I closed my eyes and prayed, “O God, I can’t begin to understand what You’re doing, but maybe Your paradoxes aren’t as paradoxical as they seem. If You have been part of her wounding, then You must be part of her healing.” (73-74)
These words seem to put my idea of a bad trade into a new light. I knew the Lord didn’t make trades, but from my peephole in the fence, it sure felt like it. And from Jay’s perspective, his wife’s suffering and his own felt like a bad trade.
But to see the wounding from a healing perspective, to see these hardships as being part of something good takes away the trade mentality. No longer am I suffering in a meaningless way. My suffering has meaning even if I can’t see what that is or it hasn’t happened yet. The Lord is my physician. His wounds are able to bring healing, even if the idea is too complex for me to grasp.
This helps me to not just look at this snapshot of my life before contrasted with my life now. I’m not merely looking at cracks and pins and tubes as things that hurt, but things that can also heal. How quickly I am to think of things in an either/or mentality. I so easily jump to an extreme. If I’m not getting what I want, then I made a bad trade with the Lord. If I’m hurting, then I must not be healing.
But what if it is more of a both/and than an either/or?
What if healing includes hurting?
What if hardships are part of the good?
What if Jesus is grieved with me and still part of what is happening?
I want it to be an either/or. My mind and heart can understand that. But that complexity of the both/and feels beyond my comprehension most of the time. I don’t understand what the Lord is doing. I don’t understand how healing can hurt so much. I don’t understand how this Hard can be good. I don’t understand how this could possibly heal me. Yet the more I look to Jesus, the more convinced I am that it isn’t an either/or. It is a both/and.
Simple prayers seem to be one of my best weapons against birds making nests in my hair these days.
One of my most-used prayers is “Jesus, will you come into this?” This isn’t to say he isn’t already in my pain or my Hard. I believe he is. But there is something about inviting him into that place that reminds my heart about what is true. I don’t understand what he is doing and don’t have an explanation for some of what I find in my life these days. But I do see Jesus here.
My other prayer these days is “Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.” When I have nothing left, this feels like the best thing I can say. He has already had so much mercy on me. He continues to show me much mercy.
I don’t understand it. I want something I can hold onto, but I know the hollowness of well-intended cliches when true suffering strikes. I wish for answers, but don’t have the explanations that I crave. All I find myself clinging to is Jesus. I don’t know what he is doing, but I choose to trust him still. My story isn’t over. And Jesus is my story-teller.
And with him, my story doesn’t have to be an either/or. It gets to be a both/and.
“For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal.” Job 5:18
This book captured my heart in the first pages. I couldn’t put it down. This couple takes turns telling the story of Katherine’s stroke that changed their lives. It was so vulnerable, honest and insightful to hear from each of them, as they experienced different sides of the same suffering. The Lord is in every page of their story. Even in the worst of things, Jesus is showing up. He is taking care of his kids. He is giving them what they need, even if it looks nothing like what they want. This story encouraged my heart and reminded me of the hope we have because of Jesus. A debilitating, life-changing stroke can be a story of redemption when Jesus is in it. Jay and Katherine’s story isn’t merely one of just survival or how to keep your marriage alive in the midst of overwhelming obstacles. Their story is the one that points straight back to Jesus. He is the one who brings life from death. He is the one who redeems what was irrevocably broken. He is the one who gives good gifts. He is the one who provides for our every need, when we don’t even know what to ask for. This is the story I hope to tell, and in a season of Hard, this book reminded me that circumstances are not my story-teller. Jesus is my story-teller.
A resounding A+ for me. I want everyone to read this story of who Jesus is in the dark cave of suffering.
*Booklook Bloggers and Zondervan have provided me with a complimentary copy of “Hope Heals,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255