When I met my husband five and a half years ago, I delighted in meeting his friends and those who knew him well. I wanted to watch him interact with people whom he was comfortable with, people who knew when he was being real or putting on a show for the new girlfriend! I need not have worried, for my husband is real. What you see is what you get. Anyway, the second couple he introduced me to were Holly and Joe. The first time I met this couple, my now husband warned me that the wife was in a wheelchair. He knew I had no problem with that, he just wanted to prepare me. Before the end of that first meeting, this woman enthusiastically informed me she wanted a picture of me because other friends were curious as to this new girl in Brad’s life! She had a warm heart, and a nice smile. I immediately liked her.
When deciding who to ask to stand up with him at our wedding, my husband picked Joe. Over the next years we hung out occasionally. Two weeks ago, I was shocked to hear that Holly had died. As I mentioned, Holly lived her life from a wheelchair. But it wasn’t always so. She developed Muscular Dystrophy in her teens. The cause of death was not directly related to muscular dystrophy, rather the muscular dystrophy perhaps caused her body to not be able to fight as well. I learned she coughed and choked, and this led to cardiac arrest, which turned in to her being hooked up to life support. That was a very hard day for many people.
At her funeral many wonderful tributes were read. Much of what was said impacted me. One story keeps replaying in my brain. Her father told of the time after she had been diagnosed with muscular dystrophy. There are multiple forms of the disease, so doctors needed a muscle sample to determine which form she was facing. As any type of anesthesia would keep them from reading the results accurately, they needed to take a sample from her arm with out the use of a pain numbing aid. There were very few dry eyes in the room (from those easily given to tears that is), as her dad relayed how she had determinedly locked her eyes onto his and squeezed his hand, tears streaming down her face, and the barest amount of sound being aloud to escape from her mouth. No complaint. Just determination, locked eyes with her dad, and a tight grip on his hand.
That story moves me. That story caused her dad to tear up as he relayed it. I’m sure his mind and emotions were grappling with not only the story, but the memory of that day. Memories have a way of becoming real to us, sometimes. I bet that memory was very real to her dad as he retold it again at her funeral. I’m sure he saw her eyes, felt her hand squeezing his, and felt afresh the emotion of watching his child in pain with nothing he could do.
It’s been making me think of our own trials. It’s been making me think of how most of us walk through painful experiences. And this life, as Jesus once told us it would be, is filled with troubles (John 16:33). We are told to rejoice in trials, for the testing of our faith ultimately produces character and maturity in us (James 1: 2-4). Now, most of us do not rejoice in trials. We complain. We hide. We run. We minimize. We fear. We seek an out at all costs. This, I’m convinced, is a growing process to learn to rejoice in trials. However, as I think of this story, I’m also convinced that the only way to face any trouble, pain, or trial is to lock our eyes onto Jesus, who faced extreme suffering for us. We must hold his hand and squeeze it for all we are worth. How do we do that? Whatever our circumstance, we pray and cry to Jesus. We ask that we suffer well. We tell ourselves over and over the goodness of His character. We cling to all we know of Him. We determine to trust His plan, even when it seems like our world is crumbling. We hold tightly to God. We offer a sacrifice of praise — verbally and internally choosing praise. We confess our distrust of God and His character. We confess our fears. We confess our complaining spirit. I believe all these things are the ways we lock our eyes onto Christ and grip His hand through our troubles.
Christ Jesus knows suffering. He is the Man of Sorrows. Isaiah tells us that Jesus, “was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.” (Isaiah 53). Oh precious sisters in Christ! What a blessing it is to have Christ Jesus on our team whenever we suffer, walk through painful trials and seasons, or are in a time of trouble! Press on dear child of God, for Jesus is the Man of Sorrow whose hands have known the piercing of a nail as He was hung on a cross. His pain became unimaginable as His physical pain was overcome by the emotional pain of God the Father turning His face away. Jesus hung on that cross, crying out to God asking why He was being forsaken. The amazing truth is that God had to turn from the sin that Christ took on Himself for you and for me. But praise be to God — because Jesus Christ took our sin on Himself, you and I will never experience what it is to have God himself forsake us! He states, “never will I leave you, never will I forsake you” (Joshuah 1:5).
Oh dear sisters, in whatever season of trial you find yourself in, may you lock your eyes on Jesus, cling to His hand, and triumph over the enemy of your soul. Satan wants you to drown in pain and defeat. Christ Jesus became the Man of Sorrow so you would be able to overcome. Oh, let my friend Holly’s story be a vivid reminder of how precious is the hand and face of your Father in whatever you are facing!