God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
When my children were younger, we would often go to the local amusement park for a day of fun and relaxation. I truly enjoyed those days, watching the anticipation and excitement on my boys’ faces as we waited in line for the big coasters, and the thrill of their screams when we took that first big plunge. What great and cherished memories those are for me! But sometimes, after we had already arrived at the park, a storm would move in, and everyone would run for shelter to the closest shop or restaurant—any building or structure with a roof would do!
I have always been a people watcher. I like to try to figure out the relationships among people who are together, and think about what might be the motivation for the things I observe them doing. Back in those amusement park days, I observed some responses that were pretty consistently present, whenever we had to wait out a storm. Sometimes it even seemed like the exact same people, the categories were so reliable.
First, there were the grumblers: “I hate when this happens! This wasn’t in the forecast! Now we won’t have time for the Zambezi Zinger or the Octopus!” These people would grumble and complain the whole time we were in the souvenir shop or under the roof of the hot dog stand. Sometimes, they would actually get angry, blaming the park administration: “It’s not raining that hard. They really didn’t need to close ALL the rides. This is ridiculous! They had better give us a rain check!” These unhappy people probably ruined the day for their children, who either seemed guilty for putting their parent through this, or joined in with the complaining. I was never sure which was worse.
A second category of those who waited were the stoics. They would just stand in place, fatalistically pronouncing their helplessness to do anything about the rain. I was always amazed at how silent they could be, as they watched the sky and ground their teeth. Their children often looked sad or hopeless about the fun day they had planned. Sometimes they would ask if they could look around in the shop, but their parents usually said no, there was no point in doing that.
Finally, among the watchers and waiters, were those who just seemed content. “Oh well,” I remember one mom saying, “We’re here to have fun! Just because the rides are closed doesn’t mean we can’t have fun!” And then they would proceed to shop around in the gift shop, looking at the toys and trinkets that were for sale there. Some I observed ran through the rain from place to place, making a game of who could stay the driest between shelters!
Now, if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you probably know that I’m going to draw a spiritual analogy here. Most of us who deal with health issues are familiar with the surprise storms of life. They are times when we must miss out on the fun we had planned, as we are forced to wait for the end of the storm. Some of these downpours are so severe that we have no choice but to run for shelter to our loving God, who is our protector. Sometimes these storms can go on for months or years. As you wait for them to pass, which category do you fit in?
Are you a complainer, angry that the storm has come so unexpectedly? Do you grumble and fuss, making everyone around you miserable? Or are you the stoic, just gritting your teeth and waiting it out, as those who love you walk on eggshells around you? My hope is that you and I are neither of these. Friends, let’s each be that one who is content through the storm. The one who encourages others and finds ways to bring light to tough situations. Let’s keep at the front of our minds, not the storm, but the shelter! Jesus Christ is our sun and shield (Psalm 84:11). What a blessing and privilege it is to run to Him, knowing for sure that He will keep us safe and dry!
One other aspect that I remember from that amusement park is the camaraderie of some of those who waited. This was often an opportunity to talk with a stranger, and get to know someone you would otherwise never have met. As you and I spend time at pain management clinics, doctors’ offices, and therapy facilities, we have a unique opportunity: A room full of people who are suffering in one way or another. Perhaps the Lord has given you your pain for such a time as this (Esther 4:14). Who in that room is suffering without hope? You have their healer in your heart! As you both wait, you can show them the beauty of the things you have found in the “shop” of your suffering: The sweetness of your fellowship with Christ; the beauty of His love for you; the providence of His timing.
As you think on all you have learned in your suffering, I hope you see yourself becoming more and more like the contented one, who encourages others and brings light to darkness. No, I don’t believe in faking it or pretending everything is ok when it’s not. But I do believe that, as we grow and change through suffering, we will become more like Christ in our responses. Grumbling and stoicism will become less frequent, and quiet contentment will prevail as we seek Him, our very present help in trouble.