I walked into a coffee shop for an all-day meeting two weeks ago and I was barely holding it together.
The last couple of months have felt like a furnace of spiritual warfare. It has been a lot of small trials and a couple of big ones. Heat like that can either consume us or force us to look for God in the fire.
“Suffering isn’t an interruption to what God is doing. Suffering is what God is doing,” Ruth Schwenk said.
I walked towards the counter to order coffee and nearly ran into an old friend who knew something about warfare and fires. She asked how I was doing and I burst into tears.
I told her I was waiting. . .
For 39 days exactly to learn if one of my children had cancer.
It’s a kind of fire that will burn up a mother with worry and fear, no matter how old our kids get.
This friend had walked a very similar road with her daughter and she pulled me into her arms and we cried together and then wordlessly, she took off her leather cuff bracelet and pulled at my wrist to put it on me.
I looked down at it and the bracelet had one word engraved on it: wait.
“You’re not waiting alone. I’ve worn this since I was waiting on a doctor to call too. You wear it until you get your answer,” she said.
Have you ever had those moments when God came so near that you could feel Him whispering in your ear while the flames licked at your heels? Me too.
I went upstairs to my meeting and tucked this hug from God close to my heart.
Four hours later, in the middle of dreaming up marketing for Mercy House Global, I got a call that the long-awaited results were in. Good or bad, the waiting was about to end or begin again. My co-workers and friends prayed with me and I went downstairs and hid in the bathroom to hear the news.
My child on the other end of the phone was recovery from an invasive procedure and I didn’t know what God was doing.
It’s not been the first time though. Actually, for the past 13 years of leading a non-profit, I have cried out, “God, what are you doing?” When one of our maternity homes burned down in 2021, when we lost our beloved home base in 2022 and fell into financial strain six months later…God, what are you doing?”
I physically shook in that bathroom and I waited for the words on the other end of the phone:
Negative. Benign for cancer. I wept hard.
“God, I don’t know what you’re doing…” I dried my tears, opened the door and my bracelet friend was still there. I quietly walked up to her table and put the bracelet back on her wrist so she could, “Share it with another friend who is waiting. Today, I got my answer.”
Relief doesn’t begin to describe what we continue to feel.
But God wasn’t done.
After a dinner to celebrate, there was a letter in the mail. No one knew the details of the surgery my child had just had, but inside the beautiful letter of obedience was a check for the exact (large) amount of the co-pay.
Who is this God?! He knows what we need even before we ask. In this season of suffering and waiting, He has been with us every step of the way.
We cried again (sobbed, really). To be held by God –in the middle of a fire– is a warmth that cannot be denied.
Jesus is in the fire, friends. We aren’t promised a fireproof life. Suffering and hardship are the cost of following Him and don’t let anyone tell you differently.
And while we may not ever understand the why of the trials, we can trust that He is close in the middle of them–and maybe this is the why? Maybe, just maybe, the fire pushes us closer to God and there’s no better place to be than within a breath’s distance…in a raging furnace.
Standing in the hallway of my home two weeks ago, crying ugly tears over a negative diagnosis and surprise provision, and a family group hug, I felt God whisper, “You may not know what I’m doing, but you know what I have done.”
I thought of all the unknowns, risks and challenges ahead that will terrify me if I let them. But God has already won the battles we are fighting–the ones we don’t even know are coming and this truth gives us hope for whatever may come tomorrow.
We may not know what He is doing, but we can face it because we know what He has already done.