Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.”
They replied, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?”
Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.”
John 6: 26-29
“The will of God is love. And love suffers.” – Elizabeth Elliot
Everything about the memory seems naively earnest and devastatingly sad to me, and—unlike many other things from those days—I can remember it so clearly. I was seventeen years old, standing over an old man who must have been in his eighties, at least. We were at the front of the sanctuary at a new startup church in my hometown. It must have been number fifteen on my list of churches I had attended with my family over my teenage years, and it would be the last on my list for a while–at least.
The worship music was loud and the people were tossing praises up toward the stage as if Jesus Himself were ripping it on the guitar. But I wasn’t singing. I focused on this old man in the wheelchair. I watched him achingly attempting to bob his head in worship and clap his arthritic hands along to the melody.
My teenage years were filled with well-meaning people pointing me to miracles. I was told I had the authority of God and that if I had enough faith I could pray for miracles of healing and deviations of prophetic power and those things would be given to me. I was taught that this was the mark of a person truly walking with Jesus.
But I doubted. I had lived two of my high school years watching my mom lay bedriddren, unable to walk on her own–unable to come to my dance recitals or attend my school events. I watched my dad lower her towel-wrapped body into the bathtub every night so she could bathe. I begged her to have more faith. I prayed fervently in my closet at night that God would heal her body. And although some progress had been made over the years, it was mostly delivered by a holistic doctor pumping vitamin C into her veins, not by a divine answer to a request for a sudden miracle.
But this is what I had been told was the evidence of my faith—believing for miracles and seeing them come to fruition. I believed—but no miracles. Something didn’t add up.
I marched up to that poor old man in that wheelchair and I asked him sternly if he wanted to be healed, to which he looked in my earnest brown eyes and said, “Yes! Yes, I want to be healed.” So I did what I thought any warrior of God does in a moment like that—I put my hands in his hands and I begged the God of miracles to help him get up and walk. And the man shook and nodded and tears welled in his eyes and I stood there over him while the music died down and nothing happened.
I leaned over and whispered something between an apology and a hope into that man’s ears and I headed straight out the back doors of that church and into the parking lot.
In my car I prayed an honest and humble prayer to the Lord. I asked the Lord if I could search for Him anywhere and everywhere else. And I felt, honestly, that I heard the soft compassionate voice of the Lord say Go.
So I did. I left the church and abandoned my moral resolutions to Christianity for the length of my college years. And this would be a very sad and very hopeless story of abandonment of my Christian faith if it were not the reality that at the end of my running–in my very sinful, very desperate, very messed up search to make sense of it all—He moved in towards me when no one else would and began the great work of calling me home to His true heart.
Today, I completely believe in the God of miracles. I have experienced incredible miracles of healing within my own mind and body. I’ve seen others miraculously healed by a loving God. My mom is completely healed today.
But I can not deny the great suffering in the world, which includes suffering among many fervent followers of Jesus. My understanding of how we are to approach healing and miracles has shifted because I have learned that the God of the Bible is both a miraculous Healer as well as a God who allows for suffering, sometimes for a long time. What I’ve come to discover is that I know close to nothing, but God knows absolutely everything— and He is actively engaged, even in the suffering, and I can trust Him even in the waiting.
I have since walked through incredible valleys of both physical, relational and mental sickness and the Lord has used my suffering to teach me about His character and His heart for the weary. It has deepened my compassion for those who are walking through dark seasons. I now long to move in towards those people, “weeping with those who weep,” rather than moving in towards people with ultimatums tossed up at God demanding that He heal on my count.
Below, I offer a prayer for the weary soul. If you are walking through a season of suffering and find yourself longing for a miracle, waiting for the lemonade to be pressed from the lemons, you are not alone. Jesus, the Man of Sorrows, knows exactly how hard your suffering has been, and He has deep pools of empathy for you. You do not carry this burden alone.
A Prayer for the Weary Soul
Our Father, who knows all things. Nothing happens in this world without your permission. We struggle to understand the suffering in the world. The pain in and of itself is torrential, but the separation it seems to cause between us and others—and at times, Lord—us and You, is unbearable.
See the pain of the sufferer, Lord. Look on your creation with Your kindness and mercy. You, the Creator of all, are capable of great things. So we ask, because You tell us we can, for healing. We believe that You—the God that holds the planets in orbit—have the power to do this. If you will it, Lord, please bring Your healing.
But if, in Your divine plan, You have allowed this suffering for yet another day—show the sufferer where You are at work in the suffering. Draw them closer to You. May they empathize with Your sufferings, Jesus. You took on all the pain in the world caused by our sin. You took on all suffering that we may have life.
Teach us about this mystery, Lord. Show us your heart. May we pull from deep wells of empathy for those around us who are also hurting. May we move in toward the sufferer as You work out Your divine plan for our good.
Where we lack faith, Lord strengthen it. When we lose hope, lift our chins to gaze at You.
The above is my own prayer for the weary soul, and I hope it was encouraging. However, if you would like more liturgies to guide your heart in prayer during times of suffering, I strongly recommend Every Moment Holy Volume 2 by Douglas Kaine McKelvey. It is a beautiful compilation of modern prayers for death, grief, and hope.
For more on suffering, I recommend Elizabeth Elliot’s collection of talks, Suffering is Never for Nothing.
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