“… There was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ”My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor. 12:7-9Dear heavenly Father, the Apostle Paul’s story stirs up my already stirred up heart. Though I’ve experienced the toxic shame of my own failures, the emotional assault of betrayal, the soul-pillaging pain of loss and heart-depleting episodes of depression that make heaven look like my only option… nonetheless, I know myself to be an amateur in anguish, a tenderfoot in trauma, a mere suckling in suffering.
Compared to many sufferers that I know, quite honestly, Lord, you have every right to judge my whines, complaints and moans as those of a spoiled brat. But you are far too merciful and gracious to do so. You take my sin and my pain seriously, so seriously you gave Jesus for me, and I will forever praise you.
But today, I join many of my brothers and sisters, in bringing before you our friends and family members who are in the vortex of chronic suffering—a downward spiral of misery that mocks the notion of your mercy; that calls into question the sufficiency of your grace; that doesn’t make heaven look good, but invisible.
Father, give us your heart for the suffering. Give us wisdom, give us strength, give us kindness. For those whose physical pain is increasingly unbearable, we cry out for the power of Jesus to fall.
Unashamedly, unreservedly, we ask you to bring relief, Father. By the means of supernatural intervention, please calm the nerve endings. By the means of common grace, please give physicians wisdom to know what medications, and what doses, would be best in each situation.
Father, for those who are suffering fresh emotional trauma, and those who are just beginning to deal with heart wounds long since buried, bring the grace, truth and power of the gospel to bear. Help us enter the emotional chaos not as fixers, but as listeners; not as tamers of the whirlwind, but as those who follow Jesus into the storm; not as those who fear our inadequacy, but as those who own our weakness. When our friend’s emotional pain triggers our’s, help us to stay present, focused and caring.
Father, for those who are suffering mental and spiritual anguish—for friends who simultaneously feel like Job and Job’s wife… counting loses and cursing heaven, don’t let us be like “Job’s friends.” Better to sit in awkward silence, than to offer cliché, rules and formulas. Better to be a quiet, living epistle of mercy than to spout Scripture verses like unwrapped band-aids. We believe this, help our unbelief. Free us from timetables and the need to make it better.
Father, when we ourselves begin to ask, “How long, O Lord?” When we wonder, silently and out loud, “How much is too much?” When we begin, or continue to doubt, your mercy and might, make the cross of Jesus clearer and dearer. O, for the Day when Jesus finishes making all things new. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ suffering and triumphant name.