Often we like to talk about good things, the wins and successes. We wait until the story is finished, with a happy ending before it makes our life showreel (or social media!). However, that’s not reality for any of us. There are many incomplete stories that still include questions or holes in the plot line.
I’m writing this laying in bed, with a really sore foot, most likely gout. My foot has been increasingly more painful over the last four days, until yesterday morning. I was due to preach at church and yet I started the day barely being able to walk. Every step was excruciatingly painful. I spent time in prayer asking God to relieve the pain so I could preach, but nothing changed. I’d hobbled my way to church and prepared a chair so that I could preach sitting down. But then, the miraculous happened. One of the team leading the service shared with me that they had a sense God was going to heal my foot as I worshipped Him. I don’t take much convincing to worship God, but this day it was also an act of faith. And by the time I got up to preach, the pain in my foot had drastically reduced from a 7 (out of 10) down to a 2 (out of 10). Praise God!!
I preached what God had given me to share, standing up for over 30 minutes without any distraction from my foot. I even gave testimony to what God had miraculously done with my foot at the end of my message. As I left the stage area, I was expecting the pain to be down to zero, but I soon realised it had risen slightly to a 3. What was going on?
As evening approached, the pain increased. By the time I headed to bed that night it was more painful than I’d started the day. In fact, it was worse because I found no comfort in laying down. No matter which way I tossed and turned the pain didn’t subside. I lay awake for most of the night. Any time I dosed off, I was woken by the unrelenting agony of my foot.
I had countless hours to ponder as I lay in bed… what was God doing here? Was I wrong believing He’d worked a miracle that morning? Maybe I was a fake!? Was this part of the spiritual battle – the enemy fighting back in an attempt to rob my trust in God? Was He disciplining or teaching me something? In any case, it was embarrassing… my public testimony of God’s goodness unravelling before me.
There’s a few reasons I’m sharing this story. I have no intention to dive into the depths of theological debate on suffering or miracles. I’m sharing the story in part because I feel guilty already telling a portion of the story publicly, now knowing that was incomplete. But more than that, I’m writing to share what goes on behind the scenes. Like you, my life as a pastor doesn’t always add up, make sense or fit together neatly. I’d hate to think you’re surprised by that? It’s hard not to compare our lives with others, but it’s impossible to do the comparison justice, especially if you don’t have the whole picture. And even then, the story never elegantly flows, or makes sense every step of the way. 1 Corinthians 13:12 says “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
The other import reason to share, is that having questions, being confused or feeling like things didn’t go to plan doesn’t change that God is always good. I don’t believe He’s orchestrating everything in my story – He lets me and others around me make decisions that have a massive impact on my journey. However, Paul reminds us “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28). I wasn’t planning to be in bed with a sore foot today! However, I can already see God’s goodness in it. For those that understand gout, being overweight and drinking sugary drinks can be contributors. The pain of my foot today has given me good incentive to take my health and what I eat and drink more seriously. It’s forced me to ponder how I trust God in these circumstances and reaffirm what is true. And, it’s inspired me to write this post to help others in confusing circumstances.
Maybe I do look silly publicly declaring a miracle and now being stuck in bed. That’s ok, Jesus faced much greater public humiliation! But I know God’s decisions aren’t silly and I can still trust Him. I know He loves us and when I ask and seek Him, God always leads me down the right path, whether I fully understand or not. I still have hope. The story isn’t finished yet.