Drinking the bitter cup that life sometimes offers us can be a painful endeavor. Dreams deferred do make our hearts sick, as do disappointments, heartbreaks, and pain of all flavors.
It can be a longing for companionship, a spouse to share life with, or aching for a child to fill empty arms. The echo of loneliness, the bite of failure or rejection, the sorrow of loss. In this place, we are tempted to wonder why the Lord’s smiling face seems turned toward everyone but us—tempted to think it seems He doesn’t love us as much as his other children.
We beg—Why Lord? How much longer? We can doubt his goodness or doubt his strength. We can complain like whiny teenagers about how life is unfair.
Or we let the pain quiet us, we settle into it, and stop fighting. We stop panicking and flailing, trusting that we will not drown in the murky waters surrounding us. And we become still enough to listen to God’s voice.
A bruised reed I will not break and a smoldering wick I will not snuff out.
I am close to the brokenhearted and rescue those crushed in spirit.
There is still the bruising, the smoldering, the breaking, and the crushing—this cannot be Pollyanna-ed away. But He is there, and in our pain He is gentle with us.
I was recently reminded of some of the last words of Polycarp (a 2nd–century bishop of Smyrna), as he faced his martyrdom. He has seen the beloved church he has served scattered, friends and spiritual children tortured and killed. And now he is harassed and threatened for no apparent cause. A bitter cup indeed. He has no lack of reasons to complain. But he says, “Eighty and six years I have served him and he has done me no wrong.”
Surely his life was not perfect—and he was not exactly in a bed of roses in that moment. But he speaks as one who has seen the steady faithfulness of God, and he knows there is no room to doubt Him. There is something beautiful about a long life with the Lord, seeing His faithfulness, learning to trust Him simply. Each little step with Him in faith, each moment of disappointment, pain, and doubt placed into his loving hands, brings us to this place—he has done me no wrong.