Would you take the place of this man?

crossesNo, I’m not referring to me.  Going into this weekend, I kept hearing Jeremy Camp’s song, This Man, on the radio all week long.  I kept thinking to myself “no way” whenever the chorus came up.  Two lines are repeated each time:

Would you take the place of this man
Would you take the nails from his hands

Could anyone honestly answer that one in the affirmative?  I know I can’t.  I bring this up in my follow-up to last night’s post on our rough weekend, because I think some of the events must be seen in this light.

 

While there was much praying and crying from Friday leading into Saturday night, due to the lack of relief from the increasing pain, the bottom dropped out after midnight as I mentioned before.  I must admit I have desired to forget that moment more than once since then, but I have to get it out there.  When I was on the side of the bed with legs dangling over, in ankle pain I hadn’t previously imagined possible, eyes blurred over with tears, and wailing to God for mercy, I felt nothing.  That presence of God that always seems to be there?  I couldn’t feel Him at all.  T, on her knees with the kids surrounding her, couldn’t feel Him either.  We didn’t have to discuss it.  We could hear each other crying out as one, and knew the same thing.

 

You see, we believe we got a glimpse of what Hell is like.  When you know the only relief can come from God, and you cry and cry out, but you get nothing back.  He’s far from you.  He won’t lift a finger.  It is too late for you, as it was for the rich man.

24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’ ”
Luke 16:24–31 (ESV)

We were alone.  My wailings turned into crying out for Him to come back, to asking where He had gone, and why He had left us.  At one moment during the wailings, Jesus’ words themselves tried to come out of my mouth, but I knew I wasn’t worthy to repeat His words from the cross.

46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Matthew 27:46 (ESV)

I’ve cried out to my Father in Heaven many times before, but in hindsight, I don’t think I ever fully understood what it was like.  This time it felt like every part of my body was crying out, not just a piece of me.  It’s easy to read and say, but so much harder to really take part in, though God tells us we’ve received that right as His adopted family.

15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Romans 8:15–17 (ESV)

I’ve heard Romans 8:15 so many times over the past several years, I can’t begin to count them.  But in reflecting on the events of the weekend, I only just recently noticed I haven’t paid much attention to the rest of that passage – “provided we suffer with him.”  There are several other passages on suffering in the Christian walk, which I’ve been over before in my Does God really say His way is easy series of posts.  However, I have a few other verses in mind this time around.

29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,

Philippians 1:29 (ESV)

 

10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,

Philippians 3:10 (ESV)

 

12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

1 Peter 4:12–13 (ESV)

You see, while we believe this was a glimpse of Hell, we also believe it was a gift of God (however unpleasant at the time).  We believe is was a taste of how Christ suffered spiritually on the cross as He cried out to His Father.  I don’t know any other way to explain it.  God tells us many times in His Word how we’ll share, even if in the smallest part, in the sufferings of Christ.

 

Did we think of this after I finally made it back into bed, going partially into shock such that T had to bear hug me for several minutes?  Not a chance.  We were only thinking of ourselves.  We weren’t ready to see the joy at all, though I did eventually recognize that the peace of God had returned at some point during the next half hour.

 

Fast forward to Sunday night after the doctor left.  I mentioned there was a point at which my pain levels dropped out of nowhere, and I knew I could finally roll over to my other side.  God answered your prayers (and ours).  He began to move quickly, though I had no idea how many of you were out there praying for us throughout the day.  God was faithful.

9 Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,

Deuteronomy 7:9 (ESV)

Only after Russ, and later Ken, revealed some of the details of the Trekkers class praying, as well as hearing from other individuals and groups who were doing the same, did T and I start to realize what was happening.  God had listened, and He had acted.  Pain level changes occurred in a few, significant jumps over the hospital stay, even while pain medication was being stopped.  There is no explanation other than God’s supernatural acting.

 

In fact, what had been so difficult about Saturday night during my worst moment is that the pain in my ankle should have never been so intense.  It was unbelievable pain that I simply can’t understand in hindsight.  I’ve read  a few debates on the worst pain imaginable to man, and I probably didn’t get there, but to me I can imagine nothing worse.  The pain scale didn’t have a number that fit.  And yet, after limited pain medication which only appeared to take the edge off, I was almost back to normal pain levels after less than two days.  I see only one viable explanation.

2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

James 1:2-3 (ESV)

God was putting us through another trial.  A trial for our good, and hopefully one for the good of at least a couple others.  You see, though I knew this final verse I will share, and kept trying to remind myself all throughout the early events of the weekend, I couldn’t yet see it.

28 And 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 (ESV)

Only now, after the entire week has taken place, have our eyes started to open.  I pray the next lesson doesn’t take us so long to recognize it.  Thanks for suffering alongside with us, and helping us to see God’s goodness as well.

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4 thoughts on “Would you take the place of this man?”

  1. God Bless you and thank you for sharing this part of your life. “When we have nothing left but God, then we realize all we need is God”…something a good friend told me. Take Care, Big Hugs to you guys and Still Praying!!!!!!!!!

  2. Jeff, I believe that God has a “huge” plan for your life. And, my friend, in fact, you are living it, right in the middle of it, right where God wants you to be. Only you can do what you are doing. God can (and is) using you to witness and to testify of God’s grace to your world; the world God has chosen for you to influence. Your faith is amazing, and God knows it. It too is a gift of God (I Cor. 12:9). Keep sharing, keep “faith”ing, keep believing, keep praising, keep pointing others to God.  Eph. 3, “20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

  3. Thanks for sharing Jeff. Between your resilience and insights and Tomorra’s “noble character” (Pr 12:4 NIV), we are learning from you and treasuring you in the fellowship at Trekkers.

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