Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)
Well, I’m not sure how you feel about the above verse, but I have to admit that it strikes me as just a bit tough for the average person to embrace the concept of perseverance through many trials as a “good” thing - Especially the young, newly-wed average person. Trials and marriage do go together, but when they mold together into a seemingly indivisible bond right at the threshold, boy does the fuzzy-lovey-dovey stuff take a beating.
When perseverance jumps right up to be counted, many of us fragile Christians can fall away in droves. It seems pretty natural to feel resentful when the poop falls directly into your own lap. In harsh times we usually fight, take flight or blame - And its so easy to blame God just as soon as things get less than blissful on the home front. After all, things should go smoothly because we’re good Christian people, right? (Does anyone actually believe that?)
My 24-year-old son recently graduated from college, then continued to complete his masters, married his 23-year-old childhood sweetheart, started his career with a wonderful opportunity at Microsoft and moved out of state to begin his new job and marriage. Sure seemed to be strolling down easy street - Are you waiting to hear the blissfully romantic music playing softly in the background? Well, forget that - No sooner had they settled into their perfect little, third floor, one-bedroom apartment, than my son, Wade, began to have vague fatigue problems.
Wade is very expert at pool and enters tournaments often as his hobby. He paid for most of his college expenses with those tournament winnings so he has always exhibited good competitive ability. Suddenly, he’s finding it too difficult to stand up so long as is necessary if you tend to win. This is definitely peculiar for a 24 year old, lean and adroit young man.
Additionally, Wade began having difficulty mounting those three levels of stairs. (You guessed it, no elevator at his apartment complex.) Still, three flights of stairs is hardly a challenge for most people far older and less fit than he.
Then came some abnormal vision problems. This is all happening within the first few months of his new marriage and job. He is eventually compelled to see the first doctor, who ordered a bunch of tests, then sent him to the next doctor, who also ran the gamut of diagnostic procedures, until Wade was finally referred to the neurologist.
Wade has Multiple Sclerosis. The experts do not know what causes it and there is no known cure. Certain types of MS have been treated quite successfully in the past decade and a great deal has been discovered about medications that can cause remissions and keep the severer symptoms of the disease at bay almost indefinitely. However, that is only true of three of the four types of MS.
Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis, the kind Wade has, is in a category all its own. There is no current remedy available. They are experimenting with certain mega-steroid medications and chemotherapies, but nothing has caused a remission in that particular type of MS as yet and the side effects of some of the experimental drugs are almost as devastating by themselves as the disease!
God specializes in pain and He can use it in unforeseen ways. If both partners in a marriage are willing to face a painful reality in their lives together, it can foster an even stronger bond of intimacy and commitment as time passes. God may not choose to heal Wade. But He can use the MS to work miracles in their lives and perhaps in the lives of others not yet even known to them.
I have to tell you that I hate this MS with a passion but I am so grateful that my son and his gentle bride, Jenna, know that God is with them. They are angry, don’t misunderstand, and they have sworn and cried and shaken their fists more than once in God’s direction. But our heavenly Father understands. He feels their disillusionment, their anguish and despair.
They became transparent in their pain – Brutally honest with each other, discussing what would happen as the MS progresses and how they would cope as it worsened. And you know what is the neatest thing about all this? God sticks with us even in the pits. He finds a way, unique to each of his children, to penetrate into each one’s heart of hearts and sweetly whisper, “I’m here for you. I will never leave you. I will help you get through even this… because there is no one in the world I love more than you.”
Undoubtedly, their tears will flow and dry repeatedly, but they have a strong foothold on how to deal with life’s worst. It’s as simple and as awesome as faith. And because of that magnificent, compelling belief, their marriage vows will stand. They truly do believe that all things work together for good for those who love the Lord. That’s not some overrated cliché – that’s the Word of God and Wade and Jenna’s lifeline - The piercing light at the end of the tunnel, wherein lies the greatest power of all… Hope eternal.