Read and Respond: An Honest Look at a Mysterious Journey

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. . . continued from Tuesday’s post (“My Word of the Week: Wait“)

For the past week, I’ve been reading John Stumbo’s An Honest Look at a Mysterious Journey about his sudden illness in 2008 and the months of rehabilitation to get him eating, walking, and functioning again. His “honest look” shows the difficulty of living with chronic illness and the doubtfulness that often accompanies unanswered prayer.

In his chapter called “Up in the Air” toward the end of the book, Stumbo talks about a trip he took to Pakistan with his son after he had achieved several successes in his long recovery. While he thought his own service in suffering was admirable, he encountered Pakistani pastors who regularly encountered threats to their livelihood, not to mention their lives, and had very little in the way of perks or thanks.

Seeing their faith commitment in light of such danger and difficulty, Stumbo writes that his own American version of faith seems far too concerned with rapidity and ease. He goes on to ask, “do I assume that if God doesn’t answer a prayer the moment I want him to, he has said no to me?”

“Waiting isn’t on our list of highly cherished values. It is common for us to reach the conclusion that if we don’t receive an immediate answer to prayer, we doubt He’ll ever answer it,” he writes.

But what are we missing by assuming the answer is no, by always forcing God to operate on our own timetable? Stumbo says the cost is great.

“You will become discouraged in your relationship with God if you insist that He operate on your schedule. Many people have walked away from faith because–from their vantage point–God didn’t come through for them when they thought He should . . . God’s not confined to man-made deadlines. Any teaching or perspectives on faith that ignore this are unhelpful, and quite likely even dangerous.”

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Reading the story about John Stumbo’s illness naturally took me back through my own sordid health history. I think about where I am now–healthy, strong, married, with step-children–and I think about where I’ve been–mysterious, debilitating chronic illness for five years, followed by cancer and three recurrences over the past seven. It seems like it would have been much easier for the Lord to get me from healthy, single 31-year-old to healthy, married 43-year-old without all of the drama.

But then I think about who I was then and who I am now, and I can’t think of a better path for accomplishing God’s will in me. While I have learned a lot about self control and suffering and surrender over the past few years, I’ve also been shepherded tenderly in the fields of patience and waiting. In fact, as a cancer survivor, waiting has now become an intricate part of the tapestry of my life, the weaver’s warp always maintaining the tension.

::

So I wait.

It’s not just about my work, though. Not really. (You knew that already, didn’t you?) Even when I’m not waiting for anything at all it feels like I am waiting. Waiting for a diagnosis and a cure for a friend’s horrible, mysterious illness. Waiting on more test results for myself; it seems it’s always about that time again. Waiting for vacation in June. Waiting for the weather to change – though in Indiana, as the joke goes, I won’t have to wait long for that.

And as I wait, something unexpected grows in me, something I couldn’t wait without: hope.

“I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait, and in His word do I hope.” – Psalm 130:5

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WORD COUNT: 586

AUTHOR: John Stumbo (with Joanna Stumbo)
TITLE: An Honest Look at a Mysterious Journey
WHERE TO GET IT: Follow the link above to order it from Amazon.

Photo by Ruth Temple, via Flickr, used with permission under the Creative Commons License.

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Charity Singleton Craig

Charity Singleton Craig is a writer, author, and speaker, helping readers grow in their faith and experience true hope in the middle of life’s joys and sorrows. She is the author of My Year in Words: what I learned from choosing one word a week for one year and coauthor of On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life That Lasts.