Joni and Friends Blog
I recently saw a quote on social media that read, “God gave you this mountain to show others it can be moved.” At first, I like it. I can buy that. Yeah, I believe it… kinda. Well, wait a minute. I suppose I understand the meaning behind it; to motivate people to press on and conquer the obstacle ahead. So, yes. I’m in. After all, faith can move mountains. But then it dawns on me. I have mountains of chronic pain and illness. Maybe you do too. Those mountains don’t always move.
I mentioned on the podcast that theologian, pastor, and writer Charles Spurgeon has been an inspiration to me through the years. Please allow a few mentions of him and some of his most comforting thoughts for me.
“Our infirmities become the black velvet on which the diamond of God’s love glitters all the more brightly,” Spurgeon once wrote. He himself suffered from a myriad of chronic illnesses such as kidney inflammation, gout, and depression. “You must go through the fire if you would have sympathy with others who tread the glowing coals,” he said. “There are none so tender as those who have been skinned themselves.” Meaning simply that if you’ve made it to the end of any distance of difficulty, you know what others are going through as they suffer instep, and your heart hurts along their way. Your feet may still throb as you read this sentence.
I have mountains of chronic pain and illness. Maybe you do too. Those mountains don’t always move.
Well, if this once able weightlifter has learned anything over the years, it’s that chronic suffering is a forgotten canvas; an ignored territory. The fit and fiddle may mock it. The strong easily vilify it. But for the blind, the lame, the beggars, the sick, the suffering, and the souls with their soles upon the coals, it’s home.
It’s no wonder Spurgeon was able to connect with his audience. With me. He understood. “The greatest earthly blessing that God can give to any of us is health, with the exception of sickness,” he reasoned. “When God has seemed most cruel to me, he has been most kind. Love letters from heaven are often sent in black-edged envelopes.”
Like Joni Eareckson Tada, Charles Spurgeon saw his disability as divine, his gout as godly and his suffering as safety. His greatest blessing wasn’t wellness or strength or grit or ability or victory, but it was sickness, sorrow, and loss. Why? Because of the arms to which they made him run.
The dirt where his face sank was an altar.
He worshipped where he wept.
He saw his chronic pain as guided, directed affection; first to him and then from him.
(Feel free to read that last one again.)
His greatest blessing wasn’t wellness or strength or grit or ability or victory, but it was sickness, sorrow, and loss. Why? Because of the arms to which they made him run.
Indeed, his tender pain was a love note that he would first read and then send back.
Now, I don’t mean to put words into his mouth, but this old song comes to mind. As a modern-day psalm to his God, I think for Spurgeon, it would be just about perfect…
Love me tender,
love me long,
take me to Your heart.
For it’s there that I belong,
and we’ll never part.
So as much as I beg for healing, I beg to differ with our social media quote in the first paragraph above. The mountains we’re assigned? Well, they point to God either way, right? If we move them or when we can’t, it shows others that God is God and we’re not. And by the power of the gospel, may the mountains – especially the immovable ones – become places along the path where through us the weak, weary, and broken find understanding and encouragement. An immovable mountain is as much an indicator of God’s strength as one that’s been thrown into the sea.
Regional Director, Western U.S, Joni & Friends
At the height of his career in the health and fitness industry, Jimmy Peña encountered sudden health challenges which he never would have predicted for his life. He now faces a new battle with chronic pain and insomnia. On the podcast, he shares how he manages his pain, where he finds hope in the midst of suffering, and he offers encouragement for anyone facing a similar struggle.