About five years ago, on a beautiful sunny September day, I was traveling from church to meet my family for lunch at a local restaurant. I never made it.
The sermon that morning had been on forgiving those who hurt us.
My car was blind sided by another vehicle only a few yards away from the restaurant where my family had been waiting. They later told me that they had heard the sirens and that everyone in the restaurant had heard the crash.
I suffered trauma to my neck, back, shoulders, and both arms and hands. Soft tissue, muscles, and nerves were all turned into instruments of torture in only a few short hours. I never knew it was possible to experience so much pain.
And there really was nothing anyone could do, short of drug me. I already knew how terrible drugs could be so I fought to heal with the least amount of drugs as possible. I began physical therapy and continued with it for over a year.
My hands were so weak I struggled to squeeze a toothpaste tube. I struggled to lift a fork. I struggled to roll over and sit up in bed every morning.
But the worst pain I experienced was struggling to trust God.
I am a musician. I play on instruments. That has always been my lively hood and the one thing in life I loved! Why would God allow something like this to happen to me? I was even being a "good" Christian and had just left church!
For me forgiving the person who had hit me was easy. It was an accident. No one actually wants to be in one. But I couldn't understand why it had to happen at all. Couldn't God have prevented it? Was there some horrible sin I committed? Was God punishing me? Did God still love me? Maybe He forget about me.
I studied my Bible for hours and hours at a time. I read Psalms, Job, the stories of Joseph and David. I really wanted answers. And in His time I received them.
God was busy refining my character. In the beginning it seemed cruel. Very cruel. My doctors and physical therapists told me there was strong possibility that I might never play any musical instruments again. Even worse, they couldn't promise that I would ever regain a normal life.
I cried myself to sleep almost every night. I prayed that God would restore my health. I cried almost every morning because the pain would still be there. I prayed that God would grant me strength for the day.
Slowly, so painstakingly slowly, my body began to heal. And as I spent more and more time in prayer and studying God's word I found that I was able to handle frustration better than before. Little things didn't bother me. Anything I could do for myself without pain was cause for celebration.
In short, God was teaching me how to endure. And the turning point for me and my renewed hope in God was not when my health began to improve. It was before that. It happened when I read this verse and claimed its promise to me:
" The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed."
~ Psalm 34:18
God not only restored my strength, He deepened His relationship with me and then showed me He can do anything... even use broken people to do extraordinary things.
That same year, even when I was still in great pain, God called me to my first mission trip. And it wasn't even in my own country. And He had me performing on violin. And the music was incredibly difficult even for seasoned veteran performers.
I couldn't do any of it with my own strength. When I look back I can say with absolute certainty that it was all God. So many things made that mission difficult. Beginning with the jet lag. You can read a little-bit more about the trip at this post. Mission To Spain
Through it all I learned that sometimes God can seem cruel. But if we could just hang on to Him a little-bit longer He would bring us to a place so beautiful... transform us into someone so much stronger and wiser.
And at the same time I say yes. God is cruel. He is cruel to our enemy, Satan. He is cruel to the lies we come to believe about ourselves and about Him. God is cruel to the injustices and grief we suffer.
But God is also wise and loving and just. And I would rather subject my life to the "cruelty" of God than then the greatest wisdom and kindness of man. How can I say that? Because I know that God can be trusted. He. Is. Faithful.