Help in our suffering

He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds. 
        Psalm 147:3

Our campus worker with Power to Change invited me to their year-end conference P2C+. I was busy with sermon preparation and other ministry with the short week, and so could only spare half a day on New Year’s Eve, but it was well worth the time.

I’m not sure what I expected. There were probably 800 students gathered and it would have been easy to entertain them with light talks on hot topics. What I got instead was a hard-hitting morning on the theme of suffering.

Paul Henderson spoke first. Henderson is most famous for scoring the winning goal for Canada over the Soviet Union in the 1972 Summit Hockey Series, called by the Canadian Press, “the sports moment of the century.” But in 1983 after his wife was diagnosed with cancer and she whispered to him, “I don’t think I’m going to make it,” he stepped out of the room, desperate and angry with God. As he prayed and searched his heart, he was convicted that although he had surrendered his life and many things to the Lord, his wife was the most precious thing he knew and he had been unwilling to entrust her to God’s perfect will. As he found the strength to do that and committed her to God’s care, he felt God’s peace flooding into his heart. In God’s grace, his wife survived. Now after 50 years of marriage, Paul is himself battling cancer – but he does so with such peace and strength and conviction that he gives hope to many. His words were sobering but so inspiring:

“The greatest freedom is to put everything on the plate and give it to God.”

Sarah J. spoke next. She shared about how, as a third year student at York University, an intruder had broken into her home early in the morning on Thanksgiving Monday, and brutally murdered her mother and grandmother, and she herself narrowly escaped death. She had put her faith in Christ as a child, and remembered reading Job 1:21 several months before the attack. At the time, she felt Job’s response to the death of his sons and daughters was insane:

“Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Now having lost the two closest people in her life, she turned to the book of Job again. The advice she received from counselors initially only made her feel more isolated. Now alone with God and His Word, she poured out her feelings in prayer and struggled to find hope. Over a period of months, God began the healing process in her life. In particular, the pain that Jesus suffered, and His empathy in her suffering, was powerful in the recovery. Now as a campus worker at the U of T Scarborough Campus, she testifies to having more hope and joy than she did before the tragedy. I won’t soon forget her words:

“Jesus came to suffer so don’t run from suffering. The gospel only becomes sweeter and more tangible in our lives in light of our suffering.”

After a couple more speakers, worship leader Greg Sykes closed the morning with an extended time of worship and an original song entitled “Even in the desert you’ll be my ocean.” As he did, I found myself longing to lay hold of God’s powerful grace, prepare now for the trials which the Bible warns us not to be surprised of (1 Peter 4:12), and wishing that even more students could be here to witness this powerful movement of God.

If you face trials in 2016, may God be your comfort and hope!

In awe of Him,