• 27 November 2023

Chapter 10 – Rock in a Sea of Troubles

As I write, I am looking down from on high onto the historic streets of London from the Royal Marsden Hospital. I am here, as I alluded to earlier in the book, because I started to feel unwell with coronavirus symptoms.

One constant I have found in trying to cope with fear, suffering and death is that God speaks to me at my low points personally through His Word. Now, this can be overdone and, especially in our individualistic culture, we can easily take everything in Scripture as being about us directly, when really the big topic of the Bible is God. Nevertheless, I believe we sometimes, in fear of this, go to the opposite error, which is treat the Bible as a theological textbook. It is not. It is a living, breathing, supernatural book of books, which speaks powerfully and personally this very day to each one of us.

Every time I have been in trouble in my illnesses it’s as if the lights suddenly go and you notice intense light streaming out of the darkness. The light – God’s Word – was there all along but the darkness makes it shine and the darker the night the brighter the light. We must delight in this light, for it will lead us in the dark. Indeed, we are explicitly commanded to do this for, as the Psalmist declares, ‘Blessed is the one … whose delight is in the law of the LORD’ (Ps. 1:1–2).

Many of those moments of delight have come in the very hospital in which I am writing. Radiotherapy treatment is long and tedious and every day you must lie without moving so I decided to learn Psalm 34 by heart. I was going through it in my mind to memorise it while being treated and came to verse 5, ‘those who look to him are radiant’, which I suddenly realised is literally what was happening to me. I started laughing only to get told off by the radiotherapist for moving!

This week, as I worried about my strange illness, a friend mentioned Psalm 61 to me and another verse suddenly launched itself off the pages. ‘From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I’ (Ps. 61:2). This again struck me so personally with delight. I laughed to myself as this is exactly my new issue – problems with my faint heart.

But even if you don’t have literal heart issues, our spiritual heart goes faint because we are so weak. Let us cry (like a tiny baby wanting its mother) from wherever we are to God. We may cry from anywhere – even from the ends of the earth for God hears our cry! What must we cry? We must pray to be led to the Rock. Who masterminds this? The Father. Who leads us? The Holy Spirit. Who is the Rock? Jesus Christ.

He is our Rock and he is in charge of the universe. We see that at the end of the psalm: the God-man is ruling the universe, enthroned and seated at the right-hand of the Father.

What kind of rock do we need? We need one who is infinitely higher than us, who – as we, like shipwrecked, drowning sailors are tossed around in the storms of fear, suffering and death – can haul us out of our sea of troubles.

Blessed Holy Spirit, we cry to you. Lead us to the Rock that is higher than us!

Excerpt from Hope in the face of suffering – 20 devotions for tough times by Jeremy Marshall

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