By Emily

We’re hiking, my husband and I, on our 20th wedding anniversary. We’re avid hikers, nature-lovers and general adventure-seekers. Yet this hike is different.

where is God when it hurts

On this hike, my husband is limping.

It’s a new thing, this bone splint in his left heel, combined with the plantar fasciitis that’s plagued him before. Trent is very athletic. He was the fastest man in our town, until recently. In fact, when we traveled as a family to Uganda back in December of 2018, Trent raced all the men on our Uganda team – and won. (see video below)

But now he limps. We stop and he soaks his foot in a stream. After a bit, we turn back. I hold his hand and we climb down the mountain together.

I’ve been reflecting on a lesson from the classic, Hinds’ Feet on High Places. In this allegory, little Much Afraid desires to climb to the “the high places” with her Shepherd.

We’re reading this story right now with our children. When we reached the place in which the Shepherd tells Much Afraid that her companions will be Sorrow and Suffering, my children gasped.

We don’t want hard things in our lives. We want to reach the high places easily, comfortably, with a coffee in our hands.

(photo credit Tabitha Hanson)

But the truth is, sorrow and suffering teach us love. They teach us sacrifice. They teach us life is short, and that we desperately need a Savior.

In my journey alongside vulnerable families around the world, all I can say is – they’ve taught me how to run the race well. They’ve taught me to win with Sorrow and Suffering.

I know you know this, but I need to say it again – life in the places we work is hard. Impossibly hard. Let me give you an example. A Ugandan friend, Baptist (who ran against Trent) recently lost his brother, who was in his thirties. He drowned while fishing when his boat capsized in a storm. Baptist and his family scraped together whatever money they had because they knew – people would come to the funeral. Dozens and dozens of villagers, people who didn’t even know the brother would come, because there would be food. And Baptist knew they would be expected to feed these people. Instead of receiving gifts to comfort them in their time of need, the grieving family was forced to spend all they had.

Another example of life’s struggle in these places is that of the dowry – the price required by the family of the bride. Exorbitant costs are required before couples can get married. This often forces couples to never marry, to simply live together, because they cannot afford to do otherwise.

Yet for all these struggles, my friends have taught me to grin. Because they know – Sorrow and Suffering will take them to the highest places, places of tremendous intimacy and joy with Jesus.

(See photo of little girl we met in Liberia, below. Shortly after this she was taken to the hospital to have her burn tended to. I couldn’t get over her joy, in spite of her pain.)

A little girl in Liberia showing joy - where God is when it hurts

And even as I grip my husband’s hand and we limp down the mountain, we can hear the laughter of the men he raced against – the grins, the slaps on the back, the joy in spite of their loss.

And I tell you this – when you’ve stood under the open sky of an African church, when you’ve heard the hallelujahs of grannies who’ve witnessed unspeakable losses, you understand the mystery of grace and redemption. Because you’ve witnessed the kind of faith that moves mountains.

This is my prayer for you and for me. When Sorrow and Suffering take our hands, we’ll quickly move past all the “whys” and “if onlys” to the quiet place of thanksgiving and trust. Our God is good and does good, and He is waiting at the finish line to take us in His arms and say, “Well done.”