A Prayer in the Darkness

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When author and pastor Timothy Keller released a new book eight years ago, he could not have foreseen how dramatically he would personally be living out the title: 

Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering

In June 2020 he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  Since then his life has revolved around physician consultations, therapeutic strategies, and a great deal of prayer.

Keller concluded each chapter of his bestseller with someone’s first-person account of struggling with pain and uncertainty.  Here are excerpts of a story provided by a woman identified only as Emily:

“If you had asked me what I was thankful for before September, I would have said that I am thankful for my family, my home, my job, and for God – for a husband who loves and cares for me, for four children (ages 14, 11, 9, and 5) who are healthy and happy, for a home I never dreamed I could have, for a career that allows me to work from home, use my brain, and make a difference for my company and my clients, and for a God that has provided me those things – regardless of my worthiness.

“In September, completely out of the blue, my husband left me and our four children for someone else (who left her husband and two children as well).

“This other family were friends of ours; we’ve vacationed with them on three separate occasions during the summer.  I thought they were our friends.

“My heart died within me.  This could not be happening.  My Christian husband – the one who with me sat down with our kids and explained that while divorce does happen, it would never happen to us – we made a covenant, a promise to God and to each other – no matter what – we will always be here for each other and for them.

“I sobbed and begged him not to go, that we would figure this out.  No, he was leaving…

“After four months, God is beginning to heal me in a way I’m not sure I want to be healed.  I want to see justice, but it is not mine to inflict.  I am beginning to try to pray for him…not about him.  I am beginning to pray for his heart to be healed.  For him to come back, not to me but back to God.

“I need to move on without him, for now and maybe forever, but I have to forgive him to get through this bitterness.  I will not be bitter for the rest of my life…

“I am going to forgive him, but I won’t forget – because if I forget, I won’t be able to use what I learn to help others who may go through this nightmare.  I need to feel the pain, allow God to heal that pain and transform me into someone that he had intended for me to become all along.  Somehow, I feel excited.  It feels wrong in so many ways – to be excited to be going through this nightmare…

“I have explained it to my children like this:  In every fairy tale, there is always a tragedy, and the protagonist faces that adversity, overcomes it, and thrives because of it.  God is giving us our fairy tale – what do you see at the end?”

A Prayer in the Darkness

Lord God, 
When can I wake up from this nightmare? 
If this is indeed a fairy tale, let this be the darkest part.
Restore my confidence that I will laugh again one day, and that you will rebuild my hope.
More than anything else, please let me see your face.
For as long as I know you are with me, I can walk through any darkness.
In the strong and compassionate name of Jesus I pray,

(“Walking With God Through Pain Suffering,” © 2013, Penguin Books)