I have a secret list in my mind of Things To Do To Cause A Stir in Prayer Meetings, and I added a new idea to it last night: pray “Jesus, I feel so sick… so terribly sick… [pause in which everyone nods sympathetically and expects request for healing] so lovesick for you!” I can imagine suppressed giggles, or, even more amusingly, murmurs of sincere agreement. You see, I have been quite sick, especially this past week: pelvic girdle pain from the weight of my baby bump, a painful throat infection, anaemia, one night of terrifying heart palpitations from the anaemia – and then the frustration of realising that my toddler can toddle faster than I can limp after him.
Everyone wants to be deeply understood. My husband is hardly ever sick, and, more pertinently, is male, and so it has been hard for him to understand what my physical struggles in this journey of pregnancy and motherhood have felt like. I have a few friends who have been struggling with various chronic physical ailments – young, vibrant women, some of them mums, surely too young to be sick! I try and stand with them, and they with me, but have realised that it is near impossible for someone to say exactly the right thing, at the right moment, in the right tone of not-just-sympathy-but-empathy, with the right facial expression and the right mixture of ‘I feel your pain and am not jumping ahead’ and ‘you are healed in Jesus’ name’.
Surprisingly, encouragement has come from an unexpected source this week – a Beyoncé song! In the music video for ‘Runnin’’ by Beyoncé and Arrow Benjamin, a couple mysteriously finds themselves separated and underwater (yet thankfully able to breathe) and fights their way through the azure sea until they are again in each other’s arms. ‘Where else can I go?’ Beyoncé intones in a passionate vibrato, ‘Where else can I go/ chasing you?’ And I am reminded, movingly and melodiously, of this awesome truth: all my loneliness and feelings of being misunderstood, my weakness and sickness, chase me again to the One that I really need. He knows me better than I know myself. He doesn’t just sympathise but takes the curse upon Himself at the cross. He is the One whose beauty is the balm to my suffering. He is the Friend who will never let me down. He is the Lover who satisfies my soul. He is the Healer who knit my body together. He is the Companion who walks through the valley with me, not just shouting trite encouragement from one or the other end.
If I was in less discomfort, would I fritter away my life chasing other lesser saviours? God forbid! What a waste of time. And so I rejoice in the clarity that desperation brings, in the awareness of my need for Him that tension and discomfort brings. I thank Him for being jealous enough for my heart to allow the shepherd dog of suffering to be snapping at my heels, chasing me away from the cliffs, chasing me towards Him. And most wonderfully, I know it actually moves His heart that I would choose Him and reach for Him even when it feels like running underwater.
So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?”
[And I can imagine his heart beating faster as He asked this question – He’s grieving the loss of the ones who left, He’s hoping against hope the Twelve will stay.]
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:67-68)
And so, here is a little song that I wrote from Psalm 73. Keep reaching, keep chasing – you will find Him, He wants to be found by you. Allow even your sickness to be transformed into lovesickness.
Nevertheless I am continually with you, I am continually with you
You are holding my right hand
Nevertheless you will show me what to do, you will show me what to do,
You are faithful till the end
Whom have I in heaven but you/ there is no one who compares/there is nothing I want more
God, you are the beating of my heart/my exceeding great reward/you’re the one I’m living for’
Nevertheless I am staying close to you, I am staying close to you
There’s no better place for me
Nevertheless I have found a home in you, I have found a home in you
This is where I want to be
Bridge: Oh, oh, oh, you’re the air in my lungs