I’ve lived in the same old farm house for the last thirty-one years. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s my home. When I’m at home, I know that I’m sheltered from the many storms that have blown through over the years. This old house has endured blizzards, hurricanes and tropical storms, yet it has stood firm, despite being more than seventy-five years old. That could be because the floor joists beneath this old house are whole logs (with the bark still on them), and there are actual 4″x4″ posts, (as opposed to today’s 4″x4″ posts, which are really only 3.5″x3.5″) in the walls, and the 2″x4″ boards truly are 2″x4″ as well, (not today’s 1.5″x3.5″).
At any rate, when I’m in my home, I feel safe and secure. If I’ve been out in the world, and someone hurts me, I long for the security of my home. Whenever I leave my home for a long period of time, I always feel great joy, when I return to the house I live in, because home is where my heart is.
The same thing can be said spiritually and emotionally. Where we abide is where we live. Where do you live?
4 *Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it *abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you *abide in Me.
5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who *abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not *abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you *abide in Me, and My words *abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.
ménō, men’-o; a primary verb; to stay (in a given place, state, relation or expectancy):—abide, continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand, tarry (for), × thine own.
For many years, I lived (abided) in Jesus, and I was quite happy there. I’ve preached and shared the gospel with many people, and I’ve been blessed to rejoice in the salvation of others, who came to know and love Jesus. Yet, because we live in a fallen world, bad things happen, even when we’re in our homes, where we feel safe and secure.
Six years ago, my back started hurting, causing weakness and shooting pains in my legs. I’ve dealt with back pain my entire life, off and on, and when it started, I figured it was just another flare up, and soon I would be back to normal, but that’s not what happened. Before long, my back and legs were hurting constantly, and within a year, I had to stop doing prison ministry, and shortly thereafter, I had to leave my job, because I was no longer able to work. The constant pain began to consume me.
During the next six to eight months, my mother passed away, and my children and grandchildren moved far away, to other states. I fell into a deep depression. I was totally overwhelmed by the darkness of pain and depression, and my faith began to waver and wane. I was no longer abiding in Christ; I was now abiding in pain, depression, guilt and anxiety.
Because of the constant, chronic pain, I was unable to spend as much time as I wanted to spend with my mother before she died. And although I had shared the gospel with her many times over the years, I was unable to do so, while she lay dying, and I was consumed with guilt because of that. I questioned my own salvation. “How could God continue to love me, when I couldn’t even minister to my own mother?” I thought.
9 Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; *abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will *abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and *abide in His love. 11 These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.
12 “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. 17 This I command you, that you love one another.
Over the next several years, I continued to abide in pain and depression. I no longer prayed, because I was so disappointed in myself, and I was sure God was too. I no longer felt His presence. I simply lived in my pain and depression. This was now my new abode, and to be frank with you, I’ve been miserable.
Then, just this week, while reading, I was reminded of the scriptures above, and I heard the Lord whisper to my heart, “Abide in Me. Abide in My love.” He was telling me to live, dwell, endure, tarry, stand in His love; in Him! I still have the same physical pain, but I don’t have to live in and wallow in it. Instead, I choose to immerse myself in His love for me. His love didn’t stop because I didn’t share the gospel with my mother one last time before she died. My pain isn’t a punishment from God. It’s just a part of life in this fallen world.
33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.
Losing my mother, my chronic pain, and having my children and grandchildren so far away from me are just a few of the many sorrows and trials I will endure, but I don’t have to try to go it alone. Jesus tells me to take heart, because He has overcome the world. I’m not alone and unloved, for His love is unending, just as He is, for God is love (1 John 4:8b).
I am so very thankful to serve the God of all grace, who remains faithful to us, even in our frailties. Yes, I continue to have chronic, sometimes debilitating pain, but I don’t have to live in pain. Instead, while living with pain, I will live in Christ. Where will you live?
* Emphasis added
Cheryl A. Showers