by Lori Smith
“Jesus is here and He is loving you,” Bill said to me as I began my retreat out at Corhaven several years back. It was a message I couldn’t fully embrace yet. I knew God loved me, I’d known that for as long as I could remember. BUT … there had been so much pain and so much loss over more than a decade of chronic illness.
And even though I’d seen God show up in the midst of my journey in remarkable ways, I wondered, “Really? Is He really here loving me? And what exactly has He been doing all these years?” Mostly, I was grieving and in pain.
If you’ve ever been there, if you’ve ever felt abandoned by God, I hope you’ll come join us for a day-long retreat, “God’s Presence in Our Pain,” on September 14 at The Falls Church Anglican.
This now nearly twenty-year journey through chronic illness and disability has led me through so many questions and doubt. I’ve leaned on the faith of others when my own was in turmoil. God has held onto me, even when I couldn’t hold on to Him.
I’m thrilled for the opportunity to delve into this topic. It’s been on my heart for years. We aren’t going to get bogged down in the why’s and the age-old philosophical “problem of pain.” Rather, there are a few specific things I want to explore.
First, I’ll be sharing the ways I’ve seen God in my own story — often through dear Christian friends, or a sense of His sweet presence, and even sometimes in direct answers from Him when I voiced my deepest fears. I’m interviewing others, as well, and excited to share their stories of God’s presence in the midst of their own great darkness.
Second, we’re looking at what we know God is doing even when we lose all sense of Him. Rather than focusing on our situations, I want this day to be a celebration of our faithful God. Our God sees us; He is with us; Jesus is our advocate; and on the cross He bore not just our sins, but also our griefs and sorrows. There’s so much more to explore here.
I also want us to leave with a practical sense of how to live faithfully through pain, so we’ll spend some time looking at examples in scripture of how to respond when our world falls apart, when we are overwhelmed with grief.
We’ll have periods of silence for you to respond personally to what God is saying to you, and we hope to offer healing prayer at the end of the day too.
These are difficult topics. But I’m expecting to find joy and healing here, and an abundance of grace. If this resonates with you, I hope you’ll join us!