When Despair Creeps In

weaknessIf I am being completely honest and transparent with you, I’m struggling.  I’m wrestling with the mental affects of chronic pain.  Now, chronic pain can be labeled in different ways and is usually reserved for pain that has no real end in sight.  Hopefully, that is not the definition for me.

I have been dealing with some form of pain in my left shoulder for over a year.  It’s a very life-altering thing that has changed how I do life in significant ways.  I am hopeful that there is an end in sight as I am recovering from surgery performed one month ago tomorrow.  In light of that, I have hope for normalcy.

That being said, I’m still dealing with some significant pain.  I write that not for pity, but with a mind for those who are dealing with pain much more severe than mine and with little hope for relief in the near future.  I know something of the mental anguish that is involved with extensive physical pain.  I understand a little of the twinges of depression that try and creep in.  I feel the despair that lurks around the edge that maybe this will never go away. It’s very real.  It’s very challenging.

Any time we have challenges like this in our lives, it causes one or two things to happen.  One, we get angry.  We give into despair and begin a downward spiral of sadness, anger, rage and self-destruction.  In short, we run away from God.  We don’t understand why He would allow this in our lives.  We can’t get our minds around a loving God who would allow such suffering with no relief in a way no earthly father would, if he could stop it.  Yet, the suffering continues.

A second possible response sees things differently.  Though he hurts the same, he runs in a different direction.  He runs to the God of all comfort in the midst of pain.  He holds onto God’s promise that was made to Paul during his suffering: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Paul’s reply, appropriately, is, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12: 9-10)

This second response is the one I am holding onto.  I understand that bad things that happen in my life are not for my punishment (that was taken care of by Christ on the cross).  Instead, as John Piper put it, they are for my purification.  I am made strong through suffering.  I am made more Christlike in tough times, because that is where I learn to rely on His strength rather than my own.  I feel weak.  I know God is strong.  That’s the glory of the Gospel…the glory of the cross.

I work my shoulder everyday.  I go to physical therapy faithfully.  I pray for healing regularly.  I believe it will come.  I am content, though, knowing that in my weakness, He WILL BE strong!

Hold on!

Have You Met My Friend? His Name is Todd.

todd_field2 Did you get to meet my friend? Some of you did. Others never had the pleasure.  His name is Todd.

Todd is a dear friend of mine with some of the most amazing talent I’ve ever personally experienced.  A singer-songwriter with a gift for identifying the most important things in life and putting them to music, Todd can have you laughing one second and crying the next.

On May 14th of last year, Todd MacDonald moved to his permanent residence to be at home with Jesus.  He had fought a long, hard battle with cancer and finally got to go home.  I’ve never experienced any more grace in one person under trying difficulties than I did in Todd.  He demonstrated for me what happens when God’s kids are called to suffer.

When Todd first called me to tell me about his cancer, I marveled at how he was dealing with it with such strength and courage. When I mentioned to him how I was struggling with the news though he seemed so strong, his words were, “David, it’s all the grace of God and right now and I’m the one who needs it”.  I began to truly understand the nature of God’s provision.

Todd was in the middle of a recording project when he first got sick.  Several of us encouraged him to finish that since the future was so uncertain and his diagnosis seemed so bleak.  He did and it’s an incredible work called Pilgrims Here.

toddmacdonald3What many of us didn’t know was that he had written an additional twelve songs that he completed shortly before his death.  That album was only recently finished and released called World Full of Wonder.

Soon after Todd’s death, his dad sent out a message letting us know of the surprise album. In part, it read:

In May of 2012, before Todd became too sick to continue working on his CD, he was able to complete 12 original vocals with acoustic. In our long stay with him in Nashville, Donna and I continually witnessed a few things about Todd. He was totally aware of what his future held and his faith never wavered. He knew he was just a “Pilgrim Here” and rejoiced in that. He was more concerned about the suffering family and friends would go through after his passing. Typical Todd! He was obsessed with the completion of his CD. So much so, that he would not leave Nashville for his mother’s home until forced to do so. His earthly works were not yet complete; the CD had to be finished!

Recalling my last phone conversation with him, his voice being so weak and frail, I’m amazed at the strength of his voice in these recordings and the depth of his faith and thinking while walking through such a painful and challenging time.  I can only think that it’s an even greater revelation of the grace of God at work in his life.  Especially poignant to me is the amazing message he left for his family and friends, “Don’t Cry For Me.”

I would love for you to share in this incredible work.  If you would, take a few minutes and at least sample some of the songs he has left us.  I know you’ll be encouraged by them.  If you decide to purchase some of the songs or all of the album, the proceeds will be put into a trust to benefit Christian ministries.  As his friend, I will be honored for you both to listen and to take part in sharing his music with your friends.

I believe that God is not done with the music of Todd MacDonald, but instead, has orchestrated this in a way that the ministry He gave Todd will long outlast the years Todd was given on this earth.  I find it a little more than ironic that Todd’s favorite Christian artist is Keith Green, an amazing singer-songwriter whose music continues to reach millions after his own death at an early age (and who I often thought about when facing the prospects of Todd’s death).

So, check it out and if you do, please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.  Also, if you decide to purchase any of the music, I’d love to know which ones you got. Thanks!

P.S. I miss you, my friend.

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