When I wrote about my disappointment after reading the book The Color of Rain a friend recommended a book called Polishing God's Monuments by Jim Andrews. I was excited to find a copy in our church library and read the almost 300 page book in just 2 weeks. I couldn't hardly put it down.
Andrews tells the story of his daughter and son-in-law who have suffered with chronic illness for over 20 years. Chronic fatigue syndrome shattered the dreams and plans of these young newlyweds. Juli, his daughter, also suffers from multiple chemical sensitivities so horrible that at one point she could barely tolerate any interaction with people, including her husband, due to the chemicals normal people carry on their clothing and skin from the environment. They would wear organic cotton hand-sewn white "jump suits" and spend most of their time in the dark as Juli became overly sensitive to light. They had a special environmentally safe house built, but the only furniture they could have in their house was a bed at one point. Juli couldn't even read the Bible or other books as the chemicals in the pages were too much for her. Her husband would read and memorize whole chapters of the Bible so he could recite them to Juli and she could memorize them as well! She went for 6 1/2 years without being able to attend church! It's hard to even imagine the kind of suffering they have endured. There have been times of a little reprieve throughout the years for Juli and Paul, but they have continued to suffer despite great faith in God.
The book alternates biography of the suffering of Juli, Paul, and their families with deep truths of God's goodness and sovereignty over suffering. Andrews encourages the reader to remember and "polish" God's monuments. The times both throughout Biblical history and in our own life when God has been faithful to us. He says, "A monumental faith is able to look forward with confidence because it looks backward to the past. It discounts the baffling mysteries of present circumstances because it finds assurance in his [God's] historical works, his uncompromising character, and his unchanging promises." Andrews does not mean that because God healed people in the Bible I will be healed as that is not a promise given to us on this Earth. But promises such as, "I will never leave you nor forsake you" we can hold fast to as we remember times in the past when God faithfully cared for us.
One big "monument" I always think of is when I was serving as a missionary in Africa. I was fresh out of college and living alone in a huge house in a rural town with few other Westerners. I was lonely. I was so lonely I wanted to throw-up some mornings when I woke up. Even though I knew God was with me, I prayed and prayed for Him to bring me some companionship, hopefully another single girl to be my roommate. After six months God answered my prayer, though differently than I had asked. He brought me a family with four children to be my teammates. They became like family to me and six months after that God brought a single guy teammate, who is now my husband! Never before had I experienced God's provision in my life, but it did not come without pain.
Andrews also encourages the suffering soul to do "the next right thing". He says, "Don't obsess too much about the future. Don't drain your energy craning your spiritual neck to see whether or not your deliverance is on the distant horizon. Just tackle today-step by step." This is huge for me as I am a BIG planner. The decisions hanging over my head about future treatment options are almost killing me! Sometimes I become crippled by fear thinking how in the world I will live with this condition when I am 40, 50, or 60+ years old. Jesus tells me not to worry (Matthew 6:25-34) so some days all I can literally do is "the next right thing"....make my bed, fold laundry, and play with my daughter.
Whether you are suffering physically or in a different trial, I can't recommend this book enough! I want to do a better job of remembering God's faithfulness and using those experiences to encourage my soul when I begin to doubt God's purpose in my battle with chronic pain. I am always encouraged by others' experiences as well. What are some of God's monuments you have experienced in your life or Biblical accounts that bring you great hope in times of trouble?