Hold Close to Jesus Through Suffering

Suffering and hardship can come upon you even when you didn’t do anything wrong.  In John 9:1-3 we see Jesus who is passing by a blind man, who was blind from birth. And Jesus’ disciples asked him “Rabbi, who sinned, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?”  And Jesus answered very powerfully “It was NOT that this man sinned, or his parents, BUT that the works of God might be displayed in him.” 

I was listening to an old playlist I created years ago, and it was a mix of hymns and praise and worship and a song came on that I had not listened to in years, and I am sure this has happened to you as well, where the old song triggers memories, and emotions and takes you back.  Well, I turned on a song that I had listened to on repeat over and over again right after our son Henryk died.  What hit me hard was the powerful lyrics that were written by a person who also had suffered a lot.

Hold Thou My Hand

The hymn I listened to over and over is called “Hold Thou My Hand” and it was written by Frances Crosby. She went by the name Fanny, and she was an amazing woman of faith in the 1800’s.  Fanny also had suffering and hardship come TO her.  She had blindness from birth. It is unclear if she was born blind or if a medical procedure she had at six weeks old damaged her optic nerves. Either way, she was blind starting as a newborn.  I can’t imagine her life, in the 1820’s and 1830’s being blind. But this amazing woman who put her faith in Jesus at a young age went on to write over 8,000 hymns, some of which are very well known to us, like Blessed Assurance, or To God be the Glory. 

As you can see by Fanny’s example, suffering and hardship came TO HER and this was NOT in her control.  But, how you respond, IS in your control.  She said at age 8 “It seemed intended by the blessed providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank him for the dispensation. If perfect earthly sight were offered me tomorrow I would not accept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things about me."

No one is immune to hardship in this life.  It can come to any of us.  And even in Fanny’s life after she had suffered much by being blind, her greatest trial was yet to come.  She and her husband, who was also blind, had a daughter.  A baby girl named Frances and the baby was born healthy and not blind. But the child became sick with Typhoid Fever and passed away in her sleep only a few months old.  And this hardship came TO Fanny and her husband Van and brought them immense pain and grief that was beyond comprehension and it devastated them.

Their daughter getting a fever was not something they could control. And in the midst of their pain and sorrow, Fanny did go on to write some more prolific songs.  One of which was this song “Hold Thou My Hand”.  And the reason this song impacted me so much, was not only because it was written by a parent who lost a child that deeply resonated with me, but really it was the lyrics that helped me think about how am I going to respond to suffering.  How am I going to respond this loss?

The Exhortation

The exhortation today, is that we acknowledge suffering and hardship in our life, that we acknowledge pain, that we don’t suppress is, and then by faith, we cling to Jesus as we take one day at a time and walk forward with him, even if he feels distant, and even if we aren’t exactly happy with how he is doing things.

I want to close here by reading a few of the lines from this powerful hymn that Fanny wrote from a place of suffering and pain and sorrow and the hymn again is called “Hold Thou My Hand”.  The song points us to cling to Jesus even we think that it’s impossible.

Hold Thou my hand; so weak I am, and helpless,
I dare not take one step without Thy aid;
Hold Thou my hand; for then, O loving Savior,
No dread of ill shall make my soul afraid.

Hold Thou my hand, and closer, closer draw me
To Thy dear self-my hope, my joy, my all;
Hold Thou my hand, lest haply I should wander,
And, missing Thee, my trembling feet should fall.

Hold Thou my hand; the way is dark before me
Without the sunlight of Thy face divine;
But when by faith I catch its radiant glory,
What heights of joy, what rapturous songs are mine!

Hold Thou my hand, that when I reach the margin
Of that lone river Thou didst cross for me,
A heav’nly light may flash along its waters,
And every wave like crystal bright shall be. 

Prayer of Confession

Father, thank you for Fanny Crosby.  Thank you Jesus for saving her at a young age and working through a blind woman who has now impacted us even generations later. 

God, we all have hardship and trials of various sorts in this room. And we are confused and cannot understand God why you do the things you do.  But you are in control, and you know what you are doing, even if we don’t understand and don’t like it.  God, we are weak and helpless.  Please hold our hands.  Help us in our weakness to cling close to you.

Father, we confess that we can have a pretty crummy attitude towards you when we face pain or hard days.  We can have an entitlement attitude that you should be making our life easier.  We often build cases in our mind of how you should be treating us better.  But who are we?  We weren’t there when you laid the earth and formed us in our mother’s womb. Who are we?  We are but dust, created by you, the Creator.

Father, we confess our crummy attitudes toward you when we suffer, and this is a great evil, and we know that if we in the church regard sin in our midst, our prayers will be ineffectual, so we confess our individual sins to you now in a time of silent confession.