"The desire of our soul is for Your name and for the remembrance of You."
Palm Sunday morning 1983. The service in our quaint little white church was drawing to a sweet close. My dear husband had ministered an appropriate sermon for the holy occasion. As he customarily did, he preached his heart to our small congregation of one hundred people, who gathered faithfully every Lord's Day to listen, to sing simple songs of praise, to serve, and to see.
In my usual spot on a white hardwood pew near the back of the old sanctuary, I sat, with my two wee ones, ready for the service to conclude. A tiring morning of teaching Sunday school, dealing with my restless little toddlers, and sorting through the usual stress and strain of my pastor's wife role prepared me for the relief of a quiet meal in our kitchen corner, a bit of afternoon tv, a few quiet moments, and a much-needed nap.
My husband was just preparing for dismissal prayer when the broken, trembly voice spoke out. The man, in his wheelchair, said he wanted just a moment to speak. A hush blew over the congregation. The elderly gentlemen, rolling his wheelchair from the center aisle, moved in front of the church and faced the people, who were now seated, anticipating his unusual request.
Pastor Thomaston was a sweet, humble man. His white hair, weak frame, poor vision, and limited mobility had not once affected his love for Jesus. His life had been one of sacrifice and want. He was a treasure of brokenness. A blessing to our church, but even more so to my husband and me, for his walk with God and friendship were often our comfort and wisdom.
In sincere frankness, he began to speak to the church of the difficulties of the ministry, of the moments of want, the hours of pain, the denial of self, and the hardships of loneliness. He spoke with such compassion, such empathy and will. Finally, he began to reveal the reason for his reflections. For astonishment, my heart seemed to skip. I felt its flutter in my chest, a lump in my throat, a tightening of my shy self, an overwhelming loss of pride.
Pastor Thomaston knew the sufferings of the ministry. He especially spoke of its financial challenges, and . . . he told of the burdens a pastor's wife must carry, the arduous load of care, the stress of many encumbrances. His concern that Palm Sunday morning was that I would not have a new dress for Easter. As he continued to speak, my heart continued to melt; my pride tended toward dissolve. I felt so humbled, so undeserving of such compassion.
I was called to the front of the church. An offering plate was placed nearby. The congregation stood. They fell into line and began to approach. With my husband by my side, we greeted each one as they passed. I received sweet whispers of love, meek looks of longing, tight hugs from mothers and grandmothers, handshakes and heartfelt smiles of sympathy, radiant reflections from youth and children.
It was a priceless moment of tears. An event to be ever engraved in my conscious. The season of our ministry there had been prosperous, yet filled with anxiety and pain. I had labored with the burden of fear and often felt inadequate. On that day, I realized God as El Roi, the One Who Sees. He, as the Great High Priest, had witnessed my sorrow, and was touched by my feelings of infirmity.
Hebrews 14:5 speaks of Jesus, His suffering, and understanding of us and our earthly trials. "For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. . . ." Christ Himself is moved by what He sees when we suffer. He is moved not only by His view of us, but also by the force of our pain. The emotional and physical affliction of our infirmities is witnessed by Him, understood by Him, and experienced by Him.
The Greek term for infirmities is astheneia, meaning feebleness of body or mind, frailty, disease, sickness, or weakness. Whatever we suffer, however we suffer, Christ knows the same. If we are in mental agony because of a broken heart, a lost loved one, the grief of death, or financial hardship, Jesus understands. If enduring weakness in body, separation from loved ones, or illness, Christ is provoked by our feelings. If the enemy of our soul is tormenting us with lies, fear, or temptation, Jesus knows our point of need. And, . . . He is able to deliver, . . . strengthen, . . . restore, . . . heal, . . . soothe, . . . bless, . . . mend, . . . give grace. For, "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5).
Those few short moments Palm Sunday 1983 took me from a perilous cliff of pride and pain to the cleft of a rock, where I found peace, safety, healing, and hope. The love and compassion of a meek man of God, the warmth and generosity of God's people, and the fresh reality of a God Who sees and cares softened fallow ground in my heart, melted my pride, and sweetened the Marah-like water of my soul.
During this Holy Week, I am remembering the suffering of my Lord and Savior, and I am counting and recounting His many interventions in my life, knowing that he paid the dearest price that could ever be paid to rescue me from every imaginable threat to my salvation. What is now in our lives and what will be was purchased by His passion. He is El Roi, the God Who sees, and He is ever present. Where His love abides, no sin can hide, no bitter weed live, and no fear triumph. As you remember His suffering, also remember those blessed times of your life for which he suffered. Make this time be one of holy remembrance and passionate praise.
Easter Sunday, 1983
Text quoted is from the New King James Version and research is from e-Sword.