On A Road Marked With Suffering…

So many of you emailed me and called me yesterday and this morning with kind thoughts and words regarding Whitney’s eye tests. Thank you. We are truly blessed by our God to have so many wonderful friends and family in our lives. And I’m confident he listened intently to every single prayer lifted to him on Whitney’s behalf. And I’m certain you were all blessed for those efforts made in our interests. I’m continually surprised, also, by the reach of this little blog. I’ve heard from several of you, from California to Vermont, who claim to have been reading this thing for weeks. It’s another reminder, another wake up call, to snap me out of my own world and see God’s world and his Kingdom for the all-encompassing thing that it is. May our Lord bless all of us richly as we strive with him to reconcile creation back to him.

The short version on Whit’s tests is that they’re still not sure. She failed the tests so miserably that the doctors say there’s no way the results are legitimate. Either she wasn’t paying attention when they were testing her or the equipment was messed up. The probable next step is that she’ll have to have an MRI. Her optic nerve is definitely swollen. But some people do just have bigger optic nerves than others. It could all just be a normal thing. But her rapidly changing sight and headaches point to something else. There may be something else going on, something maybe pushing on her nerve or something to cause all this. But before they order the MRI, they want to test her one more time. That’ll be Wednesday afternoon. Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers before our Father. It just breaks our hearts to think Whitney would have one more thing piled on top of her.

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I love the Matt Redman song “Blessed Be Your Name.” It acknowledges the sovereignty of our God in unambiguous terms and states in clear language that, while our Father gives AND takes away, our trust and our faith is completely in him. When we’re in the land that is plentiful AND when we’re in the desert, when the sun’s shining AND when we’re suffering, the song recognizes and affirms that our God is fully overseeing all of it and we are to praise him with all of our hearts. I’m always particularly affected by the words of the second part of the second verse:

“Blessed be your name on a road marked with suffering. Though there’s pain in the offering, blessed be your name.”

The first time I ever sang this song was when D. J. Bulls taught it to us at the North Davis Church of Christ in Arlington. Because of that, I always think of D. J. when we sing this song, the same way I always think of Mike Montana when we sing “Mighty is our God” because he taught it to us in Mesquite. But in 2004 at North Davis, Carrie-Anne and I were right in the middle of struggling with the decision to leave the world of sports radio and dedicate ourselves to preaching the Word. And we knew that it would be difficult. We were preparing to throw all of our lives to God and give him complete and utter control over all of it. And we knew there would be good times and bad. Going to school for two years, Carrie-Anne going to work full-time, moving again, and trusting God completely to put us where he wanted us. I anticipated suffering and pain to be in the offering. And I was moved to tears almost every time we sang that verse. And I still am.

Not because we’ve suffered any pain. Not because we’ve suffered at all. In fact, all of this has been too wonderful and too easy. I’m almost suspicious.

But because I remember so vividly what I/we were feeling at the time. We were fully anticipating suffering. We expected it to be in the near future. And we were rushing into it headlong, willingly, and trusting in God to take care of us.

And we sing that song last night at the funeral of Mack Dennis, Paul and Jean’s son who was killed in a car crash last week at age 40. And we’re singing this song together, praising God in the good times and the bad. And I look at Paul and Jean. And they’re singing. And they’re both smiling. I look at Mack’s widow, Lisa, and their two young, young, very young and sweet children. They’re crying. But they’re singing.

Blessed be your name.

And they’re certainly on a road marked with suffering. There’s mountains of pain in the offering for this family. Pain that, thankfully, I can’t begin to imagine. Pain and suffering that makes whatever I’ve endured in my life seem tiny and insignificant, not pain at all. Yet they sing.

Blessed be your name.

The psalmist never asked for a smooth path. He never asked for things to be easy. He asked God to give him feet like a deer so he could negotiate any path he was on. Habakkuk prayed for the same thing. Give me the strength and the courage and the stamina to handle it.

I was inspired last night by Paul and Jean’s singing and smiling. Yes, there were tears. And, yes, there’s plenty of confusion and pain and probably even some anger. They’re honest about it. And I believe God honors that honesty with him. But their faith and trust is in the Lord. And they continue to bless his name. Praise God for their wonderful example of faith and courage on a road marked with suffering.

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On Monday, in addition to breaking down the Cowboys loss to the Bears, I’d like to give you some personal observations stemming from the roundtable discussions at the ACU Lectures regarding our teens and why they’re jaded by “church.” What’s to blame for the numbers of our kids who are fleeing the churches of Christ? What can be done? How do we address some of these things? Is it a real problem or just a perceived problem? We’ll get into it Monday.

Have a fantastic weekend,

Allan

7 Comments

  1. Jill

    Hey, Allan.

    We will definitely keep Whitney in our prayers.

  2. Paul Dennis

    Thank you for your kind words. Thank you also for taking the time to attend the service. I know your plate was already full. One minor correction, It was not a funeral. We had a celebration of Mack’s life. Lisa did not want a funeral. Thank you again for coming.
    Paul

  3. De Ann

    This song brings up so many feelings and memories of my family’s own trials and joyous times. How close I felt to the Lord and to my husband and children through each of them. How precious and wonderful each of those times is and will continue to be.

    I am in continued prayer for Whitney. She is a great friend to Shelby.

  4. Junior Mint Jerry & Mike Zimmer's Pants

    Sorry to hear about what Whit is dealing with but I am writing more to be the 1st to tell you that in Eric’s NFL Power Rankings its
    1. Pats
    2. Colts
    2a. Cowboys

    Sorry but I don’t have a cool website or a platform to display my propaganda so I thought I would steal yours.

  5. Mark Richardson

    1. We will keep Whitney in our prayers.
    2. Go Cowboys
    3. I am very interested in your report on our jaded teens.

    I am so excited that God brought you to Legacy. You and your family continue to be a blessing.

  6. Shannon Whiteley

    Hey Allan,

    I feel funny talking to you over the computer, but I wanted to respond to this message. After reading this entry I was reminded just what a Christian family is all about. You see, I was not able to be at Mack’s service, but I have been earnestly praying for Lisa and the kids. Lisa and I taught together at Riverside’s Butterfly School, and I actually taught Luke for Pre-K.
    Your blog struck me because I realized that the family of the Lord always seems to come full circle. I read this article because you are one of our dearest, oldest friends, and I learn that you are praying for the same sweet family that has been so heavy on my heart this week. I know that Lisa, Luke, and Makenzie are going to face many long days and nights ahead, but I hope they can feel the love and support that their Christian family is offering on their behalf.

  7. Jean Dennis

    We are so thankful to have your precious family at Legacy. In the midst of all that has been going on, I want you to know that Whitney and the doctors tending to her are in our prayers. Our children, regardless of age, are so precious and if we could take away their hurt, pain or discomfort we would. May the healing power of God touch little Whitney and make her whole again. May God bless each of you and wrap His arms around each of you.

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